Category Archives: Colorado Rockies Pro Shop

Michael Cuddyer Jersey

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Michael Cuddyer is now a special instructor for the Twins, and he recently busted out his old magic tricks, at the expense of Eddie Rosario. Maybe Rosie picked up a thing or two about leading the clubhouse, as the Twins will need someone to step up in that role, with Joe Mauer no longer around.

The Worcester Telegram, near Rocco Baldelli’s hometown, profiles the Twins’ manager, and his adjustments so far to leading the big league club. Some fun additional details about the Woonsocket Rocket: He misses the seafood of Rhode Island (someone introduce him to fried Walleye) and is starting to follow the Vikings, despite being a lifelong Patriots fan.

Miguel Sano might have been sidelined by injury already this spring, but one Twins legend certainly hasn’t given up on the young star. Rod Carew still believes in Sano and the peace he found within himself this winter. Let’s hope Sir Rodney is right.

The Hardball Times profiles the rise of the MLB Bullpen Catcher, including the Twins’ Nate Dammann, who was recruited into the role by Dan Gladden, and old friend Henry Blanco (hey, he spent a year with the Twins.) Another fun fact in this article: Kevin Slowey climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro.

MLB.com put together a list of the ten fastest teams in baseball. It probably comes as no surprise, since this is a Twins blog, but the Twins are on their list. Led by Byron Buxton and Jorge Polanco, the Twins come in tied with the Rockies for the seventh fastest team in the MLB. The slowest players on the Twins? Jason Castro and Nelson Cruz.

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Cubs outfielder Carlos Gonzalez cleared waivers and elected free agency after being designated for assignment last week, manager Joe Maddon told reporters today (Twitter link via Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune).

Gonzalez, 33, joined the Cubs on his second minor league deal of the season in late May and was selected to the Major League roster just days later. Unfortuately, CarGo’s time in Chicago didn’t go much better than his brief stint in Cleveland. After hitting .210/.282/.276 through 117 plate appearances with the Indians, Gonzalez batted only .175/.306/.300 in 49 plate appearances with the Cubs. He’s punched out in 31.3 percent of his plate appearances between the two teams.

While there’s plenty of name value attached to Gonzalez, a three-time All-Star and former MVP candidate, it’s been a few years since he delivered particularly strong offense. Dating back to 2017, Gonzalez has batted .260/.328/.423 (86 OPS+) and seen his power diminish. He did enjoy a strong all-around year in 2016 and crack 40 homers in 2015, but the combined .285/.337/.522 line he put together in those two seasons is well in the rear-view mirror at this point. While another club could very well look to roll the dice on a player with such a strong track record, it seems likely that he’ll have to settle for a third minor league deal.

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Yency Almonte was something of a yo-yo player for the Rockies in 2019, with five separate spells with the big club throughout the season.

Almonte’s 2019 was almost exactly evenly split between Triple-A Albuquerque and the big club, as he made 30 appearances for the Isotopes and 28 for the Rockies.

With the Rockies, Almonte was unable to replicate the success from his 2018 cameo, in which he posted a 1.84 ERA in 14 2⁄3 innings. Given more extended exposure at the highest level, Almonte had some struggles, with a 5.86 ERA and 5.51 FIP in 34 innings of work, striking out 29 while opponents hit .275 against him. Despite the surface numbers, Almonte’s ERA+ was just a shade below average at 94.

Part of the struggles for Almonte in 2019 may have been the fact that Bud Black never seemed to settle on a consistent role for him. At times, Almonte was used as a multi-inning reliever for the Rockies, throwing as many as 51 pitches in an outing against the Pirates in August, and at times he faced just one batter being pulled.

Regardless of his role, Almonte’s best pitch, his slider, will be key for him going forward. Opponents hit just .115 and slugged just .180 against Almonte’s slider in 2019, and had a whiff rate of 41.7% against it. Also, his slider use spiked to 54% in September, a month that saw him strike out 11 in 8 2⁄3 innings (11.4 K/9) after striking out 18 in 25 1⁄3 innings (6.4 K/9) prior to the season’s final month.

