With all of 50 at bats at the major league level, this prospect from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, is already infamous in Yankees history.
He will forever be known as the player that did not land Cliff Lee.
Born on June 15, 1987, Eduardo Michelle Nunez is a right handed batter standing at 6'0", weighing in at 155 pounds. Tall and lanky, he has an infielder's body type and has been deemed by Brian Cashman as Derek Jeter's successor at shortstop.
Cashman balked at including him in the 2010 deal that would have landed Cliff Lee when option one, David Adams, came up injured at trade time.
Eduardo was signed as a non-drafted free agent on February 25, 2004. He made an immediate impact when he was sent to Class A Staten Island in 2005. He hit .313 with 88 hits in 281 at-bats getting on base at a .365 clip. He stole six bases in nine attempts, showing his speed. Six of his hits were triples and had 11 doubles.
When he was moved to Class A Charleston and high A Tampa, Eduardo regressed over the 2006 season. He hit a combined .214 with a .261 on-base percentage. What gave the Yankees some hope was the 22 stolen bases he tallied.
In 2007, Eduardo started the year at Class A Charleston hitting a pedestrian .238 in 328 at-bats. He did, however, continue to display his speed by swiping 20 bags.
Continuing to believe in his ability, the Yankees decided to move him by sending him to high A Tampa of the Florida State League. In 123 at-bats, he began to show why the Yankees had faith in him by turning the average around. He hit .285 with an on-base percentage of .336 while swiping nine more bases for a total of 29 on the year.
Nunez spent the entire 2008 season with Tampa and had some moderate success. He hit .271 in 373 at-bats, scoring 45 runs. He stole only 14 bases and was caught 10 times. He was beginning to look like a fifth infielder at best, if not for some suspect defense.
Things were about to change for him.
2009 saw Eduardo start to fulfill the promise that intrigued the Yankees and their hope for him in the future. He was promoted to Class AA Trenton and simply hit. In 497 at-bats, he hit .322, scored 70 runs, 26 doubles, nine home runs and a slugging percentage of .433 with an on-base percentage of .349. He stole 19 bases, but his decision-making still needed work, getting caught seven times.
This was the breakout that he and the Yankees were waiting for.
Scranton-Wilkes Barre was his first stop in 2010 and Eduardo kept rolling. In 464 at-bats, he hit .289 with 25 doubles, three triples, four home runs and a .340 on base percentage. He became a more disciplined base stealer, bagging 23 bases and getting caught only five times.
Can Eduardo Nunez replace Jeter as the team's shortstop in the future?
Eduardo's showing at Scranton convinced the Yankees that he deserved a call to the majors. In 50 at-bats with the big club, he hit a respectable .280 with 12 runs scored and five stolen bases.
The biggest knock on Nunez has been his defense. He has a very strong arm, sometimes a little too strong for his own good. From 2005 through 2007, he made between 23 and 33 errors with a fielding percentage between .913 and .938. In 2008, he was 19 and .952, showing some development on defense, before regressing back to 33 and .932 with Trenton in 2009.
In 2010, however, he may have started to put it together. In 101 games at SS, he made only 10 errors and had a fielding percentage of .976. Not stellar numbers by any stretch, but maybe a sign of where his development has come from where it started.
Eduardo has a bat that appears to be major league ready, as evidenced in his 2010 showing at the major league level. If he can continue the development on defense, he could turn into a good all-around player. It is more likely he becomes a weapon off the bench with his speed, but even there he needs some work. The last few years he has begun to improve in the problem areas, so hope is definitely there.
Expecting this kid to be the heir apparent to Derek Jeter is a lofty goal for a player that still has a lot to prove. Still only 23 years old, he has developed well over the last few years and that could be a sign of things to come. 2011 could be a very telling year for him and his development as the next Yankees shortstop.
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The Patience Series:
Patience Part 1: Hector Noesi
Patience Part 2: David Phelps
Patience Part 3: Brandon Laird
Patience Part 4: Adam Warren
Patience Part 5: Eduardo Nunez (Above)
Patience Part 6: Gary Sanchez