Nunez, 28, was released by the Cubs over the weekend but quickly found a new home with the Pirates organization. The former Rockies backstop hit .216/.367/.366 in 147 plate appearances with the Cubs’ top affiliate in Des Moines, drawing a walk in a whopping 17.4% of his plate appearances but also striking out at an untenable 27.5% clip.
A sixth-round pick back in 2013, Nunez has a career .229/.346/.433 batting line in parts of three Triple-A seasons but has managed only a .180/.280/.373 output in 347 Major League plate appearances. He’s belted a dozen homers, 16 doubles and three triples in that time, showing above-average power, but Nunez’s 34% strikeout rate as a big leaguer has been too large an obstacle to overcome thus far.
Nunez’s career 29% caught-stealing rate (minors and majors combined) is better than average, although like many catchers, he’s seen a dip following rule changes that have emboldened baserunners. He’s sitting at 23% in Triple-A this year. He regularly graded as a plus framer earlier in his minor league career, per Baseball Prospectus, although his marks have dipped closer to average this season. Statcast credits him as slightly above-average in terms of both framing and blocking throughout the 826 innings he’s caught at the MLB level.
The Pirates traded catcher Austin Hedges to the Rangers prior to the deadline, paving the way for top prospects Endy Rodriguez and Henry Davis to get more playing time behind the plate. (Davis has played almost exclusively in right field in the Majors.) That trade and the pair of promotions thinned out Pittsburgh’s depth in the upper minors, so it’s not all that surprising to see the Bucs scoop up an experienced catcher to provide some depth. Between Rodriguez, Davis and Jason Delay, the Pirates have three catching options on the current big league roster. That jams up Nunez’s path to the big leagues, but he should get playing time in Indianapolis alongside 2018 fifth-rounder Grant Koch — and he’ll be an option if the Bucs wind up needing to tap into their catching depth for any reason.