To say Justin Dunn‘s 2016 was anything but exciting would be an understatement.
He pitched for Boston College as both a starter and reliever this year, appearing in 18 games while starting eight of them. Dunn compiled a record of 4-2, and pitched to a 2.06 ERA in 65.2 innings. His team was also the first New England team since UConn in 2009 to advance to the Super Regionals of the NCAA Tournament. Unfortunately, BC’s season came to end on June 12, when they lost to Miami 9-4, and watched as Miami advanced to the College World Series.
Then on June 9, Dunn and his teammates were sitting at a restaurant at Coconut Grove, Florida, watching the MLB Network as the draft was underway. Dunn and his teammates sat with bated breath as the first 18 picks went by.
The New York Mets were next up with their pick, heading to the podium to make the 19th selection. As soon as Justin Dunn’s name was announced by Commissioner Rob Manfred, the video captured Dunn and his teammates going crazy inside the restaurant, jumping up and down and celebrating with the elated 20-year-old right hander.
Boston College coach Mike Gambino knew there was a good chance that Dunn would be selected in the MLB Draft, and since his team was down in Florida to play in the Super Regional against Miami, he thought it would be a good idea to have a venue where Dunn and his “brothers” (as he calls his teammates) and family members could all watch the news together.
“When we all knew this was a possibility and knew where we were going to be,” Gambino said. “That reaction that you saw out of those boys — you know, went nuts — they were so excited for him. It shows a lot about who Justin is and how much his teammates love him, and it shows how close-knit the team in this program is.” (NJ.com)
Just over a week later, Dunn and the Mets came to terms on a deal, with a signing bonus of $2.3788 million, which was the recommended allotment for that pick.
Although Dunn grew up a Yankees fan, he was born and raised in Freeport, Long Island, except for his high school years playing at a boarding school in Connecticut. Dunn acknowledged that he and his family would make trips to Shea Stadium and Citi Field, just a short drive from home.
“I still live in Freeport. It’s about a 30-, 40-minute trip from here,” Dunn said. “So I came to Citi Field and Shea a lot over my years. I’ve loved the atmosphere ever since I was a little kid. It’s been one of my favorite stadiums to watch a game at.” (ESPN)
The Mets are hoping that Dunn can add himself to the ever growing list of pitchers who have hailed from Long Island, including Blue Jay’s starter Marcus Stroman and current Mets left-hander Steven Matz. The Mets also selected another L.I. pitcher, Anthony Kay with the 31st pick in this year’s draft as well. Kay has yet to sign with the Mets.
“A lot of people think Long Island can’t play baseball, but look at the track record. You have Marcus [Stroman] and then you have Steven Matz, and they’re doing pretty well in the league,” Dunn said. “You have guys like Keith Osik that have played, and other guys. This is something that should be known, that Long Island can play. I’m just happy to have my little part of it.”
Dunn was assigned to Brooklyn to play with the Cyclones, the Class A Short Season team in the New York-Penn League. Dunn made his debut on July 4, while facing the Batavia Muckdogs on the road. Dunn came on in relief of Cyclones’ starter Merandy Gonzalez, who went seven-innings of one-run ball with nine strikeouts. Dunn went the last two innings, giving up two hits while striking out two.
Dunn would make his home debut in front of more than 20 friends and family members at MCU Park on July 10, picking up his first career win in relief, tossing two innings without issuing a hit, walking two, and striking out one. Having so many close loved ones at the game meant a lot to the 2016 first rounder.
“Basically my entire family was here today at the game,” Dunn said. “So it was good to pitch in front of them. A lot of people haven’t seen me pitch since I was young, so for them to be here for my first win at home was awesome.”
Dunn featured four pitches that night, changeup, curve, slider, and fastball, which topped out at 97 miles per hour. Clearly a reason why the Mets and their scouts were so intrigued with Dunn, even drawing high praise from his new manager.
“His stuff is reminiscent of a young Doc Gooden,” Cyclones manager Tom Gamboa said. “He’s not as tall as Doc, but he’s real fun to watch.” (MLB.com)
Dunn has stated in the past that he envisions himself as a starter, but the Cyclones will be cognizant of his innings this season, having already compiled 65.2 at Boston College. The plan is to have him toss two innings in relief every few days for the Cyclones this season.
“I’m not looking into it too much,” Dunn said about coming out of the bullpen. “Whenever I get a chance to get the ball, it’s just work for me, getting better every day.”
The great thing about the Mets selecting Dunn is he’s a college pitcher, which means he may not need too much polishing in the minors before he’s ready to contribute with the big club. Whether that’s as a starter or reliever remains up in the air, as the Mets might employ Dunn in the same style the Tampa Bay Rays did with their young first rounder David Price back in 2008, using him out of the pen to get his feet wet, and ultimately using him in relief roles during the Rays’ postseason run that season.
Don’t be surprised to see Dunn work his way up the Mets’ system rather quickly. The Mets are restocking their system with pitching, after trading away some of their prospects last year in trades for Juan Uribe/Kelly Johnson, Tyler Clippard, and Yoenis Cespedes. And with their other top pitching prospect Marcos Molina out this year recovering from Tommy John surgery, the Mets are looking to reload their system for the next wave of talent.
The local kid who grew up a Yankees fan now finds himself on a path to the orange and blue, but with the way the Mets have churned out pitchers, Dunn joins good company and hopes to make a name for himself in Queens in the not so distant future.