Fantasy Baseball: Is Eduardo Nunez a Bargain or a Bust?
The 2016 season was a wild one for infielder Eduardo Nunez. He began the year with the Minnesota Twins as a bench player, but was forced into the lineup because of injuries and played well enough to earn a trip to his first All-Star Game. Shortly after, the San Francisco Giants acquired him in a trade to help with their playoff push.
It was a career year for the 29-year-old, posting personal bests in both home runs (16) and stolen bases (40), while slashing .288/.325/.432 in 595 plate appearances. Much of this production came while playing for the Twins, but it's easy to see why the Giants traded for him.
.@EduardoNunez15 hace de las suyas con el guante en la jornada de ayer. https://t.co/1is5nBQVFZhttps://t.co/E61cZsjMb0
— MLB Dominicana (@MLBDominicana) August 29, 2016
Not only was he a menace on the basepaths, but Nunez was also capable of driving the ball and flashing the leather. He ended up with 83 plate appearances in his new home stadium, and did not disappoint, slashing .307/.373/.493, but what does this production mean for the upcoming season?
Potential Power Outage
Nunez will unfortunately play half of his games in San Francisco this season, which is the worst stadium for home runs. This will make it difficult for him to replicate the 16 he hit last season, 12 of which came in a Twins uniform. If you're counting on Nunez for his power, he will likely be more of a bust than a bargain. Fortunately, he shouldn't have to rely on hitting the ball out of the ballpark in order to return value.
Nunez does a few things well at the plate that should be able to help out his fantasy owners, though. First is that he regularly puts the ball in play -- his 85.2% contact percentage last season was 7 points higher than the league average. This combined with a low strikeout rate (14.8% compared to a league average of 21.1%) means he's consistently giving himself the best chance to get a hit.
His low walk rate (4.9% in 2016 versus a league average of 8.2%) will keep his OBP low, but only five shortstops posted a higher batting average than Nunez's .288 last season, so if you play in a batting average league versus an on-base percentage (OBP) league, he's worth a longer look. His ability to use all fields -- his percentage of balls hit to the opposite-field of 29.7% was 19th highest last season -- and a career-best 27.8% hard-hit percentage in 2016 (24.5% entering the year) suggest his batting average is sustainable.
The base hits help drive Nunez's main value, which is his ability to swipe a base. He was one of just 5 players to steal 40 or more bases last season and it's safe to assume he'll continue to run when he gets the chance.
The positives to Nunez's game don't mean there also aren't concerns. We already touched on the likelihood that his home run total will decrease, but the Giants also have a crowded infield and possibly a set lineup at the top of the order. The starting third base job seems like it's his to lose, but his fantasy value would be diminished if he hits towards the bottom of the lineup.
Bargain or Bust?
Luckily for fantasy drafters, Nunez should still be a bargain even with the concerns surrounding him. According to FantasyPros, he's the 10th shortstop off the board and owns an overall average draft position (ADP) of 133.0. If you miss out or don't want to use a top pick on one of the first seven or eight shortstops, you should be able to wait and still snag Nunez. The eighth shortstop by ADP is Jean Segura, who is going 70.7 spots before Nunez, or almost 6 rounds earlier in a 12-team league.
Nunez's ranking as the 10th shortstop selected is in line with our projections. We currently have him as the 11th-best shortstop, scoring 62 runs, hitting 9 home runs, collecting 51 RBI's, stealing 30 bags, batting .284, and posting a .733 OPS.
He also carries dual third base/shortstop eligibility, which can help with lineup construction. While he's doubtful to be a league-winning type player, if you fail to land one of the top eight shortstops, Nunez should be able to provide serviceable value without being a black hole in your lineup. You need players like that in order to win.
If you chose to target other positions in the beginning of your draft, selecting Nunez at his low ADP will allow you to do this without creating a huge void in your lineup.