The most promising Rule 5 Draft pick the Giants have brought in recently won't be an option during the 2021 season.
Right-hander Dedniel Nuñez appeared to be headed for the opening day roster after a strong start to camp, but a second opinion on his aching right elbow confirmed what the Giants feared. Nuñez will have Tommy John surgery, manager Gabe Kapler announced Friday, ending his 2021 season before it could ever get started.
Kapler said the injury is a "significant loss for the bullpen." Nuñez, 24, was sitting in the upper 90s with his fastball this spring and showing off a good slider and the kind of command you generally don't see from Rule 5 picks.
"I feel a ton of empathy for him," Kapler said. "Frankly, it's disappointing for us as the Giants, as well. He was throwing the ball so well. We caught wind of the arm, the velocity, the slider, and the attack mode that he was in. The competitiveness he showed on the mound and his willingness to work fast. We really started to see him as a key piece of our bullpen this year."
The Giants took Nuñez from the Mets' minor league system after seeing his velocity spike in the instructional league last fall. He hit 98 mph this spring but came out of his last outing with tingling in his right arm. Two doctors confirmed that the UCL has to be repaired.
The Giants put Nuñez on the 60-day IL on Thursday and would have had to get him back on their active roster for 90 days this season to hold his rights long-term and keep the Rule 5 rules from repeating in 2022. They experienced this once before with a hard-throwing reliever.
In 2018, Rule 5 pick Julian Fernandez also was told during the spring that he would need reconstructive surgery. Fernandez spent the entire season on the 60-day IL and then was claimed by the Marlins at the start of the offseason. He has not pitched in a game since 2017.