Welcome to the 2022 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at every player to log playing time for the Rockies in 2022. The purpose of this list is to provide a snapshot of the player in context. The “Ranking” is an organizing principle that’s drawn from Baseball Reference’s WAR (rWAR). It’s not something the staff debated. We’ll begin with the player with the lowest rWAR and end up with the player with the highest.
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No 38, Dom Nuñez: -0.4 rWAR
After solidifying his role as Colorado’s backup catcher in 2021, one may have assumed Dom Nuñez could see significant playing time behind the dish in 2022 and improve upon the steps he had taken. Instead, the 27-year-old backstop may have seen his stint at the game’s highest level come to a close.
After breaking camp with the Rockies on Opening Day, Nuñez appeared in just 14 games and slashed .121/.244/.395 with no home runs and two RBI. He quickly lost playing time to newcomer Brian Serven, whose offensive contributions were far more tangible. This continues a trend for Nuñez - he plays well in the lower levels of Colorado’s organization, but seems to stall out in the major leagues.
In past seasons, Nuñez has been a valuable organizational depth piece in case of injuries. The problem now, though, is that the Rockies have other options to turn to. Prospects Drew Romo (No. 4 MLB Pipleline, No. 3 PuRP) and Hunter Goodman (No. 23 MLB Pipeline, No. 26 PuRP) are rapidly progressing and could appear on the major league squad within the next few seasons. Willie MacIver was promoted to Triple-A at season’s end and could be another candidate for increased playing time in 2023. Carlos Pérez and Jonathan Morales also played well in Albuquerque this season - in fact, both outperformed Nuñez at the plate.
Things were tough behind the dish as well, as his fielding continued to be a pain point. Nuñez consistently ranks below league average on Range Factor per Nine Innings, Range Factor per Game, and caught stealing percentage. With his bat as cold as it’s been recently and his glove not offering a reasonable reason to see significant playing time, the 27-year-old backstop is going to find it hard to supplant Colorado’s two chief game-callers.
Those, of course, are Elías Díaz and Brian Serven, who themselves can be placed in the bat-versus-glove columns. Díaz, while not a Gold Glove-caliber catcher, has more consistent results on offense and has played the hero more than once in his Rockies tenure. After signing a three-year contract extension prior to this past season, he’ll be the starter on Opening Day of 2023. Serven is a glove-first defender who impressed in his first full MLB season with above-average catching and framing, and is likely to be the second-string next season.
With those two roles assigned, Nuñez’s future is cloudy. He won’t be eligible for free agency for a few years yet, so will almost certainly remain in Colorado’s system as organizational depth. That may be it, though, as other catching options become available to manager Bud Black in case of injuries or under-performance. It’s not impossible that Nuñez could appear on the big league roster at some point in the future, his status as a viable backup option may have passed.
Baseball’s a tough game.