Perhaps Almonte found a formula in September that can catapult him into being the next Scott Oberg, or perhaps it was just a blip on the radar. At age 25, the Rockies really don’t know what they have with Almonte yet, and 2020 could be a big year in determining the path of his career.

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This truth is worth repeating when you worry about Ryan Castellani’s struggles in a repeat trip to Double-A in 2018: he was (and still is) just 22 the whole season, 2.4 years younger than the league on average and only four months older than Brady Singer, the #18 overall pick in the 2018 draft. If he’d have gone the college route instead of signing as Colorado’s 2nd round pick in 2014 for $1.1 million, Castellani might only now be emerging from short season ball.

With that said, Castellani had a tough 2018 in Hartford that knocked him off the smooth prospect path he had enjoyed up until that point. Indeed, 2018 was the first year that Castellani had repeated a level. Before 2018, Castellani had posted four straight seasons with a FIP below 4.00 and had led his league in both innings pitched and strikeouts in 2016 and 2017 while being the youngest ERA qualifier at each level. Something seemed off about Castellani in Spring Training though, and the Rockies sent him back to Double-A to figure it out. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like that happened.

Castellani made 26 starts in 2018, only one fewer than he did at the level in 2017, but he threw 23 fewer innings in those starts (134 1⁄3 total), almost an inning less per start. His ERA was 5.49 (up from 4.81) and his FIP was 5.21 (up from 3.99), while the K/9 (6.1 vs. 7.6) and BB/9 (4.7 vs. 2.7) rates were both worse compared to the prior year as well. It was an up and down season. Castellani had a 2.05 ERA through April but he had a terrible May (8.33 ERA), followed by an average June (4.30 ERA) and an awful July (7.98 ERA). Castellani settled down for a serviceable 3.57 ERA in August before a poor start to end the season in September.

Castellani was then selected for the Arizona Fall League, where he posted a 5.13 ERA over 7 starts in which he accumulated 26 1⁄3 innings with a nice 10.6 K/9 rate and a still elevated 4.8 BB/9 rate.

Here’s some video of Castellani in the AFL, courtesy of 2080 Baseball:

In the report accompanying the above video, Adam McInturff of 2080 Baseball provides insights on Castellani based on AFL viewings, including more granular grades on each of his offerings. It’s…not positive. Here was his conclusion for Castellani:

Physical frame and flashes of hard sinker/slider combo give raw ingredients of 7th inning setup reliever, but has a ways to go w/ control and overall pitchability to make an impact at ML level.

In their recent write-up of Colorado’s system, Baseball Prospectus left Castellani out of the system’s top 15. Their thoughts on him were not optimistic:

The vagaries of the schedule meant I didn’t catch Castellani until the last couple weeks of the season, but he again looked liked a different pitcher, in not in a good way. His slot was higher, his arm action more rigid. Gone was the athletic delivery that garnered physical comps to Max Scherzer. There was more effort to sit 89-91, the slider was slurvier, and he just didn’t look right. You’d catch glimpses of the 2017 top prospect—a fastball that bored in under a lefty’s hands, a mid-80s slider with late tilt, but if you only saw him last year, you wouldn’t be filing him as an acquire. Twenty-three in Double-A, even as a double repeater, isn’t a prospect death sentence. But pitchers, man.

FanGraphs put Castellani 6th in the system with a 45 FV tag in May:

Neither Castellani’s stuff nor his command were crisp this spring, and he was knocked around in big-league games then sent to repeat Double-A, where his strike-throwing issues have continued. If he bounces back he could be a No. 4, if not he’ll be a three-pitch reliever.

It should be noted that the FanGraphs guys also saw Castellani in the AFL and had more positive reports on him there than 2080 did (take a listen on this podcast for more, starting at the 66 minute mark).

