Justin Dunn is hoping to become another formidable MLBbro on the Cincinnati Reds pitching staff. The 27-year-old melanated mound marauder has been on the verge of a breakout season since entering the league with a live arm and high expectations back in 2019. Fast forward to 2023 and Dunn’s ascension has been slowed by the injury bug. The former Seattle Mariners star prospect hasn’t pitched more than 50.1 innings in a season.
When the Cincinnati Reds acquired Dunn in the Eugenio Suárez trade with the Seattle Mariners last year, general manager Nick Krall knew that Dunn was battling a major shoulder injury, but Reds’ brass was being optimistic and taking a chance on a pitcher who hasn’t logged many innings in his career. They projected the Freeport, NY native as a solid rotation piece as the Reds try to rebuild into a contending squad.
It’s not like Dunn hasn’t had prolonged stretches where he’s proven that he can be a top starter.
Dunn Has Shown Stretches Of Brilliance
From August 23, 2020, through May of the 2021 season, Dunn allowed three or fewer runs over 15 starts to lead the American League.
Dunn’s streak was also the fourth-longest such streak in Mariners’ history trailing Seattle legend Felix Hernandez, Roenis Elías and Erik Bedard.It appeared as if Dunn had found his next level, along with his budding Mariners squad. In 2021, Dunn and his former Seattle teammate MLBbro Justus Sheffield were part of only two rotations in baseball to feature multiple Black starters. The Mets featured the charismatic technician Marcus Stroman and heat-toting Taijuan Walker.
Then came the shoulder injury, which derailed his ascension and now, a year after the Reds took a shot on him, Dunn is dealing with the same issue in his right shoulder, a combination of inflammation and subscapularis.
The team expects him to be out for a few months rehabbing. Dunn has never been the most intimidating pitcher, so he’s used to people doubting him and knocking him for not measuring up to the metrics. Those funny numbers that overlook winning attributes such as natural talent and heart.
Reds Doctors Won’t Rush Dunn Back To The Mound
According to spring training reports, Dunn is positive about a quick recovery, but doctors are guarding against a premature return.
“(The specialist) was making it seem that the inflammation wasn’t as bad but I believe there might be an actual tear in there, which is why it’s taking so long,” Dunn told reporters. “He said my shoulder actually felt pretty good. It was just a couple of tests that he did that I didn’t pass. He was like, we’ve got to let it heal before we can let you pick up a ball.”
The Reds could certainly use Dunn sooner rather than later. He’s only pitched in seven games since the middle of the 2021 season.
“I just have to get with the team and get a plan of action for what we’re going to do,” Dunn said. “Give it the right amount of time for it to heal and if I rush this, it’s not going to be a good situation. Unfortunately, it’s just the situation we’re in. One day at a time.”
Ironically, Dunn’s specialist told him that he has only seen one other pitcher with a similar injury and that was NY Mets Black Ace Dwight Gooden, who had a brilliant 16-year MLB career.
“(The specialist) explained the surgery and it scared the (heck) out of me frankly,” Dunn said. “He said, ‘I don’t want to do this. I don’t think you need it. You’re too young. You have a lot of baseball ahead of you.’ That’s for when your back is against the wall, and you’re fighting for a couple of more years. I was very thankful to hear that.”
This is a rough luck situation for Dunn who basically had an open lane to a starting position in the Reds’ rotation. In his last real action, the former Top 100 prospect had a 3.75 ERA.
Let’s hope this talented pitcher can get healthy and put together a full season on the mound. If he ever does, he’s sure to finally get his due.
Always remember that in many instances — pitching, for example — quality trumps quantity. Justin Dunn’s pitching performance for the Seattle Mariners this season is a prime example of such an instance.
With his victory over the Texas Rangers on Saturday night, Dunn extended his American League-leading streak of 15 straight starts of allowing three or fewer runs.
Pitching is just different in 2021. Black in the day, pitchers were expected to throw longer into games than we see now. Rarely do we see a complete game thrown, let alone a starter even reach the seven or eight-inning mark.
With managers having the option of going to four or more guys in their bullpen who can throw 95 mph and above with dirty movement, the role of the starting pitcher now is to keep his team in a position to win, rather than go deep into games.
