Marlins draft pick, from high school to the Big Leagues
Just a month and a half ago, shortstop Nasim Nunez had finished up his high school career in North Georgia when his Collins Hills High team lost in the first round of the playoffs.
It made his time at Marlins Park on Monday — the start of his professional baseball career after officially signing with the Miami Marlins — all the more surreal.
There he was: An 18-year-old inside the Marlins’ clubhouse, putting on a Miami blue No. 23 Marlins jersey — the number his dad Jose Nunez wore during his high school days.
He took batting practice as CEO and part-owner Derek Jeter, one of the best shortstops to play the game, watched on. As a switch hitter, Nunez took reps from both sides of the plate and hit a home run from the right side, his natural hitting side.
He fielded ground balls with Miguel Rojas at his natural shortstop position, popping a bubble with his gum each time he made a throw.
He mingled with veterans Curtis Granderson and Martin Prado while going through the team’s pregame routine, all after participating in a full workout at the Marlins’ complex in Jupiter earlier in the day.
Nunez, the Marlins’ second-round pick in the 2019 MLB Draft, soaked in the whole experience with a smile on his face the entire time now that his professional baseball journey has officially begun.
“It’s just crazy to think about,” Nunez said. “A couple of years ago — maybe even a couple months ago — I was just playing with these guys on my video games. I just enjoy every bit of it. A true blessing.”
Jeter added: “When you’re 18 years old and you spent time watching these guys on television and you have an opportunity to work out with them, it’s a special moment.”
If all works out, Nunez himself very well might be someone kids of future generations play with on their video games.
His glove will likely be the primary reason for his success.
Nunez, a speedy and defensive-minded shortstop who originally committed to play at Clemson, was ranked as the No. 51 overall player this draft cycle by MLBPipeline, which described him as “a fast-twitch athlete” who “has Gold Glove upside at shortstop and is a slam dunk to stay at the position.”
“He can play shortstop,” Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said, adding that Nunez will start in extended spring training in Jupiter and then progress to the Gulf Coast League when its season starts at the end of the month. “There’s no question about his actions, his abilities. ... The defense, no question, everyone thought this was an above-average, Major League shortstop.”
He models his game defensively after Javy Baez and Ozzie Smith.
His first name, Nasim, means “Breeze” in Arabic. And, boy, can he fly. Nunez finished his senior season at Collins Hill with 28 stolen bases to go along with a .345 batting average to Eagles earn an at-large berth in the Georgia Class 7A state playoffs.
He wore No. 1 throughout his preps career because the jerseys got bigger with higher numbers. No. 1 was the only one that properly fit his 5-9, 160-pound frame.
He came to Marlins Park for a pre-draft workout and impressed. The rest was history.
“I was hopeful,” Nunez said, “because I came here and had one of my best workouts ever. It was amazing. The coaching staff and everyone here was so open with me, just like the team. I feel like that’s a family thing. I can’t wait to carry that on.”
Now, the journey begins.
“I’ve always itched to be a big leaguer,” Nunez said, “and the itching is going to continue until I make it.”
Nunez is the highest drafted of seven players the Marlins announced on Sunday that they have signed so far from this draft cycle.
The others: outfielder Peyton Burdick (Round 3, Wright State), infielder Evan Edwards (Round 4, North Carolina State), right-handed pitcher MD Johnson (Round 6, Dallas Baptist), right-handed pitcher Evan Brabrand (Round 9, Liberty), outfielder JD Orr (Round 10, Wright State) and outfielder Javeon Cody (Round 15, Alvin Community College).