Eduardo Nuñez has gotten off to a fantastic start so far in 2017 for the San Francisco Giants. Will he be able to keep up this hot streak all season? Unlikely. But Nuñez is still more valuable to the San Francisco Giants than many fans realize, and here is why.
Eduardo Nuñez is a player that I feel has wrongly been overlooked and underappreciated by San Francisco Giants fans since the team traded for him last July. I understand why fans felt this way initially—not too long after Nuñez was acquired, fan favorite Matt Duffy was traded to the Rays for Matt Moore.
It is hard for a fan base to move on from a favorite like Duffy. We watch them from the moment they get called up, and when an unlikely prospect, such as Duffy winds up in the race for the Rookie of the Year award, we cannot help but root for them. In that regard, it was like a punch in the gut when he got traded, but it was understandable and ultimately beneficial to the long term success of the organization.
While the Giants got an all-star in Eduardo Nuñez, you would not think that after hearing the chatter amongst fans. It seems that Nuñez has been viewed as a player to bridge the gap for when Christian Arroyo is ready for the major league level. That may be the case, but I believe he is much more than that.
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Before coming to the Giants, Nuñez was having the best year of his career for the Twins in 2016. In 91 games with the Twins, he batted .288 with 12 home runs, 47 RBI and 27 stolen bases. However, his numbers dipped some when he came to San Francisco. In 50 games as a Giant, Nuñez hit .269 with 4 home runs, 20 RBI and 13 stolen bases. However, he consistently got on base like he did in Minnesota, in fact his .327 OBP with the Giants in 2016 was better than his .325 OBP with the Twins.
I feel that when an organization trades for a player, as fans we want to see immediate success out of the acquired player. That is why when someone like Nuñez does not produce quite like he did before getting traded, fans will question whether the move was worth it. Pair that with Nuñez having a subpar spring where he only hit .204 and battled a shoulder injury all spring training, and suddenly people start talking. From wondering when Arroyo will be ready to come to the show, to wondering if Jae-gyun Hwang will start at third at all this spring, or if Nuñez should transition to left field while Conor Gillaspie covers third.
There have been multiple theories has to how the Giants should handle the roster this year with some of the glaring issues on this team (left field). Although Nuñez is a versatile player—he can play basically anywhere in the infield, and has even played in the outfield a bit, albeit his outfield skills are not too pretty—the fact of the matter is he is most valuable to this Giants team as a third baseman. I believe he is even more valuable to this team than people realize.
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Eduardo Nuñez has gotten off to a scorching start so far in 2017. Eleven games into the season, he is hitting .359 with 3 RBI and 5 stolen bases while hitting in the sixth spot in the order. He is getting on base consistently and a threat whenever he reaches base. His speed on the bases is an asset the Giants have not had in a while and one I feel they under-utilized last season. Don’t get me wrong, they have had players in the past with some speed, but none that swipe as many bags as Nuñez does.
The last Giant to steal 20 or more bases in a season was in 2013 when Hunter Pence had 22. Last season, Angel Pagan led the team with 15 stolen bases, now compare that to the 13 Nuñez had in 50 games with just the Giants last season. What I am getting at is Eduardo Nuñez provides an asset the Giants have not had in years with his speed. He is capable of stealing 40 bases again this year, which would be huge. Speed can make all the difference in the world in a close game in the late innings. If Nuñez can get on base to lead off an inning late in the game, his speed allows the Giants to almost automatically have a runner in scoring position, given the right circumstances. Of course, nothing in baseball is automatic, but Nuñez is a serious threat when he gets on base.
This leads me to my next point. Nuñez’s speed and high batting average could certainly result in him being a reliable leadoff hitter for the orange and black. Personally, I would have rather seen him at the top of the lineup when Denard Span was injured, instead of Gorkys Hernandez, but that never came to fruition. It still is a possibility at some point this season though, especially if Span struggles, or gets injured again. Nuñez has experience batting leadoff from his time in Minnesota, and even batting second for the Giants. His skill set would transfer well into the leadoff spot for the Giants, and would provide some serious upside if he continues hitting like he is currently.
Not only is Nuñez a reliable hitter who can be expected to hit around .290 with 15 home runs and 65-70 RBI, he is also a decent fielder. He is not the best, but overall he can hold down the fort at third base. The Giants do not need Nuñez to be a superstar, gold glove third baseman, although that would be nice, but as long as he can repeat the success he had in 2016 the team will be just fine. Last year he had a fielding percentage of .973 at third, the highest of his career. The only issue is his stats every year prior was much lower, which could be cause for concern. Let’s hope that last year was no fluke and he really has developed into a reliable third baseman. If that is the case, that makes Nuñez that much more of a vital piece to the puzzle.
I know it is early in the season, but what Eduardo Nuñez is doing for the Giants thus far in the season should not be taken lightly. The man is a solid baseball player and could play a significant role in the overall success of the team this year. He is an all-star caliber player and someone fans should rally behind. Yes, we are all sad Duffy is gone, and yes Arroyo is an exciting prospect, but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves and feel the need to rush him to the majors. The Giants are perfectly fine at third base with Eduardo Nuñez at the helm, and hopefully fans will recognize this more and more as the season goes on. It seems this may already be the case with how he has played in the first eleven games in 2017.