With the July 2 international signing period starting up next week, it is always interesting to see how some of these international prospects develop. A player who has been having a breakout season in his first full season assignment, the Athletics' third base prospect Renato Nunez could jump onto top 100 lists by the end of the season if this keeps up.
Nunez was signed out of Venezuela three years ago by the A's, and given a $2.2 million bonus as a 16 year old. The bonus was the 4th largest received by a J2 international signee that year, and the largest by an infield prospect by over half a million dollars. The organization had him play his first professional season in the Dominican Summer League, where he hit .268/.301/.407 with five home runs in 53 games. His line doesn't tell the whole story though, as he missed time with injuries, including the resulting concussion from being hit in the head by a pitch.
The organization sent him to the Arizona Rookie League for last season, where he hit a very good .325/.403/.550 with four home runs, 42 runs batted in, and four stolen bases. The AZL is usually considered a very high-offense environment, so while the numbers are good, I take a small grain of salt with them. Nunez appeared in 30 of his 42 games at third base, making seven errors out of 70 total chances there.
Nunez' defense has long been the knock on his potential as a prospect, although he has been working on improving it (as noted in an interview from May with Bill Seals of Oakland Clubhouse.com $). It sounds like the goal long term is for him to stay at third base, and if he can continue to improve that should not be a problem.
Rather than sending him to another short-season league for 2013, the A's moved Nunez all the way to full-season Low-A Beloit in the Midwest League. He has been tearing up the league this year, hitting .281/.325/.485 with 13 home runs and 53 runs batted in so far in 70 games. His patience remains a concern, having drawn just 13 walks (5.1%) but struck out 75 times (25.6%) in 293 plate appearances so far, but it sounds like it is something that is anticipated to improve to a reasonable level.
Overall, Nunez has the potential to be a solid fantasy bat at third base should he develop to his potential. His power is anticipated to be above-average, with Jason Parks noting "he has impact potential in the .270, 25 homer range" in his review of the A's system this offseason. We are already seeing the power potential in a league not known for its' high-level offensive performances. He is unlikely to provide value of any kind in the stolen base category, but it sounds like he could be a very solid middle-of-the-order run producer if everything falls just right. He's still at least three years away, and anything can happen between now and then, but he's definitely starting to show up on top 100 radars.