The SF Giants selected four players in the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday. Right-handed pitcher Dedniel Nuñez was the lone player added in the major-league portion of the draft.
The SF Giants went away from most pundits Rule 5 Draft rankings, but still made a selection during the major-league phase, adding right-handed pitcher Dedniel Nuñez from the Mets organization. In the minor-league phase of the draft, they selected outfielder Vince Fernandez (Rockies), right-handed pitcher Ronnie Williams (Cardinals), and infielder Mitchell Tolman (Mets). Former third-round pick, Jalen Miller, was drafted away from the Giants by Atlanta.
Since Nuñez was selected in the major-league phase of the draft, the Giants will have to immediately place him on their 40-man roster and keep him on their big-league team for the entirety of 2021. Otherwise, he will be returned to the Mets organization. There are no such restrictions on Fernandez, Williams, and Tolman though. All three become minor-league players in the organization with the same rules applied to other prospects originally drafted by the Giants.
Needless to say, Nuñez will receive an opportunity to compete for a spot in the big-league bullpen next spring. He’s been a starting pitcher his entire career but has never pitched above High-A. The 24-year old is somewhat comparable to Giants prospects Melvin Adon and Jose Marte. All three signed at a more advanced age than usual (Nuñez was 20 when he made his debut), but have flashed premium stuff and struggled to dominate the lower minor leagues.
Nuñez has shown better command than either Adon or Marte, but also has had less consistent stuff. Baseball America ranked Nuñez the 25th best prospect in the Mets system this summer, citing his mid-90s fastball, which generates elite spin rates, alongside a curveball and changeup that could become average big-league pitches.
However, according to an industry source, Nuñez saw a big spike in velocity at the instructional league. At instructs, he sat at around 94 mph and touched 97 mph, and while he has flashed that velocity before, his fastball only averaged 91.5 mph in 2019. The source believes Nuñez’s sweeping curveball, which posts spin rates around 2600-2700 RPM, has the potential to be an above-average offering as well. He will need to maintain his velocity gains, but if he can, he might have a decent shot to make the MLB bullpen.
Nuñez finished 2019 on the injured list with a shoulder injury, which could explain why his average fastball velocity was down, but prior to the injury, had been effective in his full-season debut. Between Class-A and High-A, he completed 80 innings (16 appearances), struck out 94, and walked just 23. While his ERAs were far from elite (4.03 at Class-A and 4.53 at High-A), FIP estimated his performance as far better (2.37 at Class-A and 3.12 at High-A).
Of the SF Giants minor-league selections, Fernandez and Williams have the strongest prospect resumes.
Fernandez is a power-hitting corner outfielder that is limited defensively and has a lot of swing-and-miss in his game but generates impressive exit velocities. A Livermore native that attended the University of California-Riverside, Fernandez was named the Big West Player of the Year in 2016, hitting .350/.431/.509, but was unable to unlock big-time home run power until reaching affiliate ball.
While the Rockies minor-league affiliates are known for being in extremely hitter-friendly environments, Fernandez’s performances have still been impressive. He was suspended for 50 games after testing positive for amphetamines last season, but in 74 games at Double-A, he hit 15 home runs, walked in 10.6% of his plate appearances, and posted a .257/.346/.543 triple-slash. However, he struck out in nearly a third of his trips to the plate.
Still just 25-years old, Fernandez should get a chance to play every day at Triple-A Sacramento next season. While the Giants may have a number of corner outfield options, the left-handed hitter could be an obvious option if Alex Dickerson or Mike Yastrzemski suffers an injury. Given his youth, he could work his way into the team’s long-term plans as a platoon bat.
Williams was selected by the Cardinals in the second round of the 2014 draft out of high school, but injuries have stalled his development. He was moved to the bullpen in 2018 and had decent success at High-A last year, but walked 21 batters in 36.1 innings after a promotion to Double-A. His velocity has wavered over the years, but at his best, he has flashed three above-average big-league pitches. His fastball can touch the upper-90s, tunnels well with his sweeping curveball, and also pairs with a solid changeup. However, he’s always been marred by inconsistency.
He receives rave reviews for his makeup and work ethic. In a conversation with Around the Foghorn, a former minor-league teammate described Williams as, “a charismatic guy who always has something positive to say regardless of the situation.” Not set to turn 25 until January, if he can find consistency at the upper minor-league level, he could make his MLB debut in 2021 or 2022.
Tolman was a three-year starter at Oregon who hit .319 with a .433 on-base percentage over his collegiate career. Limited power and defensive projection led him to fall to the 7th round of the draft. He’s slowly worked his way up the minor-league ladder but has only posted a career .266/.364/.378 line. Defensively limited to second and third base, it’s hard to see him having an extended big-league career. However, after Miller’s selection, Tolman gives the Giants some upper minors infield depth.
The SF Giants added Dedniel Nuñez, Vince Fernandez, Ronnie Williams, and Mitchell Tolman via the Rule 5 Draft. While Nuñez is the only one likely to compete for a spot on the Opening Day roster next season, all four should get opportunities to make their cases for a callup in the upper minors.