Blake Dunn, the top outfielder from Western Michigan University, is eager to embark on his career and has the talents to succeed in pro ball.
Blake Dunn is on the very cusp of a professional athletic career, and it’s safe to say he’s excited for the chance to play ball for a living.
“It’s my dream to have a professional baseball career, and when that opportunity comes, I can’t wait to take advantage of it with whatever team ends up picking me,” he said in an interview with Motor City Bengals. “It’s a dream and I would be absolutely completely grateful to whatever team picks me this year – if they do.”
A local product, Dunn was a multi-sport star in high school. He played four sports as a student in Saugatuck, MI and took home all-state honors in every one, including three years as a champion track runner. His real skill is on the baseball diamond, though, where he has the chance to be drafted in the five-round setup.
Dunn is the kind of prospect that front office types dream of adding to their system on a bargain. His speed and power combination give him dynamic abilities on both sides of the ball, and although he’s a little raw for a collegiate athlete, his athletic ability is off the charts. With a few shrewd tweaks, he has the potential to be a well-known name in prospect circles.
Dunn’s most noticeable strength is his raw power. He swings the bat like the baseball owes him money, and the results are impressive when he gets ahold of one.
“I know especially now with everyone so focused on the high spin rates of fastballs and everything, just trying to go up there with an approach and a plan,” said Dunn. “For me, I’m just trying to let the ball get deep and take the ball to the right-center gap so that fastballs I’m able to take that way and if I end up being out in front of a breaking ball I’m still able to hit it to the left-center gap.”
Once on base, he’s also a threat to steal. While with the Western Michigan Broncos, he is a career 47-for-59 in stolen base attempts. That’s a tremendous rate, and it’s no coincidence that he’s done so well. For Dunn, base-stealing is a science. He pays attention to a litany of details, trying to isolate tendencies in either the pitcher or the catcher he can exploit.
“Once you see that front foot twitch, and the guy is going home, for me, my first reaction is to just go to second base, and just take that bag and take that extra 90 feet. I just take joy and I take pride in stealing bags,” said Dunn.
Just how valuable he will be on defense in the long-run is a debated topic. Baseball America is bullish, asserting that he’s a “a no-doubt center fielder at the next level.” Not everyone is convinced, though. FanGraphs calls him a “tweener” in the outfield and Prospects 365’s Mason McRae posits that “he’s average, and likely shifts to a corner role.”
Even if he’s destined for a corner, Dunn will contribute value in the field. He’s able to carry a right field profile thanks to an extraordinary throwing arm. His speed-over-instincts approach to fielding would also transition well to right field, where there’s less ground to cover and his wheels can make up for less than incredible routes. In short, while he’ll no doubt get a chance up the middle as a pro, it’s not the end of the world if he can’t stick.
As one would expect with a high-end athlete who isn’t receiving national attention, Dunn has trouble with his hit tool. It’s a flaw that was laid ruthlessly bare on the Cape last summer, as he hit only .229/.338/.298 and stuck out a quarter of the time. That’s not the kind of performance you’d hope to see from a top prospect in an outing against quality competition, and it’s in stark contrast to his sparking career numbers with Western Michigan.
“Well, you’re playing against better talent and it takes a while to adjust to that but I feel like when I was out there I was able to barrel a lot of balls,” said Dunn when we asked him what contributed to that steep dropoff in performance. “Sometimes those balls that I was barrelin’ didn’t end up being hits, but just the fact of being out there and playing against that talent… you’re out there for a reason. It just wasn’t my summer, I guess.”
The team who drafts Dunn will have to have a game plan for how to bring his potent offensive potential on the field when the competition gets stiff. In the environment of the modern game, he absolutely must hit to be a major league regular. Everyone does. If it never happens, he probably looks very JaCoby Jones-ish. That’s not a terrible outcome, but it’s not exactly what teams are looking to unlock given Dunn’s impressive physical talent.
It’s impossible to tell what’s going to happen in the 2020 draft. After the first 20 or so picks, it’s basically the wild wild west as teams execute draft day strategies that have never been needed before. If teams decide to push in all their chips and gamble for upside as they try to extract the most value from their limited selections, it could mean a player like Dunn is selected far earlier than anticipated at the beginning of the draft cycle. If the league becomes more conservative in an effort to avoid a wasted draft class, his outlook becomes much less rosy. He could be drafted as high as the third round or go undrafted entirely, leaving him to choose between a $20,000 signing bonus or returning to school to try again next summer.
“For me, I’m just focused on controlling what I can control and that’s just getting my baseball work in and getting my lifting in and just going day by day and waiting for more information to come out,” said Dunn.
It’s a recipe that has seemed to work so far.