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Under the Radar: Amado Nuñez

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After a difficult start in his career, the infielder’s bat is picking up steam with Great Falls

Amado Superlatives: No. 15 is slashing .440/.491/.640 for the month so far in August.
@gfvoyagers

Under the Radar details players in the Chicago White Sox system who may have suffered setbacks, gotten lost in the shuffle, or just haven’t surfaced as significant prospects as of yet. Next up is Amado Nuñez, who has bounced back with Great Falls after a difficult season last year.

Amado Nuñez (2B) — Great Falls Voyagers

It seems like Nuñez has been in the White Sox organization for a long time, though he is just 20. He signed for $900,000 from the Dominican Republic as the headliner of a 2014 international signing class that also included Jhoandro Alfaro, Ricky Mota and Felix Mercedes.

At the time of his signing, MiLB.com rated his tools as follows: Hit 55, Power 55, Run 55, Arm 50, Field 50. Signed initially as a shortstop, Nuñez has played all four infield positions in the White Sox organization thus far, with 2018 primarily spent at second. He is a native of Santiago, which has been the home of many major leaguers, including Jose Reyes and Jhonny Peralta.

Nuñez struggled as a 17-year-old with the AZL White Sox in an injury-riddled 2015, to the tune of .145/.207/.158. He appeared to turn things around in 2016 with a slash line of .287/.320/.370, while swiping a career-high nine bases. However, he struggled badly last year upon being promoted to Great Falls, as he hit just .183/.247/.246 in the higher altitude. On the positive side last year, however, he lowered his strikeout percentage to a career-best 18.9, while increasing his walk percentage to another best, 7.79.

Although some of Nuñez’s peripherals have declined (he owns a 6.04 BB% and 29.12 K% this year), his hitting numbers have skyrocketed with the Voyagers in 2018: .333/.374/.497, with 31 RBI and three steals.

Though he has just one homer, his line-drive approach has helped him amass an impressive 22 extra base hits in his 171 at-bats. Although he’s an aggressive hitter, Nuñez isn’t afraid to take an opposite-field approach and has hit righties (.346) even better than he’s hit southpaws (.286) this year. What’s even more impressive is his rebound from a difficult June. Since the calendar turned to July, he’s hit an incredible .386/.426/.576. At six-foot-two and 178 pounds, Nuñez is projected to hit for more power, eventually; obviously he isn’t there yet, as he’s only slugged three homers in 613 career Minor League at-bats.

The biggest concern, even more than Nuñez’s rising strikeout percentage, is his defense. After starting his career at shortstop (where he made 40 errors in just 62 games), Nuñez switched to third base last year, where he made 14 errors in just 34 games. This year, he has made 12 errors in 32 games at the keystone position, and three errors at first base in just eight games. Thus, in nearly the equivalent of a full major league season (152 games to date), he has committed a whopping 69 errors!

With his size, multitude of extra base hits and improving batting average, there is hope aplenty for Nuñez to develop 12-to-15 homer power as he gets older. It appears he’s more comfortable with an aggressive approach at the plate, which, of course, could lead to difficulties later on. Nuñez’s current lack of game power makes him a less-than-ideal choice at a corner position, while his average speed indicates he’s better off staying at second base for the time being. He’s never had a large opportunity to simply relax and play just one position over a long duration, and because Nuñez is just 20, there is still hope on the defensive front. At this moment, however, he profiles as an offensive-minded utility middle infielder a la Jose Rondon, with the hope of something more if he significantly improves his defense.