Like every other team in Major League Baseball, the Cleveland Indians employ numerous players throughout their organization, from the big-league club in Cleveland to their rookie league team in Arizona and beyond. And like every other Major League franchise, the Indians add and subtract from this player pool on a regular basis. This irregular series will serve to post notice when a former Indians player has done something noteworthy with a quick look back at the player’s time in Cleveland.
Player: LHP Vidal Nuno
Current Team: Arizona Diamondbacks
Year(s) in Indians Organization: Drafted by the Indians in the 48th round of the 2009 draft; released by the Indians on March 26, 2011
Why He Still Isn’t in Cleveland: As a 48th-round pick, expectations for Nuno obviously weren’t overwhelmingly high. But after a debut with the Indians’ rookie league affiliate in the Arizona League, he dominated in a promotion to the New York-Penn League to the tune of a 2.05 ERA (3.19 FIP) in 13 appearances (8 starts) across 57 innings for Mahoning Valley in 2009. Over that time, he struck out 48 and walked 14.
However, he followed that up with a less inspiring 4.96 ERA (though he had a 4.11 FIP) in 94 1/3 innings for Single-A Lake County in 2010 across 16 starts and 21 total appearances. His peripherals improved, as he struck out 94 over that time and again walked 14 batters. But he was hit hard over that time, giving up a whopping 104 hits and a troubling 13 home runs. Nuno hadn’t done enough to separate himself from other pitchers in the Indians’ system, and was ultimately released before the 2011 season. He eventually caught on with the independent Washington WildThings.
What He Did: Nuno pitched well in 6 starts for the WildThings, leading the Yankees to sign him. He dominated the Yankees’ minor league system in 2011 and 2012, and made his major league debut with the Yankees in 2013 after another impressive minor league showing. He pitched to an impressive 2.25 ERA in 20 innings (5 appearances, 3 starts) with the Yankees in 2013, but his FIP (4.50) and xFIP (5.32) were less impressive. He also struck out only 9 over that time, compared to 6 walks.
He returned to the majors this season with the Yankees, but was even worse — in 78 innings for the Bronx Bombers, Nuno posted a 5.42 ERA (5.15 FIP, 4.41 xFIP) across 17 games (14 of them starts). His peripherals increased to 6.9 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9, but home runs were again a major issue: he allowed 15 of them, which is tied for 12th in the majors — despite the fact that all but one of the pitchers tied or ahead of him have thrown more innings (the Rockies’ Juan Nicasio has also allowed 15, despite pitching 73 innings).
The Yankees’ starting rotation currently ranks 21st in baseball with a collective 4.05 ERA, and the team needed an improvement to stay in the AL East race. On Sunday morning, they acquired the Diamondbacks’ Brandon McCarthy. In exchange, Arizona received Nuno.
What Does the Future Hold: The Diamondbacks’ rotation hasn’t been good in 2014, and it currently ranks 28th in the majors with a 4.76 ERA. Nuno will get a chance to help out in Arizona right away; he’ll be added to the rotation immediately and will not be sent to the minors.
It’s anyone’s guess as to how Nuno will fare in Chase Field, but the consensus seems to be that the Diamondbacks could have gotten more for McCarthy, who has a 5.01 ERA this season but has also posted a 3.79 FIP and 2.89 xFIP in 109 2/3 innings. However, the Diamondbacks aren’t currently drowning in starting pitching options, and the 26-year old Nuno seems like a decent gamble for Arizona. The Diamondbacks are clear sellers at this point (the team also dealt reliever Joe Thatcher to the Angels on Saturday), and as a result, can afford to give younger players like Nuno a chance down the stretch this season.
Nuno probably won’t ever be an ace (and it remains to be seen how he’ll do in consistent major league action), but if he can even come close to his numbers in the Yankees’ farm system, the Diamondbacks will be pleased.
Notice a player you remember being in the Indians organization? We’re ever-vigilant, but sometimes we miss guys, too! Send us an email at [email protected] and let us know which former Indians farmhand or player is making noise elsewhere.