Scouting Yankees Prospect #15: Mike Dunn

Dunn has become a valuable lefty reliever

A two-way player in college, the Yankees drafted Mike Dunn in the 33rd round of the 2004 MLB Draft and signed him the following year as a draft-and-follow. A converted outfielder, he broke out on the mound in 2007 with a terrific season as a starting pitcher before finding his niche in the bullpen this past season, and now he's on the 40-man roster.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Mike Dunn
Position: Pitcher
DOB: May 23, 1985
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 185
Bats: Left
Throws: Left

"It took a couple of days for it to actually hit, but I got the call from my agent," Dunn said of finding out about his 40-man roster assignment. "Beforehand he told me it was about 90 percent sure and then it went to 95 [percent], and was like ‘don't call me again until it actually happens'.

"He called me whenever they finally did and I was kind of in shock. A couple of days later I was working out and was like, ‘hey, I'm on the 40-man roster', and it was a great feeling. It's just one step closer to getting my foot in the door."

Just a .160 hitter as an outfielder in his first season and a half with the Yankees, he was converted to a pitcher towards the latter stages of the 2006 season and he broke out with a terrific first full season on the mound a year later, going 12-5 with a 3.42 ERA as a starter for the Charleston Riverdogs.

He struggled a little bit in the starting role with the Tampa Yankees this past season, however, going just 4-7 with a 4.55 ERA before being transitioned once again, this time to the bullpen.

"I struggled a little bit, but at the same time that I was struggling as a starter in high-A, I was learning," said Dunn. "I learned a lot about myself compared to when I was in Charleston – if I had a bad inning I would show my emotion on the mound. I thought struggling actually helped me a lot this year.

"It helped me compose myself and not show as much emotion on the mound, just stay composed and make pitch-to-pitch instead of trying to think out the whole inning, I was just going pitch-to-pitch. I think I grew a lot as a pitcher this year."

Even during his successful 2007 campaign, he had struggled finding a consistent changeup and that pressure was alleviated when the Yankees transitioned him to the bullpen in early August.

"It really felt that I could never really get all three pitches working on that day," he revealed. "Sometimes I was mainly fastball-changeup and some games I was mainly fastball-slider. I just couldn't get all three pitches working and being a two-pitch guy as a starter is kind of hard.

"I couldn't get all three pitches working on the same day and not locating – in low-A you can miss a little bit over the plate and get away with it, and in high-A and even Double-A they make you pay for that."

He immediately took to his new role, posting a 1.38 ERA and striking out 19 batters in just 13 innings as a reliever for the Tampa Yankees before earning a promotion to Double-A.

"When they finally told me I was extremely happy," he said of converting to a reliever. "That's where I wanted to be. I talked to some guys and they told me I was going to start for a while to get that mound experience, to grow as a pitcher and get more innings under my belt.

"I think my attitude on the mound and just go about pitching is suitable more for the bullpen. I just loved it once they finally put me in the bullpen."

It wasn't just his numbers, however. A powerful pitcher who had to conserve his strength as a starter, he saw a significant velocity spike once he was moved to the bullpen.

"I knew I had it," said Dunn, who averaged 90-93 MPH as a starter. "Just from the first year they converted me [to pitching], I was up around 94 MPH. Starting I had to be more composed and I couldn't let it all go because I was trying to get into that sixth or seventh inning.

"Out of the bullpen it's one, two, or three innings and you could really let it go a bit more. I knew I had it in the tank, but I knew as a starter I couldn't do that for six innings. I knew I didn't have it for six innings but I knew I had it for three."

Sitting in the 94-95 MPH range as a reliever, Dunn also didn't have to showcase his changeup nearly as much and just easing up on that pressure to use it more actually made it more of a reliable weapon.

"I have not given it up," he admitted. "Whenever they first converted me to the bullpen in high-A, I was mainly fastball-slider with a changeup here and there. I actually threw my changeup more when I got to Double-A.

"I had a good changeup when I got there. To lefties it was more a fastball-slider, but whenever I got that righty I needed that changeup and it worked real well."

He made just one regular season relief appearance in Double-A before pitching well for the Trenton Thunder in the Eastern League playoffs and with his bump in velocity, he has quickly started drawing comparisons to former Yankee reliever Mike Stanton.

"I've heard it a lot," he said. "Even that first year that I got converted people were starting to throw out comparisons to him. It's pretty cool to be compared to somebody like that. I like it and everything, but 10-15 years down the road I want somebody to be compared to me."

A fierce competitor, one who realizes he still has some work to do at the minor league level, Dunn has but just one goal for the 2009 season.

"I'm not really sure what role they want me to fill. They've talked back-end of the bullpen type of thing, but I just want to go in with real good composure and with a good head on my shoulders, and stay true.

"I understand I've still got some time before I get to the big leagues but I'm going to go into big league camp as if there's a spot open for me to compete for.

"I'm going to work my hardest and show them what I've got. Whenever they do send me down or whatever, I want my name to stick in the back of their minds."

Year

Team

W-L

SV

IP

H

BB

SO

ERA

2008 Trenton 1-0 0 1.2 1 1 2 0.00
2008 Tampa 4-7 1 124.2 124 58 118 4.55
2007 Charleston 12-5 0 144.2 136 45 138 3.42
2006 Staten Island 0-0 0 6.1 3 7 7 5.68
2006 GCL Yankees 3-0 4 24.2 13 9 26 0.73


Repertoire. Fastball, Slider, Changeup.

Fastball. Once averaging 90-93 MPH with his four-seam fastball, Dunn starting throwing harder once he was moved to the bullpen. Sitting mostly 94-95 MPH now, and even hitting 96 MPH here and there, he has very good command of his fastball and when he misses the zone, he misses outside and not over the heart of the plate. He does have a sinking two-seamer that sits 88-90 MPH at his disposal, but he hasn't thrown it very much since transitioning to the bullpen.

Other Pitches. Dunn's main strikeout pitch since being converted from the outfield has been his plus slider. He is extremely confident throwing it to location in any count and in any situation. A hard-biting slider, it sits in the 86-88 MPH range. He does throw a very good changeup at times as well. It his very much his third pitch, however, and it can disappear on him on any given day. When it's on though, it can get some really good fading action and it does help give him an extra weapon against right-handed batters, and it is his primary weapon against them when seeking the big double-play.

Pitching. Dunn is the epitome of a bulldog on the mound. He goes right after batters with true power stuff, painting the strike zone with a plus fastball-plus slider combination. He has made strikes keeping his ultra-competitive spirit a little more in-check over the past year and that has allowed him to not lose his cool when calls aren't going his way. Throw in the fact he was once a centerfielder, he is very athletic and one of the better pitchers to field their position.

Projection. Even when Dunn was thriving as a starting pitcher in low-A ball, his intense nature on the mound and power arsenal still projected him best as a late-inning reliever. His natural strength and experience as a starting pitcher also allows him to pitch multiple innings in consecutive days, and possessing a serviceable changeup that can be a plus pitch at any time, also allows him to be an innings eater in the bullpen. His plus fastball-plus slider combination projects him to be a left-handed setup man cut in the mold of Mike Stanton and he has the stuff to close out games in a pinch as well.

ETA. 2009. Stuff-wise, Dunn isn't all that far off from helping out at the big league level. He notched just a few innings in Double-A last season, however, so he does need some more experience. He will probably begin the 2009 season back in Trenton, but now a member of the 40-man roster, he will most likely see his first big league action some time next season.

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