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Oakland A’s prospect watch: Renato Nunez has 30 home runs for Triple-A Nashville

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s recalled yet another top prospect from Triple-A Nashville on Tuesday, with Matt Olson moving up to replace 1B Yonder Alonso. But still, more promising talent remains in the team’s highest minor league affiliate.

One of the next names yearning for a call is slugger Renato Nunez. The 23-year-old hit his 30th home run on Sunday, which leads the entire minor leagues. There isn’t a player at any level(s) with more dingers this year, and he’s creeping up on the Sounds’ franchise record. Furthermore, he’s doing all of this while playing home games in a power-suppressing park, where his isolated slugging drops more than 100 points and it takes him an extra four plate appearances per long ball.

Of course, there’s more to Nunez than just that power display, which is why he’s still in Nashville. He’s struggling to get on base (.318 OBP) and make contact (14.4% swinging strikes), and that’s left his overall line at only a notch above average (113 wRC+). Furthermore, he’s still bouncing all over the diamond searching for a defensive position, having this year tried LF, 3B, 1B, and even 2B for a couple games. We’re yet to hear that any of them are working out particularly well.

Nunez, 2017: .256/.318/.548, 113 wRC+, 30 HR, 7.7% BB, 27.3% Ks

That profile is strikingly similar to Ryon Healy, a young DH the A’s already have in Oakland. But Nunez is a bit more extreme on both power and whiffs, and it’s fair to question whether he would make enough contact to flash those muscles in MLB or even hit for a high enough average to make the whole package worth it.

Even with Healy’s own 21 homers in the bigs, he’s managed only a 101 wRC+ this year (and 60 wRC+ since July 1). His problems — low OBP, too many Ks — are the same as the ones Nunez has experienced in Nashville, which emphasizes the obstacles Nunez will face whenever he does get his chance. But if the A’s ever decide to give the slumping Healy a break, at least there’s another dynamic righty slugger waiting to tap in for him.

Nunez has a lot to offer with his power, but the questions are how well it will translate to MLB and what other useful skills he’ll be able to supplement it with (if any). He’s blocked from Oakland right now, but if the A’s want to take a look at him then time is running out — he’ll be out of options next year.

Welcome back, Boog!

The A’s re-acquired OF Boog Powell in the trade for Alonso, and he got the start in CF in his first appearance for Nashville. His game is based around speed and plate discipline, and at his best he’s making a bunch of contact and getting on base. His Triple-A numbers this year in 60 games, including the last two with the Sounds:

Powell, 2017: .335/.410/.482, 134 wRC+, 6 HR, 11 SB, 11.5% BB, 12.3% Ks

Powell plays a similar role as Jaycob Brugman, as a lefty fourth-outfielder type who can get on base and play CF. It will be interesting to see which one carves out more playing time over the long-term, but either way the A’s have young depth to choose from just like in the Healy/Nunez situation.

Other lineup notes

  • SS Franklin Barreto, in 25 games since returning to Nashville from his MLB debut: .278/.331/.491, 110 wRC+, 5 HR, 22.2% Ks. He’s doing fine and cutting the Ks a bit, but not lighting it up just yet. If he got another chance in Oakland this year then that would be okay, but I’m still not at a point where I need to see the 21-year-old get a meaningful look before 2018.
  • IF Yairo Munoz is still getting the hang of Triple-A, with a 76 wRC+ through 41 games. Like with Barreto, though, there’s no rush here with the 22-year-old.
  • 2B Joey Wendle is still around, but his 97 wRC+ seems about as good as it’s going to get (last two years in AAA: 101, 103). If he’s not in Oakland by the end of the year (which would require a Jed Lowrie trade at the least) then it’s hard to see him fitting into any future plans. There’s a looot of middle infield talent coming up the ladder behind him.

Pitching staff

  • RHP Daniel Gossett got lit up in his first start back in the minors: 3⅔ ip, 4 ER, 1 K, 3 BB. No homers though!
  • RHP Raul Alcantara is back in action after an injury cost him a couple months. He’s made four appearances out of Nashville’s bullpen: 6⅔ ip, 1 ER, 6 Ks, 3 BB, 0 HR. Here at Athletics Nation we never really thought he’d stick as a starter, so seeing him finally transition to the bullpen (and do it well, so far) is a meaningful development. If you’re looking for the next reliever to emerge from Triple-A, this could be the guy to watch.
  • RHP Chris Bassitt is officially off the DL and active in Nashville’s pen after Tommy John surgery. His eight games since arriving: 8.76 ERA, 12⅓ ip, 8 Ks, 5 BB. He’s given up eight total runs over his last three outings.
  • RHP Daniel Mengden started a rehab assignment after missing more than two months to a stress reaction in his ribs. He threw two scoreless innings in Rookie League on Friday.
  • RHP Frankie Montas returned to Nashville’s rotation after his latest MLB stint. His first start back, on Thursday: 4 ip, 3 ER, 2 Ks, 0 BB, 2 HR.
  • RHP Bobby Wahl has been recovering from a shoulder injury, but he was shut down by the team, reports Susan Slusser of the S.F. Chronicle.

Wednesday’s games

Beloit is off.

Triple-A Nashville: 7:05 p.m., Frankie Montas vs. Tacoma
Double-A Midland: 5:05 p.m., A.J. Puk vs. NW Arkansas
High-A Stockton: 7:10 p.m. Brendan Butler vs. San Jose
Single-A Beloit: OFF
Low-A Vermont: 4:05 p.m., Argenis Blanco vs. Batavia

The A’s have a day game, so the minors will give us something to follow this evening between Puk and Montas.

Batavia (Marlins affiliate) is called the Muckdogs because minor league baseball (it was a fan vote). But at least there’s a solid story behind it!

Link to box scores