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July 27, 2017

Transaction Analysis

Nunez and His Helmet Fly to Fenway

by Shawn Brody, Erich Rothmann and Mark Anderson



IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

BOSTON RED SOX
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Acquired INF-R Eduardo Nunez from San Francisco Giants in exchange for RHP Shaun Anderson and RHP Gregory Santos. [7/26]

They did it, they finally did it. Boston picked up Nunez from San Francisco after releasing Pablo Sandoval (who latched on with the Giants again) and calling up 20-year-old top prospect Rafael Devers. Despite the call-up, the Red Sox appeared to be in a predicament. Do they go out and acquire a veteran infielder or do they stand pat with Devers in a way similar to Xander Bogaerts’ call-up in 2013? They opted for the former.

There is something to be said for replacing one former Giants third baseman with another former Giants third baseman, but Nunez and Sandoval are far from similar. Nunez is the antithesis of the Three True Outcomes movement. He doesn’t walk. He doesn’t strike out. He doesn’t hit home runs. In terms of how much he puts the ball in play, he resides in the company of such robust names as Ben Revere, Dee Gordon, Jose Peraza, and Ronald Torreyes—speed types whose success at the plate relies almost solely on using their hit tool to carry a high batting average on balls in play.

Nunez does have more pop than those names, though. He was able to swat 11 homers in almost 400 plate appearances last season with the Twins before being dealt. Was that an outlier? Probably, but moving home ballparks from Minnesota to San Francisco didn’t help. Suddenly all that power flamed out like the remaining embers of a firework, and what rose from the ashes was a hitter even more dependent on ground-ball production and just putting the ball in play. A poster boy for every awful cliché recited by coaches who cling to some earlier edition of a game.

With the Red Sox, no one expects Nunez to hit a ton of dingers. In Fenway, as opposed to AT&T Park or Target Field, Nunez does finally have the chance to play in a hitter-friendly environment. Whether he takes advantage of the Green Monster is something to look for, but ultimately that would just be a bonus. Nunez is a speedy utility player whose league-average bat has been hot of late. The cost of acquisition was relatively cheap, and most of his value comes from his ability to slot anywhere in the infield. It's a good get for a good Red Sox lineup that's looking to fend off the Yankees—another of Nunez's former teams—down the stretch. —Shawn Brody

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
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Acquired RHP Shaun Anderson and RHP Gregory Santos from Boston Red Sox in exchange for INF-R Eduardo Nunez. [7/26]

The Red Sox drafted Anderson in the third round last year out of the University of Florida. He was a closer in college but has since been stretched out as a starter. Following an initial assignment to short-season Lowell, he was quickly shut down for the remainder of the 2016 season after allowing nine runs in 2 2/3 innings between two starts. Fortunately, he has made noticeable strides in 2017 and sported a 3.99 ERA and 1.21 WHIP through 58 2/3 innings for High-A Salem.

Listed at 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, Anderson possesses a starter’s frame and uses his height to create downhill plane. He throws from a high-three-quarters arm slot with a repeatable delivery, although the landing can be a bit awkward. His solid four-pitch mix includes a fastball, slider, curveball, and changeup. The fastball is currently his best pitch. Its velocity has declined from 92-96 mph as a reliever to 90-92 as a starter, yet the offering still flashes plus thanks to late sinking action. His slider is capable of generating swings and misses and also flashes plus (mid-to-upper-80s). The pitch sometimes looks more like a cutter when it reaches the upper-80s.

His 12-6 curveball and fading changeup are less advanced and consistent, but have average potential. However, as is the case for the majority of pitching prospects, his command and consistency must improve significantly in order to reach his ceiling as a mid-rotation starter. The most realistic outcomes are either a back-end starter or a return to the bullpen. Nonetheless, in a buyer’s market for rental position players, the Giants should be happy with their return from this trade. —Erich Rothmann

Still just 17 years old and standing 6-foot-2, 190 pounds, Santos is the definition of a projectable pitching prospect. Pitching in the Dominican Summer League for a second season, Santos has shown impressive strides this year that made him an interesting target for the Giants. Already touching 94 mph on occasion with his fastball, Santos could have more in the tank as he develops physically and refines his mechanics.

He's generally shown an ability to spin the ball, allowing his curveball to flash as a potential above-average pitch on occasion. He’s working to mix a changeup into his arsenal, but his feel for the pitch lags behind the rest. Santos is a lottery ticket at this point in his development, but the strides he’s made since signing as a 16-year old have turned him into an intriguing prospect. —Mark Anderson

Shawn Brody is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Shawn's other articles. You can contact Shawn by clicking here
Mark Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Mark's other articles. You can contact Mark by clicking here

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