The Mariners pitcher, Justin Dunn was off to a great start in Spring Training thanks to the big changes he made in the offseason. The former first-round pick’s fastball is now in the mid-90 and his breaking ball has looked electric, but recently he has struggled. We are still seeing many of the same issues from 2019 and 2020.
Dunn was my favorite to be the sixth starter in the rotation but I am now reconsidering and I think Justin Dunn should be moved to the bullpen instead.
Justin Dunn’s issues
Last season, Justin Dunn averaged 6.1 walks per nine innings. Dunn threw the third-most walks in the MLB in just 45.2 innings. The league leader was Robbie Ray who threw 51.2 innings, and the runner-up was Dylan Cease who threw 58.1 innings.
Spring Training has been a similar story and the Boston College product currently leads the team in walks. The other issue is Dunn’s lack of consistency. In his first two outings, he was great:
March 6th: 2 IP, 1 H, 2 BB, 2 K
March 12th: 3 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 3 K
In his third outing (March 18th), Justin continued his scoreless pitching until he got into the third inning. Dunn retired the first seven batters he faced and then walked the bases loaded. He allowed three runs in the third inning and was unable to complete the inning. The 6’2″ pitcher finished with:
2.2 IP, 1 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 3 K.
Last night (March 24th), it was a similar story. Justin Dunn didn’t allow a run for the first three innings but was hit around in the fourth inning. He allowed a home run, a triple (could’ve been caught), two walks, struck out the opposing pitcher, and then was replaced by Paul Sewald.
The Mariners right-hander came back into the fifth inning to get a few more reps but he allowed another home run. His line:
3.1 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 7 K
Why I think Justin Dunn should be in the bullpen
When looking at his Spring outings, he’s been great early in games and struggles once he gets into the third inning. To avoid this issue, we should just throw Justin Dunn into the bullpen.
He’s got the stuff to be a great relief pitcher: good fastball, and a put-away breaking ball. Dunn has struck out 15 batters in 11 innings, which is a much higher rate than in the past.
Walks are never good, but you have a little more security/safety as a relief pitcher, which is what Justin needs. Take for example Yohan Ramirez. He averaged 8.7 walks per nine innings last season but he managed to finish with a 2.61 ERA.
When Justin Dunn talked to reporters after his March 18th outing, he said “Honestly, I just got in my own head… We tried to overcorrect the miss. That third inning was just 2019 Justin. That’s the simplest way to say it. I’ve got to flush it. Obviously, I’m not happy with it, but I know that’s not who I am and who I’m going to be this season.”
Being a starting pitcher is difficult because you have to get the same batters out multiple times and endure the long game. But if you are in the bullpen, I feel like there is less of an opportunity to overthink because you just pitch for one or two innings.
I think a move to the bullpen could really benefit Justin Dunn. We have heard of so many big leaguers who turned their careers around after being moved to the bullpen. Wade Davis is a pretty famous example, and Rafael Montero is another less known example.
Plus, Justin Dunn might be able to let his fastball loose when throwing out of the pen. Who knows, maybe he can hit 97 mph more consistently, or even better.
What we have seen from Justin Dunn has been a mixed bag, and I am starting to grow impatient. Nick Margevicius has been pitching great and I think he deserves the 6th spot more than Dunn anyways. Let’s try Justin out of the bullpen rather than sending him down to the minors, which could be a confidence defeater.