Before 2009: Nunez was signed as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic in 2004. He struggled in his first professional season in the Dominican Summer League later that year, but put together a nice year for Staten Island in 2005, his debut on U.S. soil.
Nunez hit .313 with three home runs and 46 RBI in 73 games in the New York-Penn League, and was the third-youngest position player in the league at that time, according to Baseball America. He would split the next two seasons between Low-A Charleston and High-A Tampa, struggling to hit for average in 2006, but rebounding nicely in 2007 to start to get his prospect status back on track.
In 2008, with High-A Tampa, he hit .271 with six home runs and 42 RBI, putting together another solid, if unspectacular season.
2009: Nunez spent all of the year with Double-A Trenton, and led the Eastern League with 33 errors. He has a very strong arm and shows good footwork, but doesn’t seem to know how to harness that arm at times. He also didn’t always put 100 percent into his infield work before games, which was a bit disappointing to see, given his penchant for the occasional gaffe.
Offensively, he had an outstanding year, setting career highs in batting average (.322), home runs (9) and RBI (55). He showed good speed on the basepaths, but poor instincts would occasionally cost him when trying to advance a base. One such mistake in New Britain during the final series of the year nearly cost his team the game.
After 2009: Added to the 40-man roster this off-season, Nunez has an opportunity to make an impact with the Yankees at some point in 2010, although it seems rather unlikely that will happen until at least the following year.
For the Yankees, Nunez is a utility man in waiting. For other teams, however, he could be a starting middle infielder. If he can continue to hit for power and his defense improves — because at times, it couldn’t get much worse — he’ll be a good option for a big league team at the top or bottom of their lineup.
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com