The BoSox Injection crew grades the 2018 season for each member of the Boston Red Sox, continuing with Infielder Eduard Nunez.
Boston Red Sox Infielder Eduardo Nunez had an up and down season hampered by injuries and inconsistent play. After injuring his right knee late last season, Nunez played most of 2018 at less than 100 percent, hurting his hamstring and ankle during the year. Despite that, he never went on the disabled list, playing in 127 games this year, primarily at second base with Dustin Pedroia only playing three games due to his own injuries.
Nunez’s 2018 season at the plate did not follow up well from his career year in 2017. After slashing .313/.341/.460 last year he came back down to Earth, going .265/.289/.388 over the regular season. His 10 home runs marked his third in a row in double-digits after hitting 16 and 12 in 2016 and 2017, respectively. Even though he played in 13 more games than in 2017, his 44 RBI and 56 runs scored were down from his 60 and 58 the previous year.
Nunez also raised his K% (11 to 13.7) and lowered his BB% (3.7 to 3.2), while his injuries mostly kept him away from stealing bases, only swiping seven bags after having 64 in his last two years. His 78 WRC+ was a career low, and the 31-year-old’s -0.4 WAR on the year was his first negative season since 2013.
While never a stud defensively, his combined -18 Defensive Runs Saved at 2B and 3B forced manager Alex Cora‘s hand, often benching Nunez in favor of Brock Holt and Rafael Devers and allowing the team to trade for Ian Kinsler, who won the 2018 Gold Glove at second base.
His play in the postseason was another story. Nunez hit a pinch-hit 3-run home run in the seventh inning of Game 1 of the World Series, putting Boston up 8-4 over the Los Angeles Dodgers. The 18-inning Game 3 gave Nunez all he can handle, first being barreled over by catcher Yasmani Grandal while at the plate in the 13th inning, and then flipping over the railing while making a catch in the bottom of the inning. Forced to stay in the game as Boston has used all their position players, he then fell over while making a catch over the pitcher’s mound in the 16th inning.
Overall, Nunez went 6-26 with three RBI and two walks en route to the team’s 2018 World Series Championship victory.
While this was a down year for Nunez, one has to assume this was due to his lingering injuries affecting his play. When Nunez re-signed with Boston after the 2017 season, he was not guaranteed a significant role as a starter. Yet he was thrust into this position, and while not blowing away anybody with his stats, he did a decent job at filling the hole left by Pedroia.
Looking ahead to 2019
Nunez picked up his $5 million player option for 2019, meaning he will be staying in Boston for at least one more season. The Red Sox have to be hopeful that with a full offseason to recover, Nunez will come into next season at 100 percent and can be able to produce the way he did in 2017.
There is still uncertainty regarding Dustin Pedroia’s future, meaning Nunez will likely be asked to fill a similar role he had with the club this season, at least for the start of next year. If and when Pedroia does return to the team, there could be a battle between Nunez and Brock Holt for the team’s infielder utility role, as Pedroia will likely not be playing every day to protect his health.