8. Justin Dunn, RHP
Height: 6’2”, Weight: 195 lbs.
DOB: 9/22/95 (22)
Acquired: 1st round, 2016 Draft (Boston College)
2017: St. Lucie (High-A): 20 G (16 GS), 95.1 IP, 101 H, 66 R, 53 ER (5.00 ERA), 48 BB, 75 K
After starting his Boston College career as an undistinguished middle reliever in his freshman and sophomore years, Justin Dunn was transitioned into the Eagles’ starting rotation a few weeks into his junior season and dominated. With their first pick in the 2016 Draft, the Mets selected the Long Island native, and after signing with them, Dunn had a strong professional debut, posting a 1.50 ERA in 30.0 innings with the Brooklyn Cyclones. Making the jump to High-A in 2017, Dunn was not able to recreate that success, posting a 5.00 ERA in 95.1 innings for St. Lucie. Further complicating matters, his season ended in early August with shoulder tightness.
Dunn has explosive stuff, no doubt about it. His fastball sits in the low-to-mid-90s, topping out at 96 MPH. During his days as a reliever in college, his fastball could reach as high as 99 MPH, so Dunn does have the ability to reach back a little more when and if he feels like completely airing it out. In addition to velocity, his fastball has good arm-side run. He complements his fastball with a slider and a changeup, the former of which flashes plus and is his best secondary pitch. Sitting in the low-to-mid 80s, the slider has late, tight spin and a good amount of vertical drop. His changeup, meanwhile, has good velocity differential from his fastball and has late fade. While still a below average pitch, the right-hander improved it a great deal as opposed to the much fringier one he threw in 2016.
When the slender right-hander was drafted, his command was below-average thanks to his pitching mechanics, and nothing about that improved in 2017. Inconsistencies in his delivery hurts his command and took the bite off his pitches, giving them less life and making them more hittable. This was especially true against left-handers, as his fastball flattened out and his command was spotty to his glove side, resulting in a .345/.464/.462 batting line against him.
Lukas Vlahos says:
He still doesn't have a viable third pitch, doesn't pitch deep into games, and gets crushed by lefties. Combine that with the late season "shoulder tightness" and the underwhelming stat line in High-A and Dunn looks more and more unlikely to turn into the high-octane starter the Mets hoped for. Considering the Mets' position as a contender (a very short window followed by an almost certain down period in 2-3 years), I think the Mets might be better off punting on developing Dunn as a starter and converting him back into a reliever, where he'd probably fly through the minors.
Steve Sypa says:
Dunn is still far from a bust, but the warts are starting to pile up surprisingly quickly. He wasn’t necessarily a reach when he was drafted, but he was and definitely still is a gamble. Because of his profile- plus fastball, strong secondary pitch, lagging third pitch, stamina issues- I still think Dunn is fated for a bullpen somewhere, but even there, he will have to work on his control to avoid being placed in the “Rule 5 Draft reliever with flaws junk pile.”