Justin Dunn, a Long Island native and former Boston College standout, was selected by the New York Mets with the 19th overall pick in the first round of this year’s MLB draft. Dunn burst onto the scene his junior year at BC, recording a 2.06 ERA and holding opposing hitters to a .214 batting average. As a starter, he struck out 49 batters and allowed only 15 walks. His pitching arsenal consists of a fastball that easily sits in the mid-90’s and a slider, change up, and curveball that all show tremendous upside.
Dunn is currently shining for the Brooklyn Cyclones (Single-A) with a 0.75 ERA and 13 strikeouts in 12 innings pitched. Not only does JD dominate on the field, but he is a class act off it. Check Down was lucky enough to be able to sit down with the Mets prospect and ask him some questions.
Boston College baseball had one of its best seasons in over twenty years, what made this year’s team different than others?
It was that everyone bought in to our team identity. Looking at our roster we didn’t necessarily have the most talented guys. Our strength was pitching and defense and that’s what we played off of. We tried to put zeros on the board and cash in on our run opportunities. As a team, we didn’t try to be something we weren’t and that’s what helped us have such a successful year.
You were used mainly as a closer your sophomore year and were put into the starting rotation this year. How were you able to make such a smooth transition?
I was used out of the bullpen my sophomore and some of my junior year because it was where the team needed me, but all along I was waiting for my opportunity to join the starting rotation. I knew starting was were I needed to be and I took advantage of the opportunity when it presented itself.
Analytics have become a huge part of Major League Baseball today: What kind of analytics did you encounter at the college level? Did you scout opposing hitters based on stats, videos, etc?
We mainly used video and concentrated on studying opposing batters’ approaches. I would just sit in my room, on my laptop, and go through tons of game footage until I could figure out what they couldn’t hit. I really focused in on looking at opposing hitters’ strikeout to walk ratio because if you have a high strikeout to walk ratio, I knew I could expand the zone on you and my job would be a lot easier. On the other hand, guys with low strikeout to walk ratios I really had to concentrate on hitting my spots within the strike zone to get them out.
As a hometown New Yorker, how does it feel to have been drafted by the New York Mets?
It’s an unreal feeling. I couldn’t have asked for a better organization to be picked up by, especially when you look at the arms that have come through their system. I’m so excited to be able to learn from the same coaches who taught Syndergaard, deGrom, and Matz.
This kind of leads into my next question: How exciting is it to be drafted into an organization known for developing such talented pitchers?
If I want to have any shot of getting up to the Big Leagues and pitching like them [Syndergaard, deGrom, Matz, etc] I have to learn from the coaches who taught them. I’m excited to get to spring training next year and soak up all they have to say like a sponge.
What Major League pitcher do you admire the most? Is there anyone in particular you try to emulate?
I love the entire Mets’ pitching staff, but my guy is Marcus Stroman. We’re similar in a lot of ways: Both from Long Island, both undersized, and both guys who pitch with a lot of emotion and energy.
How has the transition been from the college to professional level?
It’s been pretty smooth. Playing in the ACC, I had to face guys like this every weekend. Perfect example is my teammate and roommate, Blake Tiberi. He’s a guy I faced in college and the caliber of hitter than I’m currently facing in Single A. It’s just a matter of continuing to fine tune my pitches and learn as much as I can.
What songs would we find on Justin Dunn’s pre-game playlist?
You’d find a mix of everything, mainly hip hop though. A lot of Kevin Gates, Meek Mill, and DMX.
Who wins in a street fight, LeBron James or Floyd Mayweather?
I’m going to go with Floyd, no doubt. You can’t beat experience.
Tell us something that not everybody knows about you.
That I’m a big goofball. I love to joke around and laugh. I’m really just a calm, easy-going type of guy.