Many Yankees fans have a strange attachment to Eduardo Nunez. We all know that he’s defensively challenged, but I’ve heard people arguing that he should be used as a designated hitter or a corner outfielder because of the value of his bat and legs.
Unfortunately, despite the widespread perception among Yankee fandom, Nunez does not have a great bat. Consider his numbers over his professional career:
That’s a lot of information, but the important information is over on the right-most column. wRC+ measures overall offensive performance, weighted to park and league, where 100 is average. As you can see, Nunez has had exactly one season in which he was an above average hitter. One. It was four years ago, and it was in double-A. Just to highlight my point, take a look at a graph of the above information:
Now, to be fair, not all points on this graph are equally important, as Nunez spent a different amount of time in each level/season. Still, the majority of his playing time in 2006 and 2007 were in single-A, and in each he put up a 61 wRC+. He improved in A+ with a wRC+ in the mid-90s, and obviously in AA he had his first great season. But since then, Nunez has simply been a mediocre hitter in AAA and with the Yankees.
Is there room for improvement? Sure. He’s only 25 years old, which is before most players hit their prime. But there are warning signs, particularly Nunez’s putrid walk rate. He hasn’t walked 7% of the time or more since single-A back in 2007, and with the Yankees it has generally sat around 6%. Now this isn’t awful, but to be a productive player and put his speed to good use, Nunez must get on base, especially considering his poor power.
Yes, I said poor power. There is an odd sentiment floating around that Nunez has “pop”, as the kids say. But not once has Nunez hit more than 10 home runs in a season. His Isolated Power (ISO) sat around .100 in the minors and with the Yankees. For reference, Brett Gardner‘s career ISO is .103. So no, Nunez does not have power. Nor does he get on base at a high rate. In fact, he’s basically Brett Gardner, but with no patience. Oh yeah, and he can’t play defense.
I’m a big fan of Brett Gardner, but let’s be honest, if he couldn’t play defense, he would be pretty mediocre, and definitely wouldn’t have a starting job. That’s the case with Nunez. He’s not a good hitter, he’s not a good fielder, and he’s really only useful as a pinch runner. I don’t mean to be harsh, but the Yankees simply shouldn’t use Nunez for his bat — there is almost no evidence that he can ever be an above average hitter.