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Draft Prospect Watch: Justin Dunn Rockets Up the Draft Charts

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Today we take a look at a fast riser in the college ranks, along with some notes from the weekend. The Pittsburgh Pirates own the 22nd and 41st picks this year. The draft begins on June 9th and lasts three days, with the first two rounds selected on day one. You can view our draft preview here, which covers many of the names who fall in the range of the Pirates. It also focuses in on players who fit the team’s recent draft strategy. On Saturday, we took a look at a recent mock draft and potential picks for the Pirates.

When D1 Baseball released their mid-season rankings of the top 100 college players in the draft, they had Boston College right-handed pitcher Justin Dunn ranked 57th. When you add in high school players to the draft rankings, that would have put Dunn in the 3/4 round range. For that reason, I didn’t plan on writing about Dunn unless the Pirates drafted him.

Things changed this weekend, as Dunn was creating a lot of buzz in his start against a strong Louisville team. As you may know from reading past draft articles, I am a Louisville fan, so I didn’t appreciate what he did. Dunn allowed one run on six hits and a walk in six innings, striking out four batters. Louisville has one of the top players in this draft, outfielder Corey Ray. I haven’t mentioned him here because he’s always ranked somewhere in the top ten and has held that rank since the preseason. Ray went 0-for-4 in this game with three strikeouts.

Dunn was sitting 93-96, touching 97 MPH. Perhaps the most impressive part of that velocity is that he was a reliever three weeks ago, so he wasn’t built up to put in starter innings. In three starts and nine relief appearances, he has a 1.57 ERA, with 30 strikeouts and a .240 BAA in 28.2 innings. Dunn is listed at 6’2″, 184 pounds. He has just 88.1 innings over his three seasons of college, so a jump like this from a fresh arm, might be very intriguing to some teams. If they feel he can be a starter in the majors, he could easily move up to the first round. I’ve included a video of Dunn from this start, located at the bottom of this article.

In that same game as Dunn, Louisville reliever Zack Burdi hit 102 MPH and was sitting 99-100. He’s strictly a reliever, which will likely hold him back, but D1 Baseball had him 22 spots ahead of Dunn in their mid-season rankings. He has usually topped out at 99 MPH this season and 102 is a new high.

Around college ball this week, I’ll start with a couple names that keep coming up in our comment section. Kent State lefty Eric Lauer was ranked 41st overall recently, matching him up to the second pick of the Pirates. There were some nice things being said about his start this weekend against Ohio. He went 6.2 shutout innings, allowing four hits and two walks, striking out six batters. In ten starts this year, he has an 0.81 ERA over 67 innings, with a .158 BAA and 80 strikeouts.

Wake Forest third baseman Will Craig has been one of the top college bats this year. People have mentioned that he doesn’t face the best competition and has piled up stats during the mid-week games, so they want to see what he can do against top pitching. He got that chance against North Carolina this weekend, facing J.B. Bukauskas, who was a top draft prospect going into the 2014 draft, before pulling him name from the draft because he was committed to going to college. The sophomore hurler struck out Craig on three pitches in the first inning. In the fourth, they battled for ten pitches before Bukauskas again won the battle with a strikeout on a 3-2 slider. In their final meeting in the fifth, Craig was disposed of on four pitches, striking out for the third time.

Some other quick recaps from the weekend:

Florida’s Logan Shore threw a complete game shutout against Georgia, giving up two hits and one walk, while striking out six batters. He needed just 101 pitches to complete his masterful performance.

Georgia’s Robert Tyler has been rated near the first pick of the Pirates more than anyone this season. He went 8.1 innings against a very strong Florida team, allowing one run on eight hits and a walk, with nine strikeouts.

The Thursday game in Tennessee had a lot going on, with Vanderbilt’s Justin Sheffield on the mound facing Nick Senzel. They could both possibly go in the first 15 picks, while Vanderbilt outfielder Bryan Reynolds went to the Pirates in a recent mock draft. Sheffield won the battle on this day, keeping Senzel out of the hit column (0-for-4) while throwing eight shutout innings. He gave up three hits, a walk, and had four strikeouts. Reynolds had the big hit in the game, a three-run homer in the first inning, his third home run of the season.

One final note and it’s on prep pitcher Joey Wentz, a 6’5″ lefty out of Kansas, who sits low 90’s with his fastball, mixing it with a curve and a change-up that both show potential. He is rated as the fifth best high school player by Prep Baseball Report. I don’t like mentioning a lot of high school stats because you have no idea about the competition level, unlike college, where you if they are facing another Division I school, you know the level of play is at least decent. That being said, I’ll post this tweet from Nathan Rode of Prep Baseball Report, just so you can see how Wentz has performed this season.

Here is the Justin Dunn video from this weekend.

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John Dreker
John Dreker
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball. When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.

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