MLB.com currently has Castellani 10th in the system:

Castellani’s fastball sat around 90 mph in high school but now runs from 92-97 mph with arm-side run and sink that should help him deal with Coors Field. When he doesn’t get around his low-80s slider, he shows the ability to throw it for strikes and to back-foot it against left-handers. His fading changeup slipped a little in 2017 but can be a solid pitch when he maintains his arm speed and slot when he throws it.

Colorado officials compare his less-than-smooth mechanics to Max Scherzer’s, and like the three-time Cy Young Award winner in his younger days, Castellani’s biggest need is consistent command. He had repeated his delivery well and thrown strikes in the past, but inconsistency with his mechanics has led to his struggles in 2018. He’s still just 22, so he has plenty of time to turn things around.

The above evaluation is highlighted by 60 fastball and 55 slider grades, accompanied by 50 change-up and 50 control evaluations. Given Castellani’s recent struggles, those may be outdated at this point, but it’s still a compelling repertoire that has starter potential.

Obviously this year’s step back has been discouraging for Castellani. Something isn’t quite right with the 6’4” righty and we can only hope he will recover his prior form. He’s got some mechanical issues that need to be worked out, but if he does he’s a solid bet to be a starter at the Major League level, likely in 2020. It’s likely that Castellani will start 2019 in Hartford again, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he climbed the ladder to Triple-A quickly.

Given his 40 man roster slot (secured after the 2018 season), it’s possible Castellani sees big league time this year, but if he does it’s because of either a massive injury calamity or a fantastic breakout campaign. Despite the bumps this year, I’m still a believer in Castellani’s potential as a starter, which is why I ranked him 9th in the system with a 45 Future Value tag as a number 4 starter.

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Raimel Tapia was one of the most polarizing prospects in recent memory. Prior to the 2014 season, the Purple Row community voted Tapia as the number 16 PuRP in the system, right behind Jason Aquino and ahead of Sam Moll. Drew Creasman, writing for Purple Row at the time, was more or less the only one around here to latch on to his potential. Other national writers took note though, too. In that same round of prospect evaluation, Baseball Prospectus ranked Tapia the Rockies third best prospect, which was much higher than other outlets. He even cracked their top 101 list. Over time, evaluators began to agree that Tapia was a legitimate top 100 guy. But a question continued to linger: Will be he able to hit major league pitching?

Six years later, that question remains. From 2016 to 2018, Tapia saw some major league action off and on, to pretty lackluster results — .274/.315/.404 in a total of 239 plate appearances (it still blows my mind Tapia only got 27 PAs in 2018). 2019 differed in that 1) he was out of options so the Rockies had to keep him on the active roster all season, and 2) he got a decent amount of playing time because of it.

The results were similarly lackluster, which is why we’re writing this article in early October rather than early November. Tapia hit. 275/.309/.415 in 447 plate appearances, nearly double the number he got in the previous three seasons. If you wanted to shop around for the best adjusted batting line, it would be DRC+’s 80 — 20 percent below league average (wRC+ had him at 73, OPS+ 74). He hit a couple of pinch hit grand slams, but that’s not really something you can put on your résumé under “Skills.”

Tapia did seem to hold his own in the outfield, which was nice to see. Statcast’s Outs Above Average had him in the 67th percentile, which is above average and bordering on the “very good.” That’s a positive, but he would really need to hit better to justify a starting spot.

From my perspective, it’s not clear where Tapia stands going into 2019. The outfielder in his way for much of the beginning of the season was Ian Desmond. If the Rockies choose to deploy Desmond in a platoon role, Tapia might sound like a natural partner — until you realize Tapia didn’t hit righties all that much better than Desmond (.274/.312/.422).

And yet, Nick Groke of The Athletic is writing as if Tapia is being penciled in as the starting left fielder in 2020. While I don’t dislike the idea, it doesn’t give me confidence. That’s because, nearly 7 years after Tapia broke into the prospect scene with his polarizing batting stance, I still don’t know if he can hit major league pitching.

