Dunlap at the Plate- Good Eye, So-So Results

You might have noticed that in a poll conducted by Baseball America, managers in the Florida State League voted Cory Dunlap as having the best strike zone judgment in the loop. A nice tribute and one certainly earned by all those walks he draws- 76 now in the 77 games he's played. Yes, there's no one better around the Sunshine State in telling a ball from a strike.

But strolling to first after ball four is not what gets a first baseman moving toward the big leagues. And Dunlap is now in his second season at Vero Beach, two years in which he's seen others pass him by on the way upward.

Was it only a little over a year ago that he arrived, fresh from a rookie year in which he ripped the Pioneer League apart with a smooth, sure lefthanded stroke? It's been a time of turmoil for Dunlap and certainly not a time when he's used his knowledge of the zone to lash a quantity of base hits

His average is hovering around .250 these days. Hardly the .351 he hit at Ogden nor the .291 he put together at Vero last year. The stroke still looks swift but he's more likely to produce a ground ball to second than a sharp single.

To give Dunlap credit, he's ratcheted up the long ball better than before. Right now, he has 14 rips out of the park and that's twice as many as he did in each of his first two years. And it's something the batting instructors have always stressed to him because first basemen are supposed to excel in that department.

That's one reason why Dunlap and his coaches have clashed in the past. He had diligently pared his frame down from around 280 pounds to 230 to make himself attractive in the draft, only to lose the battle of the bulge over this past winter.

And when he showed up, he was castigated by the coaches, only to retort that he needed the bulk for strength in order to produce the long ball.

They didn't buy his argument and when the season began, his former Vero teammates were up at Jacksonville for the most part while he lingered in the extended camp as punishment. He finally worked his way out but, as noted, hasn't exactly hit his way to the Southern League since.

This is his third year as a pro, the one in which he becomes draft eligible but there doesn't seem to be any notion that he should be protected on the 40-man in the off-season. He has managed to work off some of the extra poundage but he's hardly down to the 205 listed for him in the media guide.

He's not much on defense, lacking mobility so it's his bat that will have to propel him forward. While he has pulled his average up some 20 points during the second half of the season, he's still not producing in the manner hoped for.

Oh, every now and then, there's a spark but then it seems to smoulder and die out. That's not only been the case for Dunlap alone but several others of his Vero teammates, who have, in effect, turned in their prospect badges.

At 22 it's hardly too late. But, stellar strike zone judgment or not, Dunlap doesn't seem bound for glory like he once did.

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