Christopher Jared Nunn grew up in Tennessee playing all different kinds of sports. Basketball, football, baseball, and even dirt biking, Chris enjoyed it all and loved being outdoors. A major growth spurt in high school nearly caused him to quit his baseball team, however, as he had difficulty adjusting to his new body and finding the strike zone. In the end Nunn decided to stick with the game, and with the help of his coaches he learned how to harness his mechanics as he grew into his body. He would become the ace of his high school staff and earn a scholarship to pitch at Lipscomb University in Nashville. After a successful three year career for the Bisons, Nunn was drafted into the professional ranks by the San Diego Padres in the summer of 2012.
Nunn’s pro career got started with a bang, as the young left-hander was lights out that summer for Eugene of the short-season Class A Northwest League. In 31.1 innings pitching out of the bullpen, Chris let in just two earned runs for an ERA of 0.57 along with a 45:19 K/BB ratio. The walk rate was a bit high, but Nunn would continue having success at preventing runs into the next few seasons. He posted a 2.77 ERA and 66:30 K/BB ratio in 65.0 innings with Fort Wayne of the Midwest League in 2013 and a 4.30 ERA and 76:25 K/BB ratio in 58.2 innings for Lake Elsinore of the hitter-friendly California League in 2014, but things came crashing back down to Earth for Nunn in 2015.
The Padres assigned Chris to AA San Antonio to begin the 2015 campaign, but the advanced competition in the league gave Nunn more than he could handle. He lasted a month before getting demoted back to high-A, allowing eight earned runs in 8.1 innings with a matching 8:8 K/BB ratio. Nunn continued to struggle in his search for the strike zone upon returning to the California League, where batters torched him for a 6.75 ERA in 48.0 innings to finish out the season. Free passes were a constant issue, as he doled them out at a rate of 6.8 per nine innings. Despite a strong performance the following spring, the Padres ultimately released him before the 2016 season began.
“2015 had been a very tough year for me on the field,” Nunn told me when I had a chance to catch up with him. “I had 4-5 really tough games that broke me stat wise. Also on top of that my rhythm and confidence were not what they had been in the past. Coming into spring training I was as focused as I had been in my career. I did not give up any runs in the spring, and I was throwing hard and commanding all of my pitches so I was very disappointed and surprised when they let me go. At that point I felt I needed to step away for a bit to regain some perspective and work out on my own.”
Nunn sat out the 2016 season while focusing his attention on other pursuits. He re-enrolled at Lipscomb in pursuit of his Master’s Degree in business and is still currently taking a class. He joined The Block Agency, a talent agency in Nashville that represents “the region's best models, actors and hosts.” Chris did some photo shoots and was featured in a few music videos, and enjoyed his modeling experience enough that he plans on exploring more options in that realm down the road.
While all this was going on, Nunn stayed in baseball shape, as well. He worked with a performance coach to stay in prime physical condition and lived with his college pitching coach, James Ogden, during last summer and fall in order to work with him and attempt to get his mechanics ironed out while throwing at Lipscomb. Nunn had nothing but praise to offer for his coach and friend. “[Ogden] has been a big help for me in my career, he knows a lot about pitching mechanics and me and him have had extensive conversations that have been very beneficial.”
A frightening injury last fall nearly halted Nunn’s comeback before it even started in earnest. While playing pickup basketball Chris was elbowed in the right eye, suffering serious facial fractures that required intensive surgery. Doctors warned Nunn that he was at risk for losing the eye, but ultimately the surgery was a success and he has since completed a full recovery, regaining all of the lost vision in that eye. He has suffered no ill-effects since the injury and was able to quickly get back to work on the mound.
Throughout his year away from the professional ranks, Nunn had contemplated retiring from the game altogether and beginning the next phase of his life. It was in December of last year, however, that he decided he was feeling too good about the steps he had made and wanted to come back and give his major league dreams another shot. Nunn got ahold of with an old connection he had made while in the Padres organization.
“I threw a bullpen that I filmed,” Nunn describes, “which I actually ended up sending that out to Pat Murphy. He is currently the bench coach for the Brewers. I played for him in 2012 when I was in short season in Eugene. He passed it along to the pitching coordinator at which point the Brewers came out to Nashville and watched me throw at which point they offered me a contract.”
So with Nunn now in the fold with the Milwaukee Brewers, what can we expect from the tall, muscular southpaw?
“I have been sitting 92-95 recently and have been up to 97. I have really liked my slider lately so I will likely use that along with a changeup as my third pitch. [My slider] 79-85 depending on what I'm trying to do with it. Sometimes I like throwing it tighter more as a cutter and sometimes I use it as more of a sweeping slider. I like showing both, show them one early in the count and then maybe another later in the count to freeze them or give them a different look.”
“I have always been a guy that at times has struggled with command, part of the reason I came back is I felt my command had turned the corner and I can locate all of my pitches very well now. I have always been a fastball-dominant pitcher who challenged hitters. With age, my velocity and command have turned the corner.”
Nunn knows that if he performs on the field, there could be a great opportunity for him within the Brewers’ organization given the lack of left-handed depth in the upper levels of the minors. “The sky is the limit in my mind if I can execute pitches,” he says, “that's why I don't want to limit myself with goals. My foot is on the gas and I am just going to pitch every hitter like it is my last.”
With a power arsenal, a newfound confidence in his control and command, and a new lease on life, Chris Nunn has the tools to flourish as a member of a big league bullpen one day in the future. The 26 year old figures to be assigned to AA Biloxi to begin the Brewers’ phase of his baseball career, just a few short steps away from finally reaching the major leagues.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference
H/t to Jim Goulart of Brewerfan.net