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When the Rockies signed Daniel Murphy on December 22, it seemed to be exactly the right kind of low risk/high reward gamble a team in the middle of a contention window ought to take. He was coming off of a rough 2018, marred by injuries, and so he was willing to take a shorter-term contract. But he had the track record of being one of the best hitters in the National League over the previous five years, a product of the launch angle revolution who used his contact ability to generate a plethora of singles and doubles. Put a player like that in a stadium like Coors Field, and it seemed like a perfect fit in the short-term. Sure, he had to convert from second base to first base, but that should have been a straightforward and doable transition.

To paraphrase Marc Stout, sometimes you swing and you miss.

Murphy’s 2019 ended up being, by pretty much every measure, the worst season of his 11-year career. His .279/.328/.452 line and .328 wOBA would’ve been respectable for a 34-year-old second baseman in a neutral park, but playing half of his 132 games in Coors Field drags that down to a 86 wRC+. If you prefer Baseball-Reference, that’s a 87 OPS+. Now, his just-below-average DRC+ of 97 looks okay, but it’s still his worst since 96 DRC+ in 2012. Not great.

Murphy’s Rockies career got off to a rather inauspicious start. In his second regular season game, he made a diving stop at first base that resulted in a fracture on his left index finger. Worse than losing Murphy, the injury pressed Mark Reynolds into duty, and he hit .208/.344/.417 in the 22 games Murphy was absent. When RyMac went down, Garrett Hampson was pressed into a starting role and he hit .186/.205/.286 in that same time frame (he did recover and finish well). Hey, remember how bad this offense was in April?

So whereas Murphy’s signing seemed to provide the Rockies with flexibility while offering young prospects a chance to take their time to develop, his injury pressed those same young players into duty for which they clearly weren’t ready. When Jeff Bridich and Co. try to point to injuries as that which derailed the Rockies season, surely they look at this stretch. As the old adage goes, you can’t win a division title in April, but you can lose one.

But Daniel Murphy’s season wasn’t a failure because of 20 missed games in April. He struck out at a higher clip than he has since 2008, thanks in large part to his career worst 15.0% whiff rate. Weak contact was a huge problem, indicated by his 2.4% barrel rate, half his previous career worst. Based on his batted ball data, he “should have” hit .247 with a .359 slugging, good for an abominable xwOBA of .290, well below the .313 league average. Considering 2019 was his age-34 season, it’s not unreasonable to conclude that Murphy’s bat speed has started seeing characteristic decline for a player on the far side of 30. Lower bat speed is actually the simplest explanation for the degradation of his quality of contact.

Weak contact wasn’t the only culprit. After seeing shifts on just under 9% of plate appearances in 2017 and 2018, Murphy was shifted against on 33.0% of his PA’s in 2019. Predictably, his wOBA dropped from .354 without the shift to .288 against it.

When you take weaker overall contact and combine it with an effective shift being used nearly four times as frequently, you get a career worst season on the front end of a two-year contract for a player entering his age 35-season. There are areas where Murphy can improve if he can recover his line-drive stroke that produced scads of extra base hits in his first two years in Washington. But he can also expect to see more shifts, and more fastballs as pitchers challenge his declining bat speed. If that’s the case, the Rockies might be better off making him their lefty off the bench instead of their starting first baseman come June if they have a shot at reaching the playoffs again.

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Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado will reportedly be paid a record-breaking amount before he even hits free agency, as the team announced its reached an eight-year contract extension with its star third baseman.

Jeff Passan of ESPN first reported the eight-year offer from the National League West team, and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic noted it is worth $260 million with a full no-trade clause and opt-out after three seasons.

Passan provided additional details:

Bob Nightengale of USA Today also reported the extension plans, noting it will replace the contract that was set to pay him $26 million this year. The new deal will break Miguel Cabrera’s $31 million record for annual salary for a position player.

Arenado has been with the Rockies his entire six-year career and didn’t seem in a hurry to leave, per Nightengale:

“It’s such a great place. I really enjoy the fact there’s a comfortability here. You know the coaches. You know the players. Some of my best friends are on this team.

