Position: Right-handed Pitcher
Nunez signed with the Tigers just before his 17th birthday in 2006, out of the Dominican Republic. Making his professional debut in 2007, Nunez sported a 3-0 record in twelve appearances (three starts). Though his record was perfect, the rest of his numbers lagged behind, as the lanky teenager struggled to control his body and the ball. In 30 2/3 innings, Nunez walked 13 and struck out only 14, yielding a 5.58 ERA.
Things came together for Nunez in his second professional campaign, as he gained additional awareness of his body in space, and began to further develop his command and overall arsenal. In both July and August, Marcos took home the TigsTown DSL Pitcher of the Month award, and was also honored with the TigsTown DSL Pitcher of the Year award at season's end. There is little doubt he earned these awards, finishing the season with a 1.78 ERA and 1.01 WHIP in 76 innings on the hill. At his best in July and August, Nunez combined to go 3-1 in 11 games (eight starts) with a 1.13/0.79 line over 56 innings. He also walked a miniscule eight hitters over that span, while whiffing a hitter per inning.
Nunez has the size that scouts love in right-handers, with long limbs and a strong frame that leaves plenty of room for added strength and projection. With an arm slot that works between high-three quarters and slightly over the top, Nunez creates a tremendous downward plane on his fastball. He has shown some aptitude for generating movement on the pitch as well, and as he gains move velocity it could develop some explosive late life. Marcos' fastball currently sits in the 89-91 range with ease, and he can work consistently up to 93 when he wants to.
Backing up his fastball, Nunez offers a change-up and a curveball; both of which are roughly average pitches. His change-up has some sink to it, but he lacks deception in his delivery, and must keep his arm speed up to maintain the effectiveness with the pitch. He has shown an ability to spin a good breaking ball, though the pitch lacks consistency. He must work to stay on top of the pitch to ensure it doesn't flatten out and hang up in the zone. If one of his two secondary offerings can take a step forward, he could maintain his profile as a solid starting option.
Command has been an issue for Nunez, but he made tremendous strides in 2008 to correct the problem. He became a strike throwing machine late in the year, and must only refine his ability to work the quadrants with ease. With his lanky frame, and his extreme youth, there is plenty of optimism surrounding his ability to make the necessary mechanical adjustments as he learns and becomes more comfortable with his body in space. Nunez projects as a solid mid-rotation starter if things break well for him, but he could fall back to a relief prospect if his curveball and change-up don't make the necessary progress.
Performance Level Team W-L ERA G GS SV SO BB IP AVG R
There haven't been any injuries of note thus far in Nunez's career, but he also hasn't been worked terribly hard. The Tigers will continue to closely monitor his workload in 2009, and I'd be surprised if he broke 100 innings until the 2010 season.
Nunez is a strong candidate to come stateside for the 2009 season, after having logged over 100 innings in the DSL. If he does make the trip to the States, his youth will likely keep him in the Gulf Coast League for the season, which will serve his development well.
He has the potential to become a viable starting pitching prospect, but he needs continued instruction to refine his breaking ball and change-up, and he needs to add strength to help generate the velocity expected from someone of his size. The 2009 season will be a big year in his development, but don't be discouraged if he doesn't post eye-popping numbers; after all, he'll still be a teenager when next off-season begins.
Mark Anderson is TigsTown's Managing Editor and feature Minor League writer. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.