Pirates Prospects Daily: Malcom Nunez And The First Base Depth

Statistically speaking, the Pittsburgh Pirates got the worst production out of the first base position in the majors last year. One of the first things they did this offseason was to address that, trading for Ji-Man Choi and signing Carlos Santana — both established veterans in the league.

The veteran presence at the position will buy some time in the minors, where the Pirates have options at the first base position, but are just looking for someone to step up and put themselves in the conversation as potential major league contributors.

Malcom Nunez

Acquired in the Jose Quintana trade along with Johan Oviedo, Nunez was tearing the cover off the ball in the very hitter friendly Texas League before coming over to the Pirates.

He didn’t slow down too much in his brief time in the Pirates system, slashing .280/.385/.475 and posting a 134 wRC+ while splitting time between Double and Triple-A. 

Nunez has a strong approach at the plate (14.7 BB%) and will turn 22 in March after making it to Triple-A at the end of last season. If the Pirates are grooming a true ‘first base of the future’, he would likely be the leading candidate to hold that spot down.

Mason Martin

Maybe still one of the bigger wildcards in the upper levels for the Pirates, there are few players in the minor leagues that have the power potential that Martin has. The issue for him has always been the strikeouts, as the slugging lefty came up six short of 200 on the season.

Regardless, no one has been more of a prolific home run hitter than Martin over the last three minor league seasons for the Pirates. His 79 home runs since 2019 is 23 more than the next player, Aaron Shackelford.

He got off to a torrent start, belting 23 hits (16 for extra-bases) and a 157 wRC+ in the month of April. He hit another seven home runs in May before falling off a cliff the next couple of months. 

Martin struck out over 40% of the time in the months of June and July, he posted a wRC+ of 123 in August before struggling in September to close out the season.

While he’ll always remain an intriguing option due to his power, the swing and miss is something that will make it hard to establish himself in the majors.

Other Names In The System

Mentioned previously, Aaron Shackelford has the second most home runs in the system since 2019, and finished first overall in 2022. He played some second base and right field, but his true home is first base. He struck out seven times in 16 plate appearances in a brief stint in Triple-A last year.

Jacob Gonzalez was added through the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft in 2021, tearing up Bradenton before making his way to Greensboro for the majority of the season.

He put up a very impressive batting slash of .305/.377/.459 along with a wRC+ 131 between the two levels, but will also be 25 in June and will most likely get his first taste of Double-A. He rarely strikes out (13.1 K%), and is a solid line drive hitter (system leading 25.3 LD%), but will always have the age factor playing against him at this point and he also struggled in his limited playing time in the Arizona Fall League.

The Pirates bought time at the major league level with bringing Choi and Santana, so there is nearly no expectations from any of these prospects to make an impact in 2023. Any hope is that one breaks through and makes a case to lay claim at the first base job in 2024.

Highlight of the Day

Pirates Prospects Daily

By Tim Williams

**Related to this P2Daily, my latest article at Baseball America looks at Malcom Nunez entering the picture for that first base role.

**My latest column looks at the Pirates pitchers, breaking down their 80th and 20th percentile projections from ZiPS.

**Missed yesterday? Anthony looked at Braylon Bishop and how he’s looking to put his raw power on display.

Song of the Day

Pirates Prospects Weekly

I’ve been working through a series of columns that will eventually lead to one of the most detailed season projections I’ve ever done. Last week, I focused on the position players. This week, the focus is on the pitchers. Check back for part three, next week.

Williams: Will the Worst Even Happen?

Our latest Roundtable will hit the site on Thursday at noon.

Anthony began writing over 10 years ago, starting a personal blog to cover the 2011 MLB draft, where the Pirates selected first overall. After bouncing around many websites covering hockey, he refocused his attention to baseball, his first love when it comes to sports. He eventually found himself here at Pirates Prospects in late 2021, where he covers the team’s four full season minor league affiliates.

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First base should be spoken for this season but everyone will be a free agent after the season. Obviously a lot can change that would make this a terrible idea but as things stand now why not go 3 years and 45ish million to get Ryhs Hoskins in free agency next winter and have some certainty at arguably the weakest position of depth throughout the system?


The only certainty about Hoskins is that DH is his best position.


Very glad to see guys like Malcom Nunez featured. This team needs some new blood, and we have four guys who could be in MLB with the Pirates in 2023 with qualities that will promote winning as a team. Endy Rodriguez, Ji-Hwan Bae, Malcom Nunez, and Jared Triolo are hitters who put the ball in play, and all are VG to Excellent defensive players.

Add those 4 to Hayes, Cruz, Castro, Reynolds and Suwinski and this is a solid lineup that will only get better as they mature. This team has at least 2023 and 2024 to keep Reynolds and still be able to get max value after the 2024 season.

