Four days ago, the Oakland A’s threw all their chips into a 2014 World Series title run when they acquired Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Chicago Cubs. The A’s paid a hefty price to reel in two of the most prized free-agent arms. Shortstop Addison Russell—the A’s top prospect and the No. 12 overall prospect in the MLB—and outfielder Billy McKinney—the A’s No. 2 prospect—were sent to the Cubs farm system, which is now overflowing with talent.
In the wake of this latest move by the A’s, it seems a bit anticlimactic to utter the word “future” when talking about this ballclub. After all, giving up prized minor-league talent for quick-fixes shows that 2014 is the team's focus. With the best record in the majors at 56-33, who could blame them?
But with the onset of the 16th annual SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game and Stockton Ports (the A's Single-A affiliate) third baseman Renato Nunez earning a second consecutive selection, it is important to understand that all is not lost for the A’s minor league system.
The 20-year-old Nunez was scorching hot right before he was selected to the World All-Star team and then proceeded to justify his selection by continuing to obliterate Single-A pitching.
Over the past three weeks (a span of 20 games), Nunez has launched 11 home runs and gapped five doubles, culminating in an absurd .408/.489/.908 triple slash line. Nearly every Rotoworld update on him simply states that he had another multi-homerun game or another pedestrian four-hit game. Just past the midway point in his second full season, Nunez has 20 home runs, 57 RBI and a .287 batting average.
Nunez was signed out of Venezuela in 2010 and is currently in the Class A-Advanced California League. With the departure of Russell, Nunez has jumped to the No. 4 prospect in the A’s organization, and if he continues to swing a white-hot bat, he will likely be promoted to the Double-A Texas League in the near future.
The A’s project Nunez to reach the big leagues by 2016, according to their official scouting report. Though his arm is above average (rated a 55 on a scale of 80), Nunez will likely be converted into a first baseman, since his footwork and hands will eventually become a liability at the hot corner.
Judge for yourself after watching this video.
The A’s organization once worried about Nunez’s patience at the plate, as the 6’1", 185-pound right-handed hitter has a track record of striking out because of an overly aggressive approach. However, in the span of a year, Nunez has decreased his strikeout rate from 25.0 percent in 2013 to 19.8 percent in 2014 and has increased his walk rate from 5.1 percent in 2013 to 7.4 percent in 2014.
Players from all full-season minor leagues were eligible for an All-Star selection. Nunez was the lone member from the A’s organization who was chosen.
But to reiterate a point, Nunez is the A’s No. 4 prospect.
This means that the organization rates three players better and more advanced than a two-time minor league All-Star, who ranks second in the California League in home runs, ninth in RBI and ninth in slugging percentage.
So when second-guessing the A’s decision to part with their two top prospects in Russell and McKinney in order to maximize their chances at a title run this year, just remember that Renato Nunez and company are blazing a hot trail to O.co Coliseum.
Here is a video of Nunez hitting some bombs in last year’s minor league home run derby to help with that.