Perhaps the best defensive shortstop available in the 2019 Draft, Nasim Nunez turned down a Clemson commitment to sign with the Marlins for $2.2 million -- well above slot value -- after being selected in the second round (No. 46 overall). The switch-hitting shortstop spent most of his pro debut in the Rookie Gulf Coast League, in which Nunez, who is the Marlins' No. 17 prospect, led the circuit in both steals (28) and walks (34), before moving up to Class A Short-Season Batavia in late August.
Follow Nasim on Twitter: @Diamonds_Nas23
MLB Pipeline: Did you know that the Marlins were interested in taking you going into the Draft? Did you have any idea how high?
Nunez: When everything was first going on, not really. People would always tell me that the team that’s going to draft you is the team that’s always watching -- not over at your house all the time meeting with you, but just always watching. My travel ball coach, JoJo Batten, told me he was friends with Christian Castori, the Marlins' Georgia area scout, and that he’s got a good eye. I went to one of the Marlins workouts and showed out and had a good time, met Derek Jeter, which was awesome. The next day, I felt I had a pretty good chance, but throughout high school, I really didn’t know.
MLB Pipeline: How intent were you on going to Clemson if the Draft didn’t work out?
Nunez: I think Coach Lee was going to develop a really good program, which he was in the process of doing last year and this upcoming year, though sadly it was cut short. If things hadn’t worked out in the Draft, I most definitely would’ve gone to college. Everyone says they want to go to college to get an education, but in reality, if you go to college for those three years and don’t get drafted, then you’re still losing out on your degree. My parents always told me to follow my heart and chase my dream, that the only person who could stop me was me.
MLB Pipeline: What were you doing on Draft day when you got the call? How did you react and how did you celebrate with your family?
Nunez: Draft day was crazy. It was a little bit emotional, but it was so surreal that I really couldn’t get emotional until after everything had happened. I had about, like, 75 to 90 [people] in my draft room. We had a little get together, and my friends started coming, and some of their friends started coming. It was getting down to crunch time at the end of the first day of the Draft, so I was getting a little nervous. But when the Marlins called me and said what they would offer me … I was at a loss for words, man. It was amazing.
• Marlins Top 30 Prospects list
MLB Pipeline: You got a nice little signing bonus from them, too. I know lots of guys like to make a purchase or reward themself to some extent after that happens, so was there anything you treated yourself to?
Nunez: I think the coolest thing I did was pay off the house my parents are staying in right now, and hopefully, I will help them get their other house covered soon.
MLB Pipeline: What was the transition to pro ball like for you? What surprised you the most?
Nunez: It was most definitely adjustments and having a routine, because throughout high school baseball, you didn’t really need a routine -- just show up to the field and play every day, dominate the league. But going into pro ball, you know that’s not going to work. So the first two weeks I would say I had that high school mentality until it hit me, so I started to go work with coaches and older players -- Juan Pierre, Monte Harrison -- just asking them how I can break this. They told me that I have to have a routine and go in there with a plan and have that attack mode every day. Also, the fatigue. Playing every day in the heat in Florida … practicing at 9 a.m., eat at 11 and then you have a game at noon every day, it gets to you.
MLB Pipeline: What was your biggest takeaway from the experience? Do you have a favorite memory from the season?
Nunez: One moment that really stuck with me was a time when I had one of the worst games of my life -- like, ever. I believe I struck out four or five times in one game, and I was already in a slump and things at home weren’t going too good. I just remember talking to my coach and he reminded me what he likes about me, that I don’t crouch down and let it get to me, that I go out there and work through it each day. It’s what separates weak- from strong-minded players and helps guys get to the big leagues. So I try to remind myself that everyone in baseball fails, and it’s just a matter of how you bounce back.
MLB Pipeline: As a switch-hitter, how do you go about making sure you get equal work in from both sides of the plate, whether it’s on the side or before a game?
Nunez: You’ve got to get with your coaches. During batting practice, it’s usually either three or four rounds, so you don’t get an even number of swings from both sides of the plate. You have to make sure you get them, though, so I would go in for early hitting and that’s where I practice on my righty swing. During practice, I do everything lefty, and then after practice, before the game would start, I would take some more BP rounds on my right side.
MLB Pipeline: What are your strengths from each side of the plate? What are you working on to improve from the left side? Any specific training or drills?
Nunez: My biggest area of improvement is definitely using my lower half, being a little more explosive in my swing with my stride and rotating my hips. I think the biggest thing that helped me last year was my approach and plate vision. It helped me get a lot of walks, which helped me lead the league in steals.
MLB Pipeline: Beyond being incredibly fast, what in your opinion is your biggest strength as a baserunner?
