Updated: Dec 6, 2021
WELCOME TO THE DIRTY FLIRTY.
These are my top 40 prospects in The Cardinals organization, aside from the players that I’ve already covered in The Dirty Annexes. This little ditty here is the preface to all of the post in our Dirty series. So, if you’ve read this once then you don’t need to read it again!
A warning to those looking for Lars Nootbaar, Scott Hurst, Junior Fernandez, Johan Oviedo, Jake Woodford, Edmundo Sosa, and anyone aside from Angel Rondon that has already made a major league debut: That’s not really my bailiwick, as I’m sure you’ve heard enough about those guys from more qualified outlets already. Most of those guys have exhausted their prospect status, anyway.
A reminder that this is an exercise in futility, ranking prospects. It’s a landscape that is ever-changing and developing. We are almost always talking about kids that are just starting to understand both themselves and their bodies, while learning the most difficult and nuanced sport in the land. You never know when someone is going to start doing 200 pushups per day on their way to postseason glory.
I ask for your thoughts and feedback. I ask that you have fun. I ask that you remember that I’m a moron. Most importantly, I ask that you take all of the prospect rankings from every outlet in the spirit of what they are: a snapshot of that moment, with a bent towards understanding what might come.
#20: RHP Edwin Nunez
Turns 20 Years Old on November 5th
Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2020
Let me be as clear as possible: I had Edwin Nunez lower on the list than he currently is until I was convinced by someone that I trust that I was being a fucking idiot with the rankings.
Over the process of the D40, I have been told by multiple people within minor league baseball and its apparatus that having Edwin Nunez outside of the Top 15 or so in the Cardinals organization is malfeasance. I've also been told that putting him in the 15-20 range is a big misstep on my part. I've been told that this will be the most conservative spot that he'll show up on nearly every prospect list that matters.
I have him 20th because it isn’t fair or accurate that he should be 28th (even though that’s where he was until right now), and because those people that are telling me that he should be higher on the list have forsaken their analyzing eye and are so fixated on the data that they don’t see some clear and obvious warning signs. So, here in the middle-ish is where we sit. Obviously, I hedge towards their side because I don't trust myself enough to go with my gut on a kid that I haven't personally seen a ton of.
First, I want to say that 2021 was an impressive performance from Edwin, even if the stats say it wasn’t. This was the first taste of affiliated baseball that Nunez encountered, and to put up the data that he put up while at a full-season affiliated level should not go unnoticed. Especially for someone that was 19 years old for the entirety of the 2021 season. Also, Nunez looks the part of a big-league prospect, standing every bit of 6’3”, and every ounce of 185 pounds. Nunez is right out of central casting for a big-time pitching prospect.
It's not just Nunez's size and build that make him a potential rotation-leading man, it's the data on his pitches that headline this show. Nunez throws a heavy heater that can reach triple digits. When he is in control of it, it's a terribly lively pitch, and it spins like one of those machines from The Matrix that is trying to reach Zion. It’s a filthy pitch that has the potential to be the foundation for a deadly arsenal.
Even with that impressive and measurable fastball, Nunez's bread is buttered with a really MEAN breaking pitch. A slider that's been called a curveball with tremendous/elite spin, it’s a difference-making pitch, and it’s a large part of the reason why everyone believes that Nunez is due for some magical stuff in his future. All of those people that feel that way, to whatever degree they feel that way, are correct about it. It’s something else. From movement to measurement, it’s one of the -if not THE – pitch with the most potential in the organization.
And that’s where this gets to be a lot of fun. That word. That one slippery word that plagues all of us. That one word that we all fall back on when evaluating. That one word that, when mixed with emotions, data, and bias, has the potential to blind us from what we are seeing.
That word, of course, is “potential.”
And, to me, a humble and poor evaluator, “potential” is all that I see out of this young man right now. Can he reach 100 MPH with his fastball? Yep. Can he repeat a free and easy throwing motion? Sometimes. Does his slider spin and move like no other slider in the organization can aside from a healthy and performing Griffin Roberts? It does. Does Nunez’s body already look like it’s spent a season or two in the majors? Uh-huh. How much of that matters when you are leaving that elite heat over the middle of the plate? None of it.
