There was a major offensive inefficiency for the San Diego Padres 2017. They finished dead last in Major League Baseball with a .299 team On Base Percentage, 10 points lower than the runner-up San Francisco Giants (.309). Veteran free agent Eduardo Nunez would be an affordable player to help address this discrepancy, as well as provide depth all over the field.
Nunez makes sense because, as time goes on, it seems less and less likely the team is going to tempt Eric Hosmer down to southern California (.342 career OBP).
As it stands, the infield depth chart is already crowded, but adjustments can easily be made. Especially with the majority of infielders on the roster holding a below average OBP. While Nunez won’t provide a major boost, he’s a patient enough hitter who you can place at various spots in the lineup.
On the (somewhat) bright side, the Padres were a more respectable 22nd in team home runs. Both Wil Myers and Hunter Renfroe hit 25+ HRs. As pointed out, not enough hitters were getting on base for the team’s sluggers to knock in. Unfortunately, they were too busy striking out with the second-highest K% in the league.
Last season, for hitters with at least 300 plate appearances, only three Padres got on base higher than league average:
Wil Myers- 649 PA/.328 OBP
Jose Pirela- 344 PA/.347 OBP
Carlos Asuaje- 343 PA/.334 OBP
Nunez brings with him an average or better OBP; getting on base at a career-high .341 while splitting time with the Boston Red Sox and San Francisco Giants in 2017. He also puts the ball in play often, only striking out in 13% of plate appearances for his career. Roughly half of the contact for his career are ground balls; he found a good amount of holes in the defense with his .333 BABIP.
Nunez also brings a familiarity of National League West opponents, having played 126 games for the Giants before being traded to the Boston Red Sox in 2017.
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As an infielder, Nunez can play second base, shortstop, and third base; the latter very well. He is also serviceable in the outfield (RF/LF) having accumulated 322 innings for his career.
Having a player like this allows for plenty of rest for multiple players on any given day.
Additionally, should some of the young Padre hitters make their way to the big leagues in 2018, having a utility player like Nunez could ease their transition to San Diego.
Given their shortcomings in 2017, the Padres should be desperate to find guys who can get on base at a high level. There aren’t many (if any) available who can provide more value than Nunez.
He’s best suited near the bottom of the lineup to hit seventh (.332 OBP) or eighth (.338 OBP). He has hit at the top of the lineup quite a bit, batting first (.741 OPS) or hitting second (.774 OPS). Also of note is 18 of his 46 career home runs occurred when he was leading off.
Not to be overlooked, Nunez also brings post season experience. He’s continued playing into October twice for the New York Yankees (2011, 2012), once with the Giants and Red Sox in 2016 and 2017 respectively.
Nunez isn’t going to suddenly turn into a league Most Valuable Player candidate. What he can do is give the team an extra base runner on a more consistent basis, as well as being an affordable defensive Swiss army knife.