In advance of Thursday's draft, we will be conducting Q&A interviews with many prospects who are projected to be drafted in the first round. For a complete listing of these interviews, click here.
Next up is right-hander Justin Dunn, a Freeport, N.Y. native who is the ace of the Boston College pitching staff. After beginning the year as a reliever for the Eagles, Dunn switched to starting and has posted a fantastic 1.49 ERA in 60.1 innings over 17 appearances (7 starts). He is touted by scouts for his athleticism and velocity, and uses a solid four-pitch mix. For more on Dunn, check out Minor League Ball's scouting report.
Dunn is projected by every major outlet (ESPN, BA and MLB.com) to go to the Mariners with the 11th-overall selection, though he could be chosen by another club in the 8-15 range. He was recently ranked by Baseball America as the 22nd-best prospect in this year's draft class, and spoke with MLBDD in advance of the draft:
When did you first get into baseball as a kid and realize you had a passion for the game?
"At about six years old. My dad put it in my hands, I grew up wanting to play. I fell in love with it probably around 6 or 7."
Growing up, who was your favorite team? Favorite player?
"Favorite player? Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. If you can't tell off of that, I'm a big-time Yankee guy."
Being at Boston College, has it been difficult being a Yankee fan in Boston over the last couple of years?
"Yeah, it's been a little difficult. I always represent my team. I go to Fenway wearing my Yankee hat. Not as much anymore, but when I was a freshman I'd wear it. Even when they weren't even playing. I definitely get some flack for it on the team."
The Red Sox pick 12th in the draft, right in the range where you're expected to be picked. Would that be difficult for you to potentially go to them, or is all of that put aside once you launch a pro career?
"At the point in my career where I am now, I wouldn't even say I'm a fan of one team. I'm just more of a fan of good baseball. If the Red Sox draft me, it would be awesome. It would be a blessing. I wouldn't have any problem with it at all. I'm a fan of good baseball, so [whichever team] is good with me."
What has it been like playing college sports in a sports city as successful as Boston, considering all of the championships the teams have won in the last 15 years?
"It's awesome. Especially with this run we've been making [to Super Regionals], we have a lot more people paying attention and now we have the Red Sox playing well and we're playing well. The B's and the Patriots... it just shows that this entire city of Boston can dominate at sports. We're just trying to finish it out and hopefully do something special along with the Sox at the same time."
What was the moment that professional baseball was a legitimate goal for your future?
"I've always had that feeling, deep down inside, since I was young. A lot of other people didn't have it, but I had the confidence in myself that I could do it. It really hit me when I got the chance to pitch against the Red Sox [in spring training]. I got Mookie [Betts] and Dustin Pedroia and all those guys out, and I thought, 'alright, I can do this.' That was probably the big turning point for me."
There has been a huge improvement in your stats this year, and you've really taken on a role as the staff ace. What was the biggest adjustment you made to get to that point?
"All the credit right now goes to Coach [Jim] Foster [Boston College's associate head coach]. He's just done such a great job over these three years, developmentally. Getting us set up, working on mechanics and breaking down video. He's more focused on the mental side of the game, that's been the biggest adjustment for me. Breaking down the mental side, learning how to read swings and being able to make adjustments within one at-bat. It's finding a hitter's weakness... once you find that one hole, keep attacking it. All the credit goes to Coach Foster."
As a team, BC was not expected to make this deep of a run at the beginning of the season. What is the biggest reason you guys have been able to be so successful and make a surprise run?
"For us, it's just buying in. We all bought in to the goal of Omaha. A lot of people don't believe that we can do it, but we all know deep inside that we can. Us buying in was huge, and then just playing our game. Not really backing down from big-name schools and just knowing that if we play our game and play hard for nine innings, we'll be able to look up at the end of nine and be in a good spot."
In high school, what went into the decision to play at BC? Which other schools were involved?
"To be honest, I didn't really get into conversations with a lot of other schools. Once I stepped on campus, I fell in love with the campus. I'm from Long Island, so it's close to home. My mom and older brother are able to come see me play. That was huge. The academic side of it is awesome, and obviously we're playing in one of the best baseball conferences in the country. It was hard to say no to that. Being able to come in and play right away was huge for me also."
Three years ago, you were drafted (37th round by the Dodgers) and went through this process for the first time. First off, how much does that experience prepare you for this week? What went into your decision at that point to go to school and not pursue a pro career?
"It's helped a lot. I'm on a little bit different scale than I was last time. Just knowing what's going on with each call and what to expect with each phone call. Decision-wise, I got drafted as a 5-foot-11, 160 lb. right-handed pitcher. I wasn't ready for the grind of pro ball and the job that it is. I knew that this was my best decision to come here and get better for three years, and get another crack at it after my junior year."
This weekend is going to be an extremely memorable one for you, with the draft on Thursday night and your Super Regional series against Miami this weekend. Do you think the draft should be moved to another time where guys can soak it in and enjoy it more?
"I think it's fine. It's easy for me to put draft... not to the side, but it's not in the forefront of my mind. I'll think about that more Thursday, when it comes up. I'm just enjoying this ride with my teammates and I think it's awesome to be able have the opportunity to be drafted around 34 of my brothers here. They've seen me grow through the growing pains and all the struggles. To be able to have family come down and see me throw the next night, it's going to be huge. I think the timing of the draft is perfect. It works out for everybody in different circumstances. It just depends on where your priorities are, I feel like. If you're a team guy, you can get it out of your mind and focus on winning games for the team."
What would you say is your biggest strength as a player?
"I would say my competitiveness, honestly. Even when I feel like I'm tired, I always want the ball in my hand. I always like that. I use my competitiveness to get out of a lot of situations where I'm on fumes, but I know I need an out or a ground ball. I use that drive to help me make that big pitch in the biggest situations. That's for sure one of my biggest assets."
What's your biggest weakness, or the thing you want to improve upon at the next level?
"I would say it's just getting my command for my secondary stuff a little better. It's there a lot of the time, but there are situations where I'll get too amped up and try to make a better pitch, and it won't be what we're trying to execute. More of being able to to back off and let my stuff work. That's what I'm in the process of working on and talking about with Coach Foster on a daily basis."
If you had to choose a major-leaguer, current or former, who you compare your game to the most, who would it be?
"Stuff-wise, I feel like I'm similar to Chris Archer. The way I play the game, I like to think of myself as a Marcus Stroman. I'm a very vocal player, I like to show some emotion. When I get out of a big spot, I'm going to fist pump. I'm going to tell my team it's time to go. Definitely those two guys are guys I look at within the big-league game right now."
Both of those guys are starters, but you've been both a starter and reliever in college. What role do you envision for yourself at the next level?
"I feel like I'm a starter. I just want to pitch, so whatever they need me to do, I'm going to do. I'll do it to the best of my ability."
Does your mentality change based on whether you're pitching as a starter or reliever?
"It's been the same. The only thing I change is the effort level at which I throw my pitches. When I start, I try to back off a little bit more and pitch at somewhere between 75-80 percent of my max. Try to pitch with a velocity of like 90-92. Hopefully that'll carry me through nine. There's no mental change as to where I attack hitters or if I attack them the same way."
Do you have any expectations heading into the draft on where you'll get picked? Any teams showing much stronger interest than others?
"My expectations? None. I just hope to see my name called across the screen and celebrate it with my teammates. Like I said earlier, there's really not one team I want to play for. I just want to get an opportunity to go play. If I get the opportunity to get called and get picked by a team that will give me a chance, that's really all I'm asking for."