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2020 Mets Draft: Reviewing the 19th overall pick

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Let’s look back at the players picked 19th overall in baseball’s amateur draft.

Justin Dunn
Chris McShane

Since the Rule 4 draft was instituted in 1965, 40 of the 55 selected with the 19th overall pick have gone on to make a major league debut. Of those players, twenty-seven produced positive value for their team. Many of those players went on to have outstanding careers, most notably Roger Clemens, Bobby Grich, Alex Rios, Mike Scioscia, and Shannon Stewart, among others.

Justin Dunn

Thanks to their 90-72 record in 2015, the Mets had the ninteenth overall selection in the 2016 MLB Draft. With their pick, they selected Justin Dunn, a right-handed pitcher from Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.

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 in his senior season, 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 of the right-hander’s helium and drafted Dunn with their first pick in the 2016 MLB Draft, eventually signing him for the assigned 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 over Low-A completely in 2017 and began the season with the High-A 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.

He seemed poised to anchor the inaugural Syracuse Mets rotation, with an eventual debut in Flushing later in the season, but fate interjected. On December 3, 2018, Dunn was traded along with Jarred Kelenic, Gerson Bautista, Jay Bruce, and Anthony Swarzak to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for Robinson Cano, Edwin Diaz and cash.

The 23-year-old instead began the 2019 season with the Arkansas Travelers, the Texas League Double-A affiliate of the Mariners. The right-hander started 25 games and posted a 3.55 ERA in 131.2 innings, allowing 118 hits, walking 39, and striking out 158. In September, the Mariners called Dunn up to the majors, and the right-hander served as “opener” for four games, pitching a total of 6.2 innings and posting a 2.70 ERA, allowing 2 hits, walking 9, and striking out 5. Five of his walks came in his major league debut, all in the first inning.

The sixth man on the Mariners’ pitching depth chart, behind Marco Gonzalez, Yusei Kikuchi, Justus Sheffield, Kendall Graveman, and Taijuan Walker, Dunn was invited to major league spring training, appearing in three games. In 6.2 total innings, he allowed two earned runs- giving him a 2.70 ERA over that short period- while allowing 4 hits, walking three, and striking out 10.