Aside from relief pitching, there has been no position as unproductive for the Colorado Rockies over the past few seasons as catching. We might, however, be watching that trend come to an end.
It is just 19 games into his season, but Dom Nunez has already doubled the total number of home runs hit by Colorado Rockies catchers all of last season with an impressive four. That number puts him just two off the pace for the league lead among his fellow backstops and only three behind the league-high across all positions, heading into Sunday’s action.
Nunez profiled as a defense-first catcher with occasional pop during most of his minor league career. That all began to change in 2019 when he got his first shot with Triple-A Albuquerque. Nunez tore up the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, smacking 17 home runs in only 61 games.
The sudden power stroke from Nunez prompted the team to let veteran backstop Chris Iannetta go and give their top catching prospect his first taste of big league action late in the 2019 season. Despite homering in his first game, Nunez struggled with inconsistency, although he only saw 43 plate appearances.
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Inexplicably, Nunez did not play a single game in 2020, even while Rockies catchers posted a collective 35 wRC+ over the season. In typical Rockies fashion, Nunez was relegated to catching bullpen sessions and was never added to the 40-man roster. All the while, Drew Butera and his career -3.6 bWAR appeared in 28 of the Rockies 60 games last season, posting an OPS+ of 2.
Nunez used the time off to focus on his game and now that work looks like its paying off. Nunez might never win a batting title, and he’s probably not going to lead the team in on-base percentage and he will strikeout. However, if his recent power surge is any indication, he will rack up a decent number of home runs and deliver some clutch hits which is more than the Rockies have gotten from the position since the departure of Wilin Rosario.
Let’s just hope the Rockies continue to give him the chance to prove he belongs.