Updated: May 2, 2019
THIS IS A COUNTDOWN!!!!! Over the next forty-something days starting on February 12th and ending on March 28th, I will be rolling out my Top 35 prospects in the Cardinals organization. We call it "The Dirty Thirty-Five" because it's marketable, I think. Also, we call it that because my write-ups and evaluations are a little different. I’m kind of a quirky and goofy guy, and the evaluations fit that personality. I've already written about the four players that graduated off the list. I've also written about the guys that just missed the list. You should check those out because you're going to have questions about my sanity afterwards. The article about the guys that didn’t make the D35 is really freaking good. This list is my own. It's terrible. I'm fine with it. Remember, have fun with these lists. Ranking prospects is a joke, but it's fun so treat all of the prospect ranking accordingly.
Malcom Nunez - Third Baseman
Signed as an International Free Agent in 2018 for $300,000, Somehow
Extended Spring Training
Age 18 (at the start of the season)
STATS AS OF 2018 AS HE IS STILL IN EST
This is a story best told in picture/video format. I guess that this story is more like a graphic novel than anything else.
But this story comes first with a qualifier, then with a warning or two.
THE QUALIFIER: The reason that Ive decided to keep the words at a minimum with this player profile is that I hate putting a player so high on the list that hasn't even played state-side yet. It actually causes me physical pain. It's just, these players are such a long distance away from the major leagues. The talent level is so sporadically distributed in those teenager-populated leagues (especially in regards to the pitching) that getting a feel for a hitter isn't easy.
Nunez earns his spot on the list because A) he's so physically gifted, B) he put up elite power numbers at the DSL level without sacrificing any of the other stats that matter, and C) he was a highly thought of International prospect that dominated some pretty elite tournaments. If you are going to get overly-excited for a prospect that hasn't played organized baseball state-side yet, this is the exact type of player that you pick. He's the type of player with a shorter timeline and path to the majors than his peers. He's not some player with a high batting average because he’s getting lucky, speed, and no power in need of developing his strength and approach. He's as developed as any 17/18-year-old that has been a part of the Cardinals' system since I've been following along.
For the life of me, I can't begin to fathom how the Cardinals were able to sign him for such a modest bonus. It just goes to show you how ridiculously... ridiculous the signing period can be. It makes me wonder if there were any other incentives or reasons behind the cheap cost of signing such a talented and advanced player. Anyway, ignorance is bliss when it comes to Nunez's signing, so far as I'm concerned.
Instead, I'll just focus on how sad I am that both the Cardinals' and Malcom's camp couldn't figure out his Visa issues to get in the U.S by the end of the 2018 season. He and Jhon Torres in the same GCL lineup would have been an amazing sight to be seen!
All of these things above, plus the beauty, quickness, and barrel-work of Nunez's swing make him worth getting excited about. Nunez is so gifted that I have actually reestablished my own personal outlook on ranking prospects because of him (and Jhon Torres). Couple this with a cannon for an arm and the likelihood that he’ll stick at third if he works on that body a little bit, and it appears that we are talking about the Cardinals next Internationally born star prospect.
Now that you've sat through this part, here's a .gif for you!
Now, THE WARNING:
First, just like with all of the prospects that are this far away from the majors, don't invest too much into his stats. They mean very little at that low of a level. They mean even less for such a physically gifted, polished, and advanced prospect in that league. The stats are pretty to look at, and few players have put up such dominant numbers at that level, but it has been done before. Many of the players that have done it have fizzled out quickly there after.
Also, even though he was 17 during the season, that is still *SOMEWHAT* old for the DSL level. This will sound like a no-brainer of a statement, but had he done it in his age 16 season then we'd be gushing even more (and he'd be more worthy of that gushing) than we already are.
What I'm saying is, "get excited, but remember to breathe. Give him time to grow and mature."
The second warning, is that Nunez has put on a bit of weight in a year, and not necessarily the kind that you get excited to see a kid put on. You'll see it in the .gif's within this article. In the .gif's that happen in-game, you'll notice a more physically-fit and athletic third baseman. In the .gif's that happen in a controlled practice (showcase) environment, you'll notice a more filled-out, somewhat clunky (even for practice reps) young man. While it doesn't worry me so much, it's still worth the warning. Nunez is going to have to work to keep his body in shape. Even when he is in shape, Nunez has a choppy way of running that makes me wonder if his speed will hold up. I feel confident in saying that it won’t if he continues to add weight that isn’t of the lean variety. Take a look at these choppy little steps:
Now that you've sat through that, here's a .gif of his beautiful swing!!! LOOK AT ALL THAT LEVERAGE AND TORQUE!!!
And now, MORE .GIFS!!! You deserve it!
THE BOTTOM LINE
There is still a long way to go before we start to compare Nunez to some of the top-tier prospects that have come through the system. There is also a long way to go before we start to lump him in to the "top 100 prospects in baseball" discussion. The good news is, he definitely has the ability and talent to be that type of prospect. If he continues to work on his physique, while staying dedicated to the art of hitting and playing third, then he just might be the next big "thing" in the Cardinals' system. But please give him time. He's going to need it. When he gets state-side (which is right now) and starts to rake like we all know he will, then we'll dive in a little deeper. I know that he plays with a tremendous amount of energy and excitement, and I absolutely love that!
Thanks to FanGraphs for providing the stats. Thanks to Baseball America and WBSC for the video.
Thanks For Reading!