Friday, July 4, 2014

Revisiting Nunez vs. Solarte vs. Sulbaran

Eduardo Nunez started three straight games at shortstop
against Kansas City this week.
Back at the start of the season, I was not impressed with the maneuvers that brought Eduardo Nunez to the Twins.

Half a season and 82 Nunez at-bats later, his addition looks a lot better than I reckoned it at the time, which means that he not only hasn't fallen on his face but has thrived in a superutility role. Nunez has seen time in the outfield, third base, shortstop and designated hitter for the Twins — and has hit.

I remain skeptical about his bat. Eighty-seven plate appearances don't outweigh the previous 827. He was a below-average hitter with the Yankees, and I don't know of any real reason to think that's changed.

Meanwhile, Miguel Sulbaran, the Class A lefty the Twins gave up to get Nunez, has a 2.86 ERA in the Florida State League (11 games, nine starts, 56.2 innings). He remains a long way from the majors, but this trade still has a chance to look really bad for the Twins someday. (Or Sulbaran could go the way of most A ball pitchers and never amount to anything.)

One point I made in April was that, in a very roundabout way (there's a gap of a couple of years), the Twins and Yankees essentially traded Nunez for Yangervis Solarte. Solarte spent years in the Twins farm system, but even after he hit .329/.367/.466 in Double A in 2011, the Twins didn't deem him worthy of a spot on the 40-man roster.

Solarte then spent two years in the Texas organization without a sniff of the majors, signed with the Yankees as a minor league free agent, beat out Nunez for an infield job in spring training, took over third base in April with a hot start ... and fell off a cliff in June. He hit .303 in April, .296 in May and .164 in June, and he gets to start July in the minors.

Nunez, who spent most of April in the minors with the Twins and two weeks of June on the disabled list, is suddenly seeing considerable action at shortstop. He started all three games against Kansas City at short, and had a couple starts there last month just before his injury.

I'm even more skeptical of Nunez as a shortstop than I am of him as a hitter. His defensive shortcomings were notorious among Yankees fans, and they were comparing him to the rangeless aged Derek Jeter. But Eduardo Escobar's hitting has slid in recent weeks (predictably), and Danny Santana is injured. The Twins are going nowhere in the standings; it doesn't hurt to take a look at Nunez as a shortstop, even if we should already have a pretty good idea of what we'll see.

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