Throughout this season, and even extending into last, Dunn has been one of the best in baseball at getting this done.
Since August 23, 2020, Dunn has been stingy, allowing three or fewer runs in his last 15 starts. Particularly, he has been heating up over his last three starts, and this could be the best stretch of his young career.
Dunn, from Queens New York, has never been the biggest, hardest-throwing, or most intimidating pitcher, so he’d dealt with people doubting him and knocking him for not measuring up to the metrics. Those funny numbers that, falsely determine who has the goods, while overlooking things such as natural talent and heart.
In his last start this past weekend, Dunn went 5.2 innings, striking out eight and allowing one run in a 3-2 victory aided by MLBbro shortstop J.P. Crawford’s second home run of the season. Dunn’s stat line was very similar just two starts ago when he struck out a career-high nine in a loss to the Detroit Tigers. In his last three games, Dunn has an ERA of 2.20 and a WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) of 0.92.
Dunn’s beginning to find his All-Star stride on the mound. He was drafted by the New York Mets in the first round of the 2016 draft after posting a 2.06 ERA in his junior season at Boston College.
Going into the 2018 season, Dunn was ranked as the No. 3 prospect in the Mets farm system.
Later that year, he was involved in a trade that sent him to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for one of the best second baseman of our generation in Robinson Cano (who was aging at the time) and closer Edwin Diaz. Justin made his MLB debut on September 12, 2019, against the Cincinnati Reds.
Dunn recorded a 4.34 ERA in 10 starts during the Covid l9-shortened 2020 season.
The kid they used to count out is currently putting together a quality resume for 2021. He has a 3.18 ERA and has struck out 45 batters this year.
Opponents have not been able to make solid contact on him either. His .168 batting average against is good for the second-lowest in the American League behind the White Sox’s Carlos Rodon.
Dunn and MLBbro rotation partner Justus Sheffield are one of two rotations in baseball that feature two black starters. The other rotation resides in Flushing, Queens and consists of Black Knights Marcus Stroman and Taijun Walker.
Sheffield got the job done for the Mariners Friday night as he was awarded the win after going five innings allowing just two runs on six hits.
Dunn’s current streak of 15 straight starts, allowing three or fewer runs is good for the fourth-longest such streak in Mariners’ history trailing Seattle legend Felix Hernandez, Roenis Elías and Erik Bedard.
Dunn’s next start is Friday in Los Angeles as he and High Five member Kyle Lewis take on Justin Upton and the Angels.
The trade deadline illuminated a common issue for the struggling Mets, Angels, Reds, and Diamondbacks: lack of diversity on their rosters.
Since the August 1st deadline, each of these teams has experienced a series of setbacks, with all four having lost seven games.
However, what’s drawing attention beyond the scores is the limited representation of MLBbros, or Black players, on their active lineups. Notably, the Angels feature Jordyn Adams, the Reds showcase Will Benson, and the Diamondbacks have Alek Thomas and Tommy Pham.
The Mets don’t have a single MLBbro on their active roster.
This discrepancy is further pronounced due to the impact of injuries, particularly for the Angels and Reds. Jo Adell (left oblique strain), Hunter Greene (right hip pain), and Justin Dunn (right shoulder strain) are sidelined on the 60-day injured list, impacting the representation statistics for these teams.
The Mets traded away Pham, their lone MLBbro, during a dump of players after their major-league payroll record of nearly $430 million in salaries plus luxury tax penalties didn’t pay off this season.
Pham wound up joining Thomas in Arizona, while Kyle Lewis was recently sent down to the Triple-A Reno Aces, where he’s hitting .349 on the year and is 5-for-10 since his demotion on Aug. 3.
With the Mets seven and a half games back in the wild-card race, owner Steve Cohen is calling for another rebuild around Francisco Lindor.
This is due to Pete Alonso avoiding arbitration by agreeing in January to a contract that will pay him $14.5 million this season.
The salary is a record for a first baseman in his second season of arbitration eligibility.
But the Mets may allow the star first baseman to test free agency, since he was reportedly on the market during the trade deadline, but the asking price was too high for other teams.
