Giants Eduardo Nunez: Believing in the Breakout?

Eduardo Nunez may not be able to see the field right now for the Giants, but he did have a career season in 2016. Yet, can fantasy owners believe in him next season?

As the Giants currently take on the tough task of handling the Chicago Cubs, they would love to have the services of Eduardo Nunez. While the legend of Conor Gillaspie grows, the Giants acquired Nunez due to his breakout this season. Fantasy owners will have decide whether or not the breakout is legit, as Nunez will be one of the more interesting players heading into drafts next spring.

Eduardo Nunez debuted with the Yankees in 2010, and since his arrival, he has shown flashes of his dynamic talent. He never carved out a full-time role with the Yankees, as injuries and position blockage were the main culprits, but he found a home in Minnesota in 2014.

Heading into the 2015 season, Nunez once again found himself in a super utility role with the Twins, but was able to muster a, .282/4 HR/20 RBI/8 SB line over 204 at-bats. Clearly not a line that interests fantasy owners, but a small indication of the breakout coming this season.

Even though Nunez has had his fair share of defensive woes, the Twins continually trotted him out at short and third base during this season. The steady at-bats and sneaky good Twins lineup drove up his counting stats, eventually putting him on fantasy owners radar.

Nunez has shown the ability to hit for AVG before, but the power uptick and the SB numbers, propelled him to one of the most valuable waiver wire adds this season. He is currently battling a hamstring injury, but does have a, .288/16 HR/67 RBI/40 SB/.758 OPS/73 R line, in 2016.

The 40 SB immediately jump off the page, and fantasy owners welcomed the speed output with open arms. There will be a lot of pundits that will cite the 40 SB as a number too high to match, which it very well might be, but he does have 20+ SB seasons on his resume. There is no reason to think that Nunez will take speed out of his game, cementing him as a 25-35 SB threat in 2017.

In terms of his AVG, Nunez still makes a ton of contact for a guy that has a pretty violent swing. He only struck out 88 times this season, while walking 29 times, allowing him to post a tidy 14.8% K rate. He happened to post back-to-back .314 BABIP seasons, further evidencing that his AVG was not luck driven.

The one area where most fantasy experts will argue over when it comes to Nunez’s value, is his power. His 16 HR in 2016 are a career high, and his highest output since his 2009 season at AA. He will more than likely not be a 20 HR candidate moving forward,yet there are reasons to feel confident that he can repeat that output in 2017.

His power surge was more than likely caused by two things, a 7% increase in his FB rate and the 3% jump in his Hard contact rate. Nunez basically hit the ball harder and more often in the air this season, serving as the base of his breakout. Lets say some regression hits in both categories, but that regression will not completely wipe out his power potential based on his career batted ball data and the full assortment of playing time he will surely get next season.

Fantasy owners should believe in the SB and HR numbers next season, but there is also the wrinkle that Nunez is a free agent heading into 2017. Neither the Giants nor Twins have juggernaut offenses, and they both happen to play in pitcher friendly ballparks. If Nunez signs with a team armed with a better offense and more favorable ballpark, there is the opportunity that Nunez could even improve his counting stats next season.

Fantasy owners should look to draft Nunez as a MI next season, as 3B is usually packed with offensive studs. Slotting him in as a MI will offer a potential .280/10 HR/60 RBI/30 SB threat, from an otherwise weak position to fill. Do not sleep on Nunez next season.