Bucs'N'Pucks (Jeff Reed)

And you can seemingly add Andujar to that “Other Names” list now.


Gives off major Jose Osuna vibes, but I’m cautiously optimistic.

Cape Cod Sean

Agreed! And mason Martin feels like the clone of Big Country Brad Eldred!


I honestly can’t rem a more polarizing prospect in P2 since its inception.

He had a cult following, they thought he was better than Josh Bell. Bruce Humbert was the leader of the cult and I’m certain it wasn’t good for his health. They believed in some conspiracy theories against Osuna of why he wasn’t ranked higher in Tim & Dreker’s prospect lists. If Osuna was a prospect in 2023, they would have blamed his failures on the Moderna Vax.


Hahaha, cracked me up. Those were the days!


Oh boy!


We could had used a lefty smasher that could play 1B and fake it the outfield the last two season!


Wow, had no idea Jose was such a high contact player in the minors. Cautionary tale


Let me be clear, I’m talkin vibes mannn. Just gives me the look and feel of an Osuna type. Optimistically, Jose might be a sketchy statistical comp if Malcom really can take a walk like he showed in ’22 and not the previous portion of his career. Jose was your classic free swinger and it caught up to him.


Nunez clearly has a much better hit tool than Martin, but I’m rooting hard for Martin to finally figure out how to consistently make contact on pitches in the strike zone. Realistically, if Pirates get anything out of Martin, it has to be considered a success. Odds are much higher he whiffs his way out of the organization.


Martin replaces Garrett Jones for the definitive example of “grooved swing”.

I swear in all I’ve watched him I can’t think of more than a couple balls he’s hit that weren’t *right there* in the zone. Pitch it anywhere else and, well, here we are.


Andujar cleared.


Hard to see him not coming back to Pirates especially since he’s bound to get brought back up after an injury or poor performance from someone on 40-man. May even make the team out of ST?


I don’t see a scenario where he makes the team out of ST. He doesn’t fit the FO’s MO.


Probably take an injury or even two for them to consider it. Certainly doesn’t fit the high OBP skill set they have sought for the team this winter.


He could refuse assignment, correct?


Yes, but he would then forego his guaranteed $1.5 mm, too. Not going to happen.


No, he would not want to lose that. I did not know if he could do that or if he was still tied to the Bucs if he cleard.


I’m not sure of how these things work. I would guess he gets an NRI from the Pirates


Question answered. He gets outrighted and will have a spring invite.I can never remember exactly when they can refuse the outright and be a FA.


We had a long conversation about prospect ranking recently, on Pipeline current position rankings #10 was a player that is about 2 years older, finished in AA, same FV values as Nuñez, only difference he is a Red Sox!


The swing & body type of Nunez looks so much like Miguel Sano to me

b mcferren

one of these guys needs to come back in the Reynolds trade

ARZ Ivan Melendez
BOS Niko Kavadas
LAA Sonny DiChiara
TB Kyle Manzardo
TB Xavier Isaac
TOR Damiano Palmegiani


Reynolds is being traded????


Not yet 🙂


Out of those Manzardo is the only one I will like to see, only if paired with Taj Bradley!
Kavadas is older and same exact tools as Nuñez.

b mcferren

Isaac looks like a fun one to me

Tampa Reynolds trade looking better by the day


This article didn’t give me the warm fuzzies about our 1b situation, lol. I would imagine our best hope is to move one of our good hitting outfielders to 1b. Oh wait….which good hitting outfielders do we have, lol?

I still think Davis ends up at 1b, despite that 70 arm.


What do you see or not see in Malcom Nunez? Hits for average, hits for power, excellent K/BB rate, fielded 1.000 at 1B in AA Altoona, with the highest RF/G among the 5 older players who played 1B at Altoona. His work at AAA was about a week of games and not worth the ink.


You forgot he mashes RH”s


89 PA

RISP W/2 outs:


Professional clutch hitter with an
“I own the Zone ” MINDSET


Reminds me too much of Jose Osuna. His career OPS at AAA was over .800. Let’s see what Nunez does in the majors. Until then, I reserve the right to have ‘cold’ fuzzies. 😜😜😜


What happens when Davis can’t catch well enough to be even a serviceable back-up and doesn’t hit as well as Nunez?

Nunez was a year and a half younger than Davis last year in AA. Nunez was well above, and Davis was slightly below average.

If and when Davis moves off C, he’ll slide way down prospect lists.


When??? What about if?


He was injured pretty much the entire year. Let’s see if he recovers. He looked good the year prior.


How does Nunez compare to a young Albert Pujols? Kidding but not totally.


Please don’t saddle him with that comp. Totally unfair.


I know, I know. Just thinking of a 1B from St Louie. I will take the next Kevin Young though.


At age 22 Pujols was in his 2nd big league season coming off a 7 WAR rookie year.


