— New York Mets (@Mets) June 10, 2016
Boston College righthander Justin Dunn boasts arsenal of pitches.
Leading up to the amateur draft, there wasn’t much of a consensus surrounding who the New York Mets would select with the nineteenth pick.
The only foregone conclusion entering the draft was that Sandy Alderson — drafting for the first since 2010 without Paul DePodesta at his side — would look to retool a depleted farm system that lost top prospects to trades and graduations.
Instead of selecting Will Craig, a headline-grabbing third baseman rumored to be going to New York, the Mets looked for an underrated starter with plus stuff.
The team believes they have unearthed a jewel that others have overlooked. Two years ago, Dunn was a reliever on a Boston College team that finished eleven games under .500 and couldn’t make it’s conference tournament.
He was recruited as a lanky righthander out of the Gunnery School in Connecticut. He threw 84-86 m.p.h. early in his senior year, and rarely topped 93 m.p.h. during his freshman campaign in college.
Fast forward two years, and Dunn is a top-20 pick, jumping from springboard to springboard and elevating his fastball to the mid-90s. All the things his coach Mike Gambino envisioned when he recruited him — body, athleticsm, quick arm and makeup to suggest unlimited potential — has come into fruition.
“He was starting to fall in love with that velocity,” Gambino said, via The Boston Globe. “Sometimes when you see that velocity jump, it’s like they’ve found a new toy. At that point in his freshman year, he was still kind of throwing instead of pitching. I think a really big turning point in his growth and development was in summer baseball.”
Dunn, who grew up in Freeport, New York, now employs a four-pitch mix. Despite beginning the season as a member of BC’s bullpen, he’s dominated in his new capacity as a starting pitcher, something he was shifted to in April.
In that role as a Junior, he’s posted a 3-1 record with a 1.34 ERA in eight starts while striking out forty nine hitters. He was brilliant in the ACC Conference Tournament, delivering a complete-game win against Georgia Tech. In the NCAA Regionals, he was exceedingly impressive, striking out a career-high 11 against Tulane en route to a colossal victory.
“I try to pitch in the range of 90-92,” Dunn said. “That’s where mentally I’d like to think I’m pitching. If it comes out harder than that, it comes out harder than that. Lately it has been, which is a blessing.
“I’m pretty confident in all four [pitches]. That’s what makes it so hard for hitters. A hitter in a 1-and-2 count can’t eliminate one.”
As previously noted, Craig was the presumptive pick for New York. He was on the board at the time New York was on the clock, which is why it was so surprising that Alderson and his staff didn’t pick him.
But there’s a saying that too much depth is never a bad thing, something that’s especially true with pitching depth. The Mets don’t have a true ace in the minors, and will likely crave another starter when the current crop of heralded youngsters hit free agency.
Dunn was an avid Yankees fan growing up, and noted that “It’s been a little difficult” to represent his team at BC. He was selected by the Dodgers in the 37th round three years ago.
When asked what his biggest strength as a player is, Dunn remarked that “I would say it’s my competitiveness, honestly. Even when I’m tired, I always want the ball in my hand.”
This kid sounds like a keeper.