“I grew up here in this organization, so it feels like home in a way. I’ve been here since the tide has changed, and that’s a really good feeling. I was part of that change.

“You want to win in a place where you’ve been all of your life.”

Locking down Arenado makes sense. He’s the face of the franchise and is just 27 years old with plenty of time remaining in his prime. He is a four-time Silver Slugger, four-time All-Star and six-time Gold Glover, and is one of the league’s best two-way players.

Colorado reached the playoffs the last two seasons in large part because of his presence.

Arenado has played at least 156 games in each of the last four years and averaged 40 home runs and 126 RBI per season in that span.

Signing this extension also allows him to avoid free agency, which has been slow to develop this offseason for notable names such as Bryce Harper, Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel. Each is still unsigned with spring training games underway.

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This story is a bit of a rewind but it’s worth re-telling. It’s about retired Major League Baseball player Andres Galarraga, a first baseman and one of the game’s top hitters at the time. Winner of the 1993 National League batting title, his nickname was the Big Cat for his defensive agility as well. In 1994, playing for the Atlanta Braves, he hit an astounding 44 home runs and was named to the All-Star team for the fourth time. It also made him the first player ever to hit 40 home runs in back to back years for two different teams. He was 37 years old.

Immediately following that season, his life took a different turn when persistent back pain led to a diagnosis of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Given the location of his cancer, playing through treatment was out of the question. He missed the entire season. Galarragas returned the next year to a standing ovation on Opening Day. In an article that ran shortly after his return, the L.A. Times wrote, “During his six rounds of chemotherapy last summer, Galarraga ballooned to 280 pounds, and he suffered from nausea. When he was done with chemo, he had a month of radiation. At times he could scarcely recognize himself.”

The year he returned to the field, Galarraga played as if he’d never missed a beat, defying all expectations. He was named to his fifth career All-Star game that year and won the National League Comeback Player of the Year award.

In that same L.A. Times article, Galarraga said it was his mission to show other cancer sufferers that the disease can be beaten, that a seriously ill person can get stronger, and even better.

Boy did he ever.

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Profile: Trenidad Hubbard

Who is Trent Hubbard? I was wasn’t sure who he was when I heard his name. A comment on High Heat Stats mentioned that Trent Hubbard and Jim Rivera are the only two players to play every year from age 30-39 but play no other years.
It left me scratching my head, I didn’t remember Trent Hubbard. After some digging I quickly realized he is the same guy as Trenidad Hubbard who I barely remembered. After his long journey through the minor leagues he decided on the more exotic sounding Trenidad but is listed as both Trent and Trenidad depending on where you look. As a Tigers fan I don’t catch a lot of National League games so Hubbard, who played most of his career in the Senior Circuit, wasn’t that well known to me. As I looked at Hubbard’s career I became more and more intrigued by his long pro career.

Hubbard had a 20 year pro career as a speedy right-handed outfielder. He played college ball at Southern University and was a 12th round choice of the Houston Astros in the 1986 draft. Hubbard split time his first year at low-A Auburn between secondbase and the outfield. He showed his versatility the next year catching two games and mopping up once on the mound. As his career progressed he played all over the diamond but mainly played secondbase and outfield but continued to catch 10 to 30 games for several years.

Hubbard at 5’8″ was not a big guy and his main asset on offense was his quickness on the basepaths. He stole 30-40 bases a year and by ’89 had advanced to AAA. His career was stuck in neutral as he shuttled between AA Columbus and AAA Tucson. He began to get on base more often and in his 28 year old season in ’92 he hit .310/.380/.381 for the Tucson Toros. His window as a prospect however was closing and he was released at the end of the year. The Rockies picked him up and placed him in Colorado Springs. An ideal player for any minor league team, he put up an .840 OPS and played all over the diamond.