“It turned out that it was a moment in time when other clubs are thinking very short-term, and I was thinking more intermediate-term, so I was able to take advantage,” Cohen said of the trade deadline.
The Mets, who pursued bolstering their farm system for the future, neglected to add more than one MLBbro to their prospects.
The Mets could make a move like the Braves in 2022, calling up MLBbro Michael Harris II from Double-A for a spark.
But the options are slim as their only MLBbro on the top-30 prospects according to MLB.com is Jeremiah Jackson, who the Mets acquired from the Angels at the trade deadline.
The 23-year-old shortstop is batting .240 with 16 homers, 62 RBI, and 22 stolen bases this season for the Double-A Binghamton Rumble Ponies.
Jackson has 40 games of experience at third base, with 30 of those games coming in 2023 at Double-A. None of the Mets’ third basemen on their depth chart are currently hitting over .215.
Although the Angels claimed to have been making their first playoff push in part by acquiring five new players at the trade deadline, they are still struggling. But notably, the team that is now seven games back in the American League wild card is lacking bros.
Anaheim’s No. 21 prospect Adams made his debut on Aug. 2, and the Angels’ No. 3 prospect, according to MLB, is Werner Blakely, who’s currently with the High-A Tri-City Dust Devils, but those are their only MLBbros in the top-30 prospects.
The Reds and D’backs are in the hunt for the final National League wild-card spot with both teams less than two games back.
It’s ironic that both of these teams have at least one MLBbro in their top-30 prospect list; Arizona’s top prospect is Jordan Lawlar.
MLB Lacking Black Representation
Across the board, the absence of Black players in key roles reverberates throughout the league.
The impact of this representation gap extends beyond the game itself, affecting the visibility and aspirations of young Black athletes.
The emergence of role models is crucial for attracting diverse talent and cultivating a broader fan base.
Ultimately, the disparity in diversity among these teams underscores a pivotal aspect of baseball’s cultural and societal role.
The choices made by organizations in cities like Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix, and Cincinnati hold the power to influence and inspire the next generation of players.
It helps that there are youth academies in Cincinnati and Compton for kids from those areas to get more exposure to the game, but a major city like New York has two MLBbros and neither play for the Mets.
By addressing the underrepresentation of Black athletes, these teams have the opportunity to make a profound impact on the game’s trajectory and its accessibility to all backgrounds, especially marginalized communities.
Keynan Middleton was moved from the Southside of Chicago to The Bronx as the Yankees added another piece to the best bullpen in the majors.
The news broke about 10 minutes before Tuesday afternoon’s trade deadline that the White Sox would be trading Middleton to New York in exchange for their 29th ranked prospect, Single-A pitcher Juan Carela.
He was a bright spot in what has been a disappointing year in Chicago.
“It is great to feel wanted around this time,” Middleton told MLBbro.com
“I am excited to go to New York and win. That is all I want to do.”
On the year, Middleton has a 3.36 ERA in 36.1 innings pitched with 47 strikeouts.
He did not allow a single run in the 11.2 innings he threw during the month of May and was solid throughout most of June, but ran into trouble in July posting an 8.64 ERA and allowing four home runs in just nine appearances.
A freshly shaved beard and new beginnings now await Middleton.
He joins a Yankees bullpen that leads the majors with an ERA of 3.10, the next closest team being the Toronto Blue Jays who have theirs sitting at 3.62.
The bullpen is led by former big leaguer and first-round pick Mike Harkey, who has been the team’s bullpen coach for the team since 2016.
Middleton will now play for the fifth different team in his seven-year career.
After being drafted in the third round of the 2013 MLB Draft by the Los Angeles Angels he made his debut with the team in June of 2017 and finished the year with a 3.86 ERA.
Between 2017 and 2018, he had a 1.49 ERA in 27 games but had both seasons cut short due to injuries to his elbow, going under the knife for Tommy John surgery in 2018.
After leaving the Angeles he signed with the 2021 Seattle Mariners who at that moment had the most Black players on a roster in the majors including J.P. Crawford, Justin Dunn, Kyle Lewis, Taylor Trammell and Justus Sheffield.
Middleton spent the 2022 season with the Arizona Diamondbacks before signing with the White Sox in January.