Nunez: With baserunning, I feel it’s one of those things, like fielding, where you’re just born with natural instincts. Stuff that can’t always be taught. Working with Gene Glynn, our baserunning coach, and [third-base coach] Trey Hillman this offseason helped me improve, but I think it’s mostly instincts and god-given talent.
MLB Pipeline: As someone who scouts regarded as one of the best defensive shortstops in the 2019 Draft, how much pride do you take in your reputation?
Nunez: That’s something I take a whole bunch of pride in. It’s something that helps your team win. Working with and getting tips from guys like Junior Spivey, Jerry Manuel and even Miguel Rojas, there’s just so much to learn and ways to get even better.
MLB Pipeline: At what point in your life did you realize that you were just flat-out nasty on the dirt?
Nunez: I think it was going into my mid-junior summer, after junior nationals. I knew my glove was really good, but I realized that I also had one of the best arms in the class. If I had those things, then anything can work.
MLB Pipeline: What was your first Spring Training experience as a pro like?
Nunez: It’s not what everyone thinks. You get a lot of work in, but you also have to be kind of selfish and try to get extra work in. That’s what me and Osiris Johnson would do, figure out ways coaches could get us in early in the morning -- get there at 5:30 or 6 a.m. -- and do everything you can. Just be a dog out there.
MLB Pipeline: If you’re comfortable doing so, explain the mood in Marlins camp the day we all learned that baseball was suspended.
Nunez: At first, I think a lot of players were in denial -- guys thinking that this thing might last a couple days, maybe a week or so. But once we had the meeting where they told us that they were closing up the facility and sending everyone home, that’s when it really hit. I expected it to be even longer, so I drove back to Atlanta, and now Atlanta is in a stay-at-home situation. I think all baseball players, all athletes, everyone around the world is never going to take something like this for granted ever again.
It really hasn’t sunk in for me full yet, but the sad thing is I know it will when, God forbid, a family member or friend gets sick. As a younger person, we all kind of think we’re invincible a bit, but that’s just selfish. People who are going outside could be carriers and not know it and give it someone else and so on and so on. It’s hard. We’ve never had to deal with something like this. It sucks and is going to take time, but it’s something we all need to deal with the right way right now.
MLB Pipeline: How are you continuing to train throughout all of this?
Nunez: I have a couple dumbbells in the basement and I do pushups. I get two chairs from the kitchen and put a pole over them in order to some incline pushups, do pullups on the door, calf raises, run up the hill, swing a bat in front of the mirror [and] do some stuff with whiffle balls.
MLB Pipeline: So with the season now on hold, how have you been spending your time outside of your [DIY/work from home] training?
Nunez: Just watching movies and documentaries with my family, reading books and just calling all my homies making sure everyone is doing alright.
I also got a dog. Her name is a Blair, a female Rottweiler who’s about to turn two months old. She’s a handful, man. Her sleep schedule is ridiculous. I put her down around 11 p.m. and she wakes up around 2:45 a.m., I take her out and then go back to sleep. Then she wakes up again around 7 a.m. and it’s just doing it all over again. My parents work upstairs, so they’re able to help me out some.
MLB Pipeline: So, I heard that you really like Shirley Temples … what’s up with that?
Nunez: Ha! No way, who told you that? That’s wild. But yeah, I’m in love with Shirley Temples. I’ve always just drank Shirley Temples from about ninth grade when I had my first one. It just stuck, become my thing. Every time Osiris, Monte and I all go out dinner, they all order, like, Sprites, Cokes, waters -- and I’m like, “Can I get a Shirley Temple?” And they’re all like, “Dude, are you serious?” I had them both taste it, and now we’re all drinking Shirley Temples.
MLB Pipeline: You’re someone who is passionate about giving back to your community and just being a good person. How have your parents and the lessons they’ve taught you along the way helped to make you the person you are today?
Nunez: My mom would always remind me when I was younger that no matter how big you get, no matter how much you accomplish, no matter how much money you have, you have to remember where you came from. My mom would always take me to food drives and charity drives, and living with my family in New York and Atlanta, you just see so much that makes you want to help.
There are always people in your life that put you ahead of them to help you get to where you’re at in your life right now. I just try to always remember that there are people out there who need you, and just because you’re [well off] doesn’t mean that everyone else is. The blessings you get should be everyone else’s blessings, too.
MLB Pipeline: What is one weird hobby/skill/fun fact about yourself that people don’t know about you? Like are you secretly a trained opera singer or something?
Nunez: I’m addicted to collecting shoes. It’s been a thing since about seventh grade. I’ve always loved to keep my sneakers, but obviously the collection got a little bit bigger this year. Osiris and I kind of have a sneaker-collection battle these days, but neither of us are close to Monte. Monte’s sneaker collection is ridiculous.
MLB Pipeline: Okay, Nas, one last very important question. Musical preference: Nas or Lil Nas X?
Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.