One of the turning points of Jacob deGrom‘s career was having Tommy John surgery. The reason why this became a turning point was he was rehabbing from his injury at the same time Johan Santana was rehabbing from his own shoulder surgery. With both pitchers being on the backfields of St. Lucie, Santana was able to teach the then 23 year old pitcher the secret behind his great change-up.
That meeting completely changed the trajectory of his career. From that point, deGrom went from a prospect who could be a back end starter or reliever to an ace who dominated in the 2015 postseason and could very well win the 2018 National League Cy Young Award.
Over this past weekend, Justin Dunn may have had one of those career altering meetings. Through former Mets closer John Franco, Hall of Fame closer Trevor Hoffman gave Dunn a tutorial on how to throw his change-up.
Things that make the WWBA World Championship in Jupiter so special! Mets Top Prospect Justin Dunn @Dunn_Deal19 getting some help with a change up from the master Hall of Famer @THoffman51 in the parking lot! pic.twitter.com/hSbQYx9eKH
— Perfect Game USA (@PerfectGameUSA) October 21, 2018
Like Santana, Hoffman threw one of the great change-ups in Major League history. As Hoffman joked in the above clip, his fastball is right around where Dunn is currently throwing his change-up. Even without the velocity we see from closers now, Hoffman was able to dominate by keeping hitters off balance with his phenomenal change.
Dunn now knows the grip Hoffman used and how he threw it.
It should be noted Dunn has received positive reviews of his change-up. John Sickels of Minor League Ball said all three of Dunn’s pitches, including his change, “flash plus.” Before the 2017 season, Baseball America noted Dunn “shows surprising command of a changeup.” The Mets agree, as J.P. Riccardi recently said Dunn has “a great changeup.“
Even with the positive reviews, it does not mean Dunn cannot improve the pitch. And really, even if his change-up is good to even great, it is hard to argue it is as good as the one Hoffman threw in his career. Even taking a potential strength and making it even stronger can improve the trajectory of his career.
It should be noted that like deGrom, Baseball America sees Dunn as a mid-rotation starter. Partially due to deGrom’s and Santana’s paths crossing, deGrom’s career path was forever altered.
Maybe, just maybe, based on a chance meeting in a parking lot, we could see Dunn’s career path forever change. It will be exciting to see how this plays out in 2019 and beyond.