With the MLB draft later Thursday evening, we are starting to get some more clarity on how things will shake out. The exact details are still muddled, but trends themselves are becoming quite apparent. The Detroit Tigers are said to be interested in pitching with the ninth overall pick, and several names are presenting themselves as options.
Boston College ace Justin Dunn has flown quietly under the radar, but Baseball America has him landing 11th in their final mock draft. He's a prototypical right-handed starter out of college that the Tigers organization loves, and his availability brings him appeal.
Dunn has taken an odd path to becoming a top prospect. Originally, he came out of Boston College's bullpen, but he transitioned into a starting role in dominant fashion this year, posting a 1.49 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, and 9.85 strikeouts per nine innings in 17 appearances (seven starts). John Sickels of Minor League Ball has this glowing review of Dunn's 2016 season.
Dunn opened 2016 in the bullpen again, giving up three runs in 13 innings with a 17/3 K/BB. He moved into the starting rotation in April and has continued to dominate in longer outings, with particularly strong performances against tough competition like Virginia (five shutout innings in his first start) and Louisville (one run in six innings).
The righty uses a four-pitch mix, as our friends at Lookout Landing report:
Dunn's bread and butter will always be his hard fastball, which will sit 93-95 mph, but it will be interesting to see if he manages to develop either his curveball or slider into a plus pitch. The slider can look deadly at times with late, sharp movement, but I'm not sold on his ability to consistently command it. The curveball is a big looper that is occasionally left up, but he mixes it amongst his pitches well and frequently catches hitters off guard with it.
Dunn also has a changeup that has been described as "show-me," but I think literally every college pitcher's changeup is like that.
I think it's fair to wonder whether or not Dunn can hold up to the rigors of starting. Even in his dominant 2016 season, he has only thrown about 60 total innings. Asking him to throw another 30 or 40 in Connecticut this year may be a stretch, and he likely would not be able to elevate to 160 innings for a few years. It's possible he moves to the bullpen, although his transition to a starter has worked quite well so far.
So why would the Tigers consider him? Simply put, Dunn is an athletic freak with the ability to make the most on his talent. MLB.com says:
His command is fringy at present, but his outstanding stuff helps make up for it. Many teams feel Dunn has a very good chance to start as a Yordano Ventura type athletic, yet slightly undersized, right-hander. As a result, he was flying up boards, with some feeling he could be gone by the end of the first round.
Obviously, he's gone and improved his stock even more since then. It's reported that the Seattle Mariners are very interested in him with the No. 11 pick, but it remains to be seen if the Tigers want to move in and take him before then. If so, his solid arsenal provides him with a good chance to be a contributor at the big league level.