Texas notes: M's Dunn knocking on door

Travs righty meeting goals in his first full Double-A season

Justin Dunn is 7-4 with a 3.75 ERA and a league-best 124 strikeouts in 20 starts for Arkansas. (Tim Campbell/MiLB.com)

By Troy Schulte / Special to MiLB.com | August 9, 2019 11:00 AM

As Justin Dunn left Spring Training poised to begin his first full Double-A season, he mentally made a couple of goals that would mark the season as a success.

The first: Play in the Futures Game.

The second: End the season with the Mariners.

"Achieved one, and hopefully getting ready to achieve another soon," said Dunn, ranked as the No. 77 overall prospect by MLB.com. "But we'll see. It's all in God's hands. Definitely happy to achieve the first one."

Dunn was able to check off the first goal last month, when he and Arkansas Travelers teammate Evan White represented the organization in Cleveland. The 23-year-old -- acquired by the Mariners in a trade that sent Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz to the Mets last December -- struck out one and hit a batter in an otherwise perfect frame for the American League team.

"It's something I've wanted since Draft day," said Dunn, picked 19th overall by the Mets in 2016. "You hear about it coming out of the Draft and all the big-name prospects get in it. So, I guess it's the validation of all the hard work that we put in the offseason."

Video: Dunn records 8th strikeout for Travelers

Back with the Travs, he's setting sights on his second goal. And while it's ultimately out of his control, Dunn is letting his performance make a good case for him. With just a few weeks left in the regular season, he's 7-4 with a 3.75 ERA and a Texas League-best 124 strikeouts in 20 starts.

"Definitely happy," he said. "Definitely happy with the consistency. I feel like, for the most part, every time I've touched the ball I've turned in the same type of outing."

One of his most pleasing statistics is walks, which are down from 3.5 per nine innings last year between Double-A Binghamton and Class A Advanced St. Lucie to 2.6 this season.

Dunn attributes that improvement to an organization-wide emphasis on throwing strikes. From a competition that all Mariners Minor League pitchers participate in that ranks them based on strike percentage to T-shirts that read "Control the Zone," Seattle has built a culture that puts a premium on pitching the ball where it catches at least part of the plate.

2019 MiLB include

"We do such a good job of just emphasizing to control the zone," he said. "Get into good counts. Be 0-1, 0-2, 1-2 on guys as much as possible and once you get them in those counts, put them away."

The improvement has certainly helped Dunn settle in with his new organization, though the sudden change of scenery did come as a surprise.

Dunn grew up a 30-minute drive from the Mets' home of Citi Field, so at first the move was disappointing to some members of his family. But Dunn said he thought he was being drafted by the Mariners in 2016, before they passed on him for current teammate Kyle Lewis.

"Things come full circle, and I'm where I'm supposed to be," he said. "So, extremely excited about the opportunity and kind of got over the sadness pretty quickly."

In brief

Reinforcements arrive: Amarillo added two top 50 prospects to its roster recently in right-handed pitcher Luis Patino and outfielder Taylor Trammell. Patino, ranked No. 33 overall, was promoted from Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore earlier this week after going 6-8 with a 2.69 ERA and 113 strikeouts in 87 innings pitched. Trammell, ranked No. 30, was acquired in a three-team trade that sent Franmil Reyes and Logan Allen to Cleveland. Trammell was hitting .236 with six home runs and 33 RBIs for Double-A Chattanooga before being traded.

Twice the Gators: Brady Singer and Jackson Kowar were both helping the Florida Gators to the College World Series little over a year ago. Now they're again wearing the same uniform, this time for the Northwest Arkansas Naturals. The teammates were each taken in the first round by the Kansas City Royals in June 2018 -- Singer 18th and Kowar 33rd -- and each have made quick work to get to Double-A. Singer, ranked second in the Royals system, is 3-3 with a 4.27 ERA and 51 strikeouts. Kowar, ranked fifth, is 2-4 with a 3.02 ERA with 52 strikeouts.

Replacement power: Corpus Christi might have lost its biggest power threat when Seth Beer was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks at the trade deadline, but J.J. Matijevic has tried to make up for it. Matijevic, a first baseman and outfielder ranked 18th in the Astros' system, has already homered three times in August after homering just twice throughout July. Matijevic is hitting .256 with nine home runs and 28 RBIs for the season.

Troy Schulte is a contributor to MiLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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