The problem is that he doesn’t do any of the important things consistently enough yet for me to fully invest into his potential or what level of his potential he has the capability of reaching. Nunez has great control of his body in his motion, but his timing and his rhythm is all off. Often times with a kid like this, you can say that he needs to slow his motion down or reach back less or something terribly generic like that and still sounds smart and be accurate. None of these things appear to be the case with Nunez. There's a weight/energy transfer issue here that I just can't put my finger on.
During the 2021 season, it really helped RHP Logan Gragg to slow down his lower half in his wind-up. It's not the exact same thing, but I think that it would be a big help for Nunez if he can maintain balance with his lower-half throughout his motion. He doesn't have that solid of a foundation for being as big and as strong as he is. As I mentioned, his lower half and his upper half have some issues working in synchronization with each other, but in an unusual way.
I personally believe that this will help Nunez have more control of his fastball specifically, which he has like 30 grade command of now. Same goes with that devastating slider. Right now it’s a puppy in that it’s all bark. While it does have “bite” in it’s movement, it doesn’t matter much if it’s either landing in the hitting zone or if it’s not close to the strike zone. Without a viable third offering just yet, there is no way that a 19.4% walk rate is going to play. He'll need to continue to evolve his changeup and in a big way. WHICH IS FINE BECAUSE HE HAS A LOT OF TIME TO DO IT. Low, Full Season-A ball was such a weird conglomeration of talent during the 2021 season that it was hard to get a read on. Even then, it’s a problem if you can’t get those kids to chase more than they did at this level, particularly when your stuff can be as good as Nunez’s stuff can be.
I would also like to go on the record in saying that part of my view on Nunez is swayed heavily by two early season appearances against Bradenton. It was clear to me in those appearances that Nunez was best served by using his fastball low in the zone. He commands it better in the lower half, anyway, and it seems to flatten out the further up the ladder it gets. It was during those two appearances that I watched Nunez's fastball get beat around, and that's a big concern to me. I've asked about it a bunch and I've talked to friends about it here and there, and that seemed to be something that plagued him throughout the season.
There are a lot of things about Nunez that remind me of Alex Reyes and Johan Oviedo before him. Nunez has the big and measurable breaking pitches, as well as the body-type and projectability of both. What all three of these young men have in common is that all three really struggled to throw strikes at the minor league level. Both Oviedo and Reyes worked tirelessly to refine their stuff to a point where they were major league-viable, and you could argue that neither are even there yet. Nunez is cut from this mold, but arguable further away than Oviedo or Reyes at a similar age. That’s why I am being more conservative with Nunez than others.
Context matters to me. Again, I just can’t figure out how a kid this naturally gifted only strikes out 1 more percent than he walks (20.5% strikeout rate and a beforementioned 19.4% walk rate). And speaking of things that can’t happen in the baseball world, a pitcher can’t let up seven home runs in the former Florida State League over a modest 53.2 innings. These are more than just warning signs; they are red flags. Nunez did get his shit together a bit after a three-homer game early in the Palm Beach season, but I've been told that there were a lot of long fly balls along the way.
I’m not delusional. I can see why everyone loves Edwin Nunez. They are the exact same reasons why I love Nunez, and why I will hopefully be looking like an asshole a year from now. When Nunez really “has it,” he HAS IT, and it’s a damn sight to behold. It’s just that, right now, Nunez hasn’t demonstrated anything in the way of consistent command/control or understanding of his arsenal for him to be a top 20 prospect within the organization, in my eyes. The potential is there, and in an abundance that no other pitcher on this list possesses. That alone should invite top 20 consideration. With his first offseason stateside, I am hopeful that we will start to see it in 2022.
As I just take a screenshot straight from their website, I can’t begin to stress loudly enough the important role that FanGraphs plays in the statistical side of what I do with these write-ups. Please subscribe to their service BY CLICKING THIS LINK.
Another thank you to THE PALM BEACH CARDINALS for keeping us all updated on Twitter.
In addition, you all know how important and valuable @cardinalsgifs is to the pictures that fire up these articles. He’s helped with some of the gifs along the lines, too. I wouldn’t do the write-ups if it weren’t for him.
Thank For Reading!!