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The 10 best Mets minor league pitchers I saw this year: 1, Justin Dunn

Counting down the best minor league pitchers I saw in 2018.

Justin Dunn
Steve Sypa

Disclaimer: This is a ranking of the best players that I saw during the 2018 season. I saw a wide cross-section of teams in 2018, seeing the Kingsport Mets, Brooklyn Cyclones, Columbia Fireflies, and Binghamton Rumble Ponies, but I did not see the GCL Mets, St. Lucie Mets, or Las Vegas 51s, nor did I attend every single game of the teams that I did see. As such, this is not a comprehensive Mets prospect list. If a player is not on the list, I either did not see him, or considered the listed ten players better.

Name: Justin Dunn

Team: Binghamton Rumble Ponies

Position: RHP

Born: 9/22/95 (23)

Height: 6’2”

Weight: 185 lbs.

Bats/Throws: R/R

Acquired: 2016 Draft, Round 1 (Boston College)

2018 Season: 24 G (24 GS), 135.1 IP, 128 H, 66 R, 54 ER (3.59 ERA), 52 BB, 156 K, 7 HBP, 0 BLK, 8 WP, .335 BABIP (Low-A/Double-A)

Date(s) Seen: June 10 @ Trenton (7.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 9 K, HBP)

The Man

Born in Freeport, Long Island, Justin Dunn was noticed while playing at a showcase with the Boys & Girls Club of New York and recruited to attend high school at The Gunnery, a private boarding school in Connecticut. He spent his high school years there, and was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 37th round of the 2013 MLB Draft. Dunn elected not to sign with them, instead honoring his commitment to Boston College. In his first two years with the Eagles, Dunn was an undistinguished middle reliever and spot starter. In 2014, he posted a 7.30 ERA in 12.0 innings split over 7 games, allowing 17 hits, walking 11, and striking out 12; in 2015, he posted a 4.94 ERA in 47.0 innings split over 20 games, allowing 47 hits, walking 21, and striking out 46. The 2016 began in a similar way. In early April, Dunn was shifted out of the bullpen and into the starting rotation by coach Mike Gambino. The right-hander went on a roll from then on until the end of the season; making nine starts, Dunn posted a 2.06 ERA in 52.1 innings, allowing 38 hits, walking 15, and striking out 55. The Mets took notice and drafted the right-hander in the 1st round of the 2016 MLB Draft, nineteenth overall, signing him for the slot value of $2,378,800.

Dunn made his professional debut that summer, pitching for the Brooklyn Cyclones. Appearing in 11 games consisting of multiple abbreviated starts to manage his innings load, Dunn posted a 1.50 ERA in 30.0 innings, allowing 25 hits, walking 10, and striking out 35. The right-hander skipped Low-A completely in 2017 and spent the season with the St. Lucie Mets. The assignment may have been a bit too aggressive for the reliever-turned-starter, as Dunn scuffled for most of the season, posting a 5.00 ERA in 95.1 innings, allowing 101 hits, walking 48, and striking out 75. Dunn repeated the level in 2018, but this time he was more than up to the task. Making 9 starts, Dunn posted a 2.36 ERA in 45.2 innings, allowing 43 hits, walking 15, and striking out 51. He was promoted to the Binghamton Rumble Ponies in early June and the right-hander finished out the rest of his season there, posting a 4.22 ERA in 89.2 innings, allowing 85 hits, walking 37, and striking out 105.

The Pitcher

Dunn has a lithe frame, generating velocity from an electric arm and deception from a big leg kick. He pitches from a three-quarters arm slot, with smooth, repeatable mechanics. He makes the most of his slender frame, using the lower half of his body effectively, with a long stride and open hips. Inconsistencies in his delivery sometimes jumbles his release point, making his pitches harder to command and often taking the bite off his pitches, giving them less life and making them more hittable.

His fastball generally sits 93-96 MPH. During his days as a reliever at Boston 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, especially when thrown down in the zone. His primary breaking ball is a slider that flashes above-average. The pitch, which sits 82-86, has sharp, two-plate action, with tight spin and a good amount of vertical drop. In addition to the fastball and slider, Dunn features a changeup and a curveball, but both pitches lag behind in their development. His changeup is the better of the two, projecting as a future fringe-average-to-average offering with additional development, while the curveball is a below-average pitch and is unlikely to become much better. The changeup sits in the mid-80s and has slight fade. The curveball sits in the upper-70s and features 11-5 shape. The right-hander mixes in the curveball a bit more, using his changeup very sparingly.

Looking To 2019

Dunn has an above-average fastball and a slider that flashes above-average, but he lacks a go-to third pitch, as the changeup and curveball that he periodically mix in are not used enough, nor do they appear effective pitches. Durability, which was a concern for Dunn when he was drafted, was seemingly an issue that reared its head once again, as Dunn was much more effective in his first half (2.66 ERA in 50.2 innings over 8 starts) than he was in his second half (6.23 ERA in 39.0 innings over 7 starts). Left-handers still hit well against him (.290 BAA), but he has done better containing them as compared to last season (.345 BAA). Dunn improved his command and control as compared to 2017, but his mechanics are still holding his premium stuff back. Given that he spent more than half of the 2018 season with the Binghamton Rumble Ponies, he should be ready to advance to the Syracuse Mets for the 2019 season.

The Countdown

2. Daison Acosta

3. Chris Viall

4. Nabil Crismatt

5. Daniel Zamora

6. Jose Moreno

7. Marcel Renteria

8. Ryder Ryan

9. Yeizo Campos

10. Tommy Wilson