Returning to Colorado Springs in ’94, Hubbard hit like never before putting up a .363/.441/.538 line in 79 games. Having turned 30 on May 11, he finally got the long awaited call to the big leagues in July. His first action came on July 7th but he went 0-3 against the Marlins. He had to wait eight days for his next chance when he pinch hit and legged out a infield single in a 10-6 win over the Cardinals. Hubbard continued as a pinch hitter and made a few starts hitting .280/.357/.520 in 28 plate appearances.

His performance in ’94 wasn’t enough to keep him in the majors and Hubbard found himself back at Colorado Springs in ’95. After putting up a .920 OPS in 123 games he was promoted in August. He carried his production over to the big leagues with a .926 OPS in 67 trips to the dish for the Rockies.

In the meantime Hubbard founded a sports apparel company called Game Face, and designed their logo. It went bankrupt after three years with major leaguers Brian Jordan and Danny Cox among the investors.

Hubbard finally made an opening day roster in ’96 and had a pinch-two- RBI double in the Rockies first game of the year, a 5-3 win over the Phillies. Hubbard struggled in the bench role however, and was hitting just .217 in July when he was demoted to the minors. As usual he clobbered AAA pitching in the thin Colorado Springs air and when the Rockies purchased Steve Decker from San Francisco in August they released him to make room on the 40-man roster. The Giants filled their vacant spot on the roster with Hubbard. He played just ten games for the Giants and was sent to the Indians in the offseason as part of the Jeff Kent / Matt Williams deal.

Hubbard played just seven games for the Indians in ’97 but proved he could hit at sea level with an impressive .312/.401/.504 stat line at AAA Buffalo. The Indians unimpressed, let him sign with the Dodgers where he was the surprise starter in centerfield on opening day in ’98. Injuries shelved him for five weeks during the summer months and after a stint back at AAA, he returned to a bench role. His production on the year was not too shabby as he batted .298/.358/.452 in 208 at bats.

The Dodgers put Hubbard at AAA Albuquerque in ’99 but summoned him to LA in May. He played well off the bench batting .314 in 105 at bats. Hubbard even flashed some of his versatility with three innings behind the plate. He signed in the offseason with Atlanta and was part of a deadline deal to the Orioles. He hit an identical .185 for both teams but the year 2000 had been a victory of sorts as he avoided the minors for the first and only time in his career.

Hubbard was a late roster cut of the Blue Jays in the spring of 2001 and he signed with the Royals. He played just five games for KC before he was released. The Cubs signed him and he spent the rest of the year at AAA Iowa. He spent the majority of the 2002 season on the Padres bench hitting .209 but was released in September.

In 2003 Hubbard signed with Oaxaca of the Mexican League and played a dozen games for the Guerreros before they sold his contract to the Cubs. Except for ten games midyear for the Cubbies he spent the rest of the year back at AAA Iowa. Hubbard spent the entire 2004 season at Iowa batting .330/.409/.463 in 542 plate appearances normally a performance that would have scouts and general managers dreaming of the possibilities. But at 40 years old Hubbard was about 15 years too old to be a prospect and was just hoping to get another shot in the majors. Hubbard played for three franchises in 2005- Astros, Cubs, and Rays yet but was unable to make it back to the majors.

After 20 pro seasons Hubbard finally retired. In 16 of those seasons Hubbard saw action at AAA where he put up a .317/.400/.468 line and overall he had over 1,800 hits in the minors. In 864 major league plate appearances in the majors he hit .257/.333/.382 with an OPS+ of 86. Although essentially a replacement level player (-0.4 career WAR) his versatility and on base ability made him a valuable AAA player.

The well traveled Hubbard wore eleven different uniform numbers in the majors and never wore the same number for two different teams. Currently he is a minor league outfield instructor for the Rockies. He kept the Game Face name and logo alive and can be found here on Twitter.

