Name: Dedniel Nunez
Weight: 180 lbs.
Acquired: IFA, October 21, 2016 (Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic)
2019 Season: 4 G (3 GS), 22.1 IP, 10 R, 10 ER (4.03 ERA), 3 BB, 33 K, 2 HBP, 0 BLK, 4 WP, .267 BABIP (Low-A)
12 G (12 GS), 57.2 IP, 31 R, 29 ER (4.53 ERA), 20 BB, 61 K, 4 HBP, 0 BLK, 4 WP, .339 BABIP (High-A)
Puerto Plata native Dedniel Nunez’s baseball career thus far has been very atypical as compared to the journey that most international players go through. Signed in October 2016 at the age of 20, he made his professional debut with the GCL Mets in 2017, posting a 5.24 ERA in 44.2 innings with 51 hits allowed, 16 walks, and 46 strikeouts. He was promoted to Kingsport in 2018, where he posted an improved 3.79 ERA in 40.1 innings, allowing 38 hits, walking 16, and striking out 36. He skipped over Brooklyn and was assigned to the Columbia Fireflies to start the 2019 season. He posted a 4.03 ERA in 22.1 innings there and after just four starts was sent up to St. Lucie. He posted a 4.53 ERA in 57.2 innings before having his season end early due to injury in mid-July, allowing 59 hits, walking 20, and striking out 61.
Nunez throws from a low-three-quarters arm slot with a whippy arm action. His fastball sits in the low-90s, topping out at 94 MPH or so with some late arm-side life thanks to its high spin rate. He complements it with a slider that sits in the low-80s and a changeup. The slider is his go-to secondary pitch, as his changeup is still raw and in development. The right-hander is aggressive and goes after hitters.
I’m not all that sold on Nunez, but the fastball and slider are both effective pitches and he is able to command them both pretty well. He’s been putting up decent numbers as a starter, and I assume that the eventual transition into the bullpen will improve them further. It’s a fine-if-unspectacular profile highlighting how thin the Mets’ farm system currently is.
An old signee (signed at 20) from the Dominican Republic, Nunez was similarly too old for the label as he spent the bulk of his 2019 in St. Lucie at 23. Regardless, the results were good – striking out more than a batter per inning while doing a reasonable job of limiting free passes and homers is always appealing. Realistically, he’s another fastball-slider relief-type arm who is still starting in the minors, but that’s a great result for a dirt-cheap international signing and makes him a legit prospect in a thin system.
Nunez had something of a breakout season in 2019, in which he managed to pitch his way across two levels of A-ball with decent results. He began the season as a slightly old for the level pitcher in the South Atlantic League and posted a mediocre 4.03 ERA despite an excellent 2.37 FIP and video game strikeout and walk numbers in 22.1 innings before earning a promotion to the Florida State League. After the promotion, Nunez continued to pitch decently, although all of the peripherals came back to earth. He once again managed to post a 3.12 FIP that was a full run lower than the 4.53 ERA he put up in 57.2 innings pitched in the FSL, and still managed to strike out more than nine batters per nine innings. While I feel that Nunez’s ultimate home is going to be in the bullpen where he can rely heavily on his low-to-mid-nineties fastball and above-average slider, he is still a starter for now, and it’s certainly possible that he improves enough to continue starting games as he makes his way into the high minors in 2020.
Nunez was rather unheralded up until this year, but there are a few reasons why he deserves a place at the back end of our list. He posted solid numbers over High-A and Double-A, but, to me, the interesting thing is the strikeouts. He posted good strikeout numbers prior to this season, but he did it at a personal best 10.3 per nine this season – it will be interesting to see if he improves again.
Name: Adrian Hernandez
Weight: 210 lbs.
Acquired: IFA, July 2, 2017 (Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic)
2019 Season: 4 G, 14 AB, .286/.375/.643, 4 H, 2 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 1 BB, 4 K, 2/3 SB, .333 BABIP (Rookie-GCL)
Considered one of the better players to be available during the 2017-2018 international signing period, Dominican outfielder Adrian Hernandez was signed in July 2017 by the Mets and given a $1.5 million signing bonus. He made his professional debut in 2018, playing 63 games for the Mets’ Dominican Summer League team. In those 63 games, he hit .261/.351/.386, slugging 5 home runs, stealing 9 bases in 14 attempts, and walking 17 times to 52 strikeouts. He was sent stateside, assigned to the GCL Mets for the 2019 season, but only appeared in four games before injuring his leg and missing the rest of the season.
Standing 5’9” and weighing 210 lbs., Hernandez is built like a running back and his profile centers around that strength. His bat speed, which was considered among the best in the 2017-2018 international rookie class, is explosive. When combined with his physical strength, Hernandez boasts plus raw power. His ability to hit is currently raw, with a swing that has too much of an uppercut and moves out of the zone too quickly, and a shows a vulnerability to spin. Once his pitch recognition and barrel control develop further, and his hit tool improve, the outfielder could develop above-average to plus in-game power as well.
In the outfield, Hernandez is equally raw. He has above-average speed and can turn the afterburners on very quickly, but his ability to read the ball off the bat and run the most efficient routes are still developing. His arm is only average, but if he is able to stay in center field, a non-plus arm strength can be minimized. Evaluators are split as to whether or not he will be able to stay in center, as his developing frame may put on enough weight that he loses the necessary speed and range to handle the position.
Hernandez appeared in just four games before missing the rest of the year due to a leg injury and as a result, everything that we said about him last year is still applicable. Tantalizing potential, but given his age, there are a lot of trajectories his career could take.
Four games into the 2019 GCL Mets season, most of us were drafting our top-10 prospect blurbs for Adrian Hernandez. Then he got hurt and finished the season with a grand total of 16 plate appearances. Hernandez’s 5’9” frame and stocky build don’t evoke the same platitudes as Consuegra, but the rest of the blurb still applies; the promise we wrote about going into 2019 is still there, we just have to hope Hernandez can get on the field without seeing any of his athleticism slip away.
It was a bit of a lost year for the 18-year-old outfielder, as injuries limited Hernandez to just four games played in the Gulf Coast League before a hamstring injury ended his 2019 season. One of a pair of toolsy outfielders that the Mets signed in the 2017 IFA signing period that missed the majority of the 2019 season to a lower body injury, Hernandez at least managed to play well in his brief stateside debut before his season was derailed by injury. He managed to hit .286/.375/.643 with a homer, and two doubles, in 16 plate appearances in the complex, and added two stolen bases out of three attempts for good measure in an admittedly minuscule sample size. While we may not have learned much, if anything at all, about Hernandez’s future potential in 2019, the profile continues to have plenty of upside. It’s still possible that Hernandez blossoms into an above average regular, either up the middle or in a corner, on the strength of his bat someday, although we did not get any real information in 2019 about how likely he is to get to that outcome.
Hernandez was a highly touted IFA, and he showed why in the DSL in 2018 before coming stateside in 2019. He got off to a blistering start in the Gulf Coast League, netting a 1.018 OPS in four games before a knee injury took his season away. The upside is still there and has shown itself, and it’ll be interesting to see what a healthy season looks like for Hernandez.