Name: Mike Dunn
DOB: May 23, 1985
"Out of high school, I always thought I was going to be drafted as a pitcher because I could throw so hard and I had good numbers," Dunn revealed. "I had good stuff and I thought I was going to go as a pitcher.
"So when everyone approached me as a hitter, that's when I thought I could always fall back on pitching. They were looking at me as a hitter so I thought let's go with this right now and see how far I can get with that."
Playing centerfield and some first base at three different levels through his first two seasons, he struggled to find consistent playing time with higher draft picks getting the majority of the at-bats.
"When I was drafted, they were giving me the opportunity to hit," said the left-handed hitter. "I had pretty good numbers in college. I thought I could do it. There wasn't really a doubt could I make it, but I also had to look at the guys who were drafted ahead of me in the outfield, the prospects who were in front of me.
"My playing time in the outfield was pretty slim because of who they had ahead of me. I always thought I could hit and I still think I can hit, but not as good as I can pitch I'd have to say."
Converted to the mound in May of 2006, he made his professional pitching debut with the Gulf Coast League Yankees later that same season and went a perfect 3-0 with a 0.76 ERA in eleven appearances, proving immediately he was in fact better at pitching.
"I've always loved him since I had him as a hitting coach last year when he was a backup for us and hitting .087 and whatnot," said Charleston manager Torre Tyson, "because he's one of the most fierce competitors I've had the chance to coach. I think that's what makes him so good on the mound."
Dunn not only became the Riverdogs most consistent starting pitcher in 2007, going 12-5 with a 3.42 ERA and 138 strikeouts in nearly 144 innings, but he was widely regarded around the South Atlantic League as one of the better pitchers overall.
"I thought he did very well, obviously the numbers spoke of that," said Columbus Catfish manager Jim Morrison. "He is another converted guy. He worked down in the strike zone and worked up in the strike zone with two strikes and get people to chase away with that left-handed fastball that would tail in.
"He did not pitch around the bat, he went right at the hitters. He's a good looking left-handed pitcher that likes to compete it looks like and he's pretty strong-willed in that he wants to win as well. His numbers and the way he went about his business speaks for itself."
Possessing impressive stuff - a plus fastball, a plus slider, and a developing changeup - it is inevitably Dunn's extremely competitive nature that has baseball insiders sit up and take notice.
"The only thing I see is that's got to learn to control that a little bit at times," warned Tyson. "He's had a couple of outings this year - he'd be sitting with a 2.00 ERA if not for two or three of these outings where he got so frustrated at the umpire or himself that he just reared back, let it go, and made some mistakes up in the zone and then it kind of snowballed from there."
"In my game, I don't think I would have changed too much," said Dunn. "I just go right at guys, challenge the hitters and if they hit it, they hit it. I felt this year I could get the strikeout when I needed it and I could get the ground ball when I needed it. I felt like I had a really good, successful year.'
Primarily a fastball-slider pitcher for a majority of the season, he rediscovered his changeup towards the tail-end of the season after changing grips and improving his mechanics.
"I'd have to say, with the way that I've used it, yes," he said if his changeup is built more for contact. "I don't use it as much when I get two strikes on a guy, so I can't really say it's a strikeout pitch for me. I go more slider or fastball up when I have two strikes. Just to limit my pitch count is what I used it for, I didn't use it as a strikeout pitch this year."
Used solely as a reliever in 2006 and only as a starter this past season, he offers the organization some flexibility in his future projected role but most believe he could fly through the minor leagues as a reliever.
"If the Yankees decided to put him in the bullpen, he's Double-A ready right now," opined Tyson. "You just never know which way he's going to develop and where the Yankees are going to go with him. I'm pretty excited about it just because of the type of guy he is.'
"I think I might have a chance as a starter, but if you look at best opportunity to make it, it's probably going to be in the bullpen," added Dunn. "In the bullpen you move up faster anyway. It wouldn't bother me one bit to be a starter and it wouldn't bother me one bit to be a reliever."
Repertoire. Fastball, Slider, Changeup.
Fastball. Dunn throws both a sinking two-seam fastball [88-90 MPH] and a harder four-seam fastball [90-93 MPH], although he didn't hit above 92 MPH too often this past season as he focused more on his command. He has a bit more confidence in his four-seamer than his two-seamer right now, which will be one of the areas of focus in his development. He has surprising command of his fastball considering his lack of experience on the mound and it helps that when he misses the zone, he misses outside and not over the plate.
Other Pitches. Dunn's strikeout pitch of choice is his plus slider. He is extremely confident throwing it to location in any count and in any situation. A very good pitch for him in 2006, he struggled with his changeup most of the year this past season, altering grips and shortening his stride to get the correct movement and command. He uses it more as first-pitch strike or as a contact pitch.
Pitching. Dunn is an absolute bulldog on the mound, using his fierce competitive spirit to attack batters and refusing to back down. He peppers the strike zone with fastballs and sliders to challenge batters and he's not afraid to pitch to contact to keep his pitch counts low. He is also very confident in his stuff and he uses his experience as a hitter to out-think batters in various situations. He is just a tad bit raw in his mechanics, sometimes over-striding in his delivery and that does cause him to have inconsistent command at times. He also gets a little hot under the collar in certain situations, losing his composure, and that's something he will need to work on.
Projection. Armed with two plus pitches as well as the makings of a quality changeup, Dunn has the ceiling of a middle-of-the-rotation type of starting pitcher. However, his plus fastball-slider combination along with the intensity he brings on the mound probably have him better suited as a left-handed setup man at the big league level cut in the mold of Mike Stanton. He does offer the organization some flexibility in either role and it will just depend on the team's needs at the time.
ETA. 2009. His ETA will be based mostly on how the organization uses him. If he remains a starting pitcher, he will probably move at a one level per year track. With his Rule 5 Draft clock ticking however, it seems more logical he will be shifted to the bullpen and moved quickly. Either way he appears destined to start the 2008 season in the Florida State League.