Pujols never hit under .300 until he was over 30 years old. In the minors or Majors, so he already missed that.


love Nunez. he is everything i could ask for from a hitting prospect.

good k’s, good bb’s, impacts the ball, feasts on older competition.

nice to have him, and nice to sneak him thru the R5 mess and keep him marinating off the 40 – and use the 40 spot on someone else.

Fully expect him to be part of the 2024 win now squad.

likely losing all of the main 1b and dh guys after this yr – cutch santana choi – so plenty of room for some sort of Davis Endy Nunez rotation.

Last edited 2 months ago by jaygray007

Agree with everything except I expect Cutch to be back again next year. And the year after that to try for a repeat WS Title!!😎


Should we expect more out of Nunez than a Gabby right hand side of a platoon?


i’d say at this point that if he ends up being what Gaby Sanchez was *supposed* to be, i’d be fine with it. it’d be disappointing but if he’s a real actual MLB talent and they can pair him with a good lefty, then sure.

let’s just see what he does in AAA first, eh?


The Quintana trade has the potential to be Cherington’s best move since his hiring. Both Oviedo and Nunez have pretty high ceilings and with the DH in the NL now I am fairly confident in Nunez having an above average DH bat as his floor. Oviedo has, barring injury, likely has a leverage reliever 50% outcome and middle relic floor, so worst case two Major leaguers for under $1 million paid to Quintana. At best 1st base is filled and a rotation piece?

Great trade. Lots of folks whined about it too.


Kinda hard to call a trade ‘great’ when all we’ve gotten out of it is a month of Oviedo. Let’s give it two or three years shall we?


I didn’t call it great and I didn’t give it any grade at all yet. I used the word potential. Don’t twist comments upside down just to try to look smart. You said the same thing I did. Potential.



In case you missed it and I quote: “ Great trade. ”


I guess you didn’t read your next to last sentence then?


Classic internet, guy gets offended for pointing out the literal words he just wrote. Cannot make this up.

Don’t twist my wordss wahhh wahhhhh

Last edited 2 months ago by NMR

bro read the last line you wrote.


What is scarier is that two people like his reply rebutting what he himself said. 🤣🤣🤣


You read my mind. Explains a lot about America right now, lol.

Last edited 2 months ago by NMR

Hopefully this trade doesn’t come close to being his best move. The Davis draft class has extreme impact potential. At least I’m hoping. But definitely love this trade at this point.


It could not have worked out any better for the Pirates. Oviedo came in and immediately joined our Rotation – 7 Starts, 2-2, 3.23 ERA, 3.47 FIP, +0.6 fWAR, ranking right behind Contreras at +0.9 fWAR. A fresh arm and 5 years of control.

Malcom Nunez is the Pirate future at 1B. Playing at AA and AAA he posted a slash of .262/.367/.466, 833 OPS playing the year as a 21 year old. And he puts the ball in play – 69 Walks/103 K’s, .367 OBP. He will be well into ST before he turns 22. I hope he gets a lot of time with Carlos Santana in ST – that would help him a lot, especially with the glove. With a good year at AAA he could be up with the Pirates in August, preparing for 2024.

Hard not to like the raw power of Mason Martin, but he has to cut way back on the K’s – last year 52 Walks which is good, but 194 K’s in 541 PA, more than 1 K per every 3 PA. And that is still AAA!


Just don’t look at Oviedo’s peripherals. And, again I caution you to not take Sept stats that seriously.

Let’s see what 2023 brings for both of these guys.

Scam likely

Martin 194 k’s is crazy maybe a strick platoon could help.


Best comp is Brad Eldred with more power…not likely to ever wear a ML uniform…


That is who I think of with Martin. I would not say he has more power though. Eldred hit 30+ HRs in the minors 3 times, and topped out at 38. Eldred also hit 12 homers in his first year up with the Bucs, in only 190 ABs, but he also struck out 37% of the time. Martin seems like he has a more all or nothing approach than even Eldred. When I have seen him, he swings as hard as he can each AB, and most of the time, either connects for a double or Home run, or strikes out.


I think you mean less power. Big Country could really hit. He was well over 30 bombs a year multiple times on the way up.

Track record for guys that K over 30% of the time in AA and AAA is terrible, He is a non-prospect at this point IMO.


Best outcome would be an Adam Dunn comp. Probably not going to happen, but 1 can hope.


Would love to have an Adam Dunn type, but doubt that. Adam Dunn was really a great hitter. His OBP was always close to .400.


or Dave Kingman for us old folks


Probably the more likely candidate if any, and not all bad, but not the hitter of Adam Dunn. The issue is Eldred might be the more likely comp. Martin is striking out at a 35% rate, and that is in the Minors. Unless that changes, he will likely be the next Brad Eldred.


Dave Kingman+ since he can actually play a position.

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