By my count Hubbard played in 22 different teams in his pro career. Here they are in chronological order. Of course he shuttled back and forth making multiple stops in the same city several times along the way. Note Oaxaca (20) in the Mexican League is below the southern edge of the map

Dom Nunez Jersey

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By a single point, Dom Nuñez (and by extension all Rockies catching prospects) just avoided being shut out of the preseason 2019 Purple Row Prospects list. This keeps Nuñez’s streak of 12 straight PuRPs list appearances, dating back to the list immediately following the 2013 draft, where he was taken as a middle infielder in the 6th round. In between that first appearance and now, Nuñez has seen highs as a prospect (such as his ranking among the top 10 catching prospects in all of minor league baseball by MLB.com preceding the 2016 season) and lows (getting passed over for a 40 man roster slot by fellow Double-A catcher Chris Rabago in late 2017). Throughout, Nuñez has been seen as a backstop with plus defensive ability, plate discipline, and makeup — skills which have kept him in the prospect limelight for six professional seasons now.

The 23-year old lefty batting catcher has seen his offensive production stagnate at higher levels. Since his promotion to High A ball in 2016, Nunez has posted no higher than a .689 OPS and 94 wRC+ and hit no better than .241 in that span. Still, Nuñez has maintained double digit walk percentages and has been over a year younger than the average pitcher at every level, despite repeating at Doub;e-A in 2018. In his repeat campaign with Hartford, getting slightly more than half of the reps at catcher over Rabago, Nuñez hit .222/.320/.343 with 21 extra base hits over 377 plate appearances (87 wRC+). Those aren’t bad numbers considering his position and youth relative to level, but they aren’t an indication that he’ll be able to handle major league pitching either.

Here’s some video of Nuñez, courtesy of the Baseball Census, from the Arizona Fall League at the end of 2017:

Prior to the 2018 season, Jeffrey Paternostro of Baseball Prospectus wrote this about Nuñez:

My notes on [Nunez] over a dozen looks or so do not speak well of his bat, but you could probably glean that from just looking at his triple slash. Sometimes the stats are a pretty good explanation on their own. He has a good idea of the strike zone, he can yank a fastball over the fence every once in awhile—and played in a home park that rewarded that approach—but the swing is grooved, despite being on the short side, and I don’t know if there is enough bat speed to handle better velo. It’s just not an exciting offensive profile.

On the defensive front, Nunez has everything you’d want in a backstop, well-above-average receiving and more than enough arm to control the running game. (FWIW, our minor league defensive numbers thought he was one of the best backstops in Double-A.) … I wouldn’t be shocked if Nunez only sees a cup of coffee as a third catcher or if he has a 15-year career. That’s a wider OFP/Likely range than we should be comfortable with at BP, so let’s split the difference and say he’s a good backup.

MLB.com has soured on Nuñez over the years, but they currently rank him 27th in the system:

With soft hands and more quickness than most catchers, Nunez has steadily improved into a solid receiver. He has arm strength to match and has gotten better with his transfer and accuracy. He impresses with his leadership skills as well, and there’s no doubt that he’ll be able to catch at the big league level.

Whether he’ll be able to hit is another question after he slid to .202/.335/.354 in Double-A last year, then went 4-for-44 in the Arizona Fall League. He has a nice left-handed stroke, the raw power to hit 15 homers per year and some patience, so there’s hope. While he doesn’t swing and miss excessively, pitchers goad him into a lot of weak contact to the opposite field.

As he enters 2019, Nuñez faces a make or break season. After all, he’s now been left unprotected and un-selected twice in the Rule 5 draft despite the plus defensive tools and positive intangible reports. After 2019, which may be spent at Triple-A Albuquerque, Nuñez will either be on the 40 man roster or he will be a minor league free agent.

So where does Nuñez stand right now? He strikes me right now as a younger version of Tony Wolters as a plus defender but light hitter, right down to the middle infield flexibility in a pinch. For me, the profile of a near-ready MLB back-up catcher with enough potential to still become a solid major leaguer was worth a 35+ FV, but Nuñez just missed my personal list given that the Rockies (and the other 29 MLB clubs who twice had a Rule 5 crack at him) don’t seem to think he’s ready to play that role just yet.