After headlining “Can MLBbro Kyle Lewis Regain His NL Rookie of the Year Swagger in Arizona?”, It did not take long for Lewis to warn the baseball world about hitting the snooze button on what he can accomplish going forward…
Now that Kyle Lewis is establishing himself well in his new surroundings, his departure ends a potentially historical era in Seattle.
Lewis One Of The Original Mariners’ Black Pack
A few seasons back, the Mariners stood out as having a number of upcoming MLBbros in a day and age where MLB is noticeably lacking in Black and brown players. This subject was heightened during last season’s World Series that didn’t feature one MLBbro player on either team.
MLBbro manager Dusty Baker made it clear that this situation is unacceptable to the point of embarrassment.
“What hurts is that I don’t know how much hope that it gives some of the young African-American kids,” Baker told The Associated Press at the time “Because when I was their age, I had a bunch of guys. [Willie] Mays, [Hank] Aaron, Frank Robinson, Tommy Davis – my hero– Maury Wills. We need to do something before we lose them.”
For the first time since Jackie Robinson’s early days as a big leaguer, no U.S.-born Black players are expected to play in the World Series.
"It looks bad," Astros manager Dusty Baker said today. "But there is help on the way."
In 2020, the Mariners had 10 MLBbros on their 40 man roster. This was such a big deal the four of them (Dee Gordon, J.P. Crawford, Shed Long Jr. and Kyle Lewis) sat down with broadcaster Dave Sims, an MLBbro broadcaster to discuss life in baseball as a Black man.
This time was special, something these guys mentioned in the
“We definitely don’t take this for granted. It’s probably something that’s nerve been done since the Negro Leagues. I’m proud to be a part of this. I’m proud to be playing alongside each and every one of my teammates right now. Coming up we were one of the two brothers on the team. If that, so being a part of this has been something special,” said Crawford.
Now those days are over. After having the honor of having the highest ratio of MLBbros in baseball, only J.P. Crawford is left as the only MLBbro representative. What happened to some of the others other than Kyle Lewis?
After the New York Mets traded the MLBbro pitcher to Seattle, the Mariners brought him to the main roster in September of 2019. After an uneventful 2020, His time on the field was short when he was placed on the 60-day injured list with a shoulder strain that led to the Mariners decision to shut him down.
The Mariners traded Dunn to the Cincinnati Reds in 2022.
In 2018, the New York Yankees traded Sheffield to Seattle in an offseason trade. In 2019, the melanated mound marauder struck out 37 batters in 36 innings in eight games. In 2020, Sheffield had a record of 4-3 in 10 starts with an era of 3.58.
In 2021, our MLBbro appeared in 21 games (15 starts) with a 7-8 record with an era of 6.58.
In 2022, Sheffield was designated for assignment in 2023.
After coming to Seattle in a trade from the New York Yankees in 2019, Shed hit .263 with five homers in 2020. After that leg injuries derailed our MLBbro’s tenure. Surgery to repair a stress fracture in his right shin ended his 2020 season and it carried over into the 2021 season before he was released after long bouts on the injured list.
After coming over in a trade from the San Diego Padres, He played 51 games as a rookie with a hitting slash of .160/.256/.359 with eight home runs and 18 RBI. After struggling in 43 games the next season, Trammel broke his right hand in an offseason workout that sidelined him for up to two months.
He is not on the current 2023 Mariners roster.
This MLBbro pitcher played for the team twice. After being drafted in the 2010 MLB Draft and playing six seasons, he returned on a one-year deal in February of 2020. He was traded in August to the Mets where he went on to become one of two Bros to win more than 10 games in 2022. He signed with the Philadelphia Phillies this past offseason.
In the offseason before the 2020 season, Edwards signed a one-year deal with the team. He pitched in 5 games and collected six strikeouts before opting for free agency at the end of the season.
Declining Black MLB players on rosters bottomed out to 7.2 percent of opening rosters last year which is the lowest percentage since 1991 at 18 percent according to Richard Lapchick, the director for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at Central Florida. Compared to the fact that a quarter of the Seattle Mariners roster were made of MLBbros in 2020, this could be one of the more amazing diversity achievements by an MLB team in decades.