As part of the blockbuster trade that sent Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suárez to the Seattle Mariners, the Cincinnati Reds received pitcher Justin Dunn. The right-hander will no doubt enter the competition for the starting rotation and likely going toe-to-toe with Hunter Greene for that elusive spot on the Opening Day roster.
Dunn suffered a shoulder injury during the middle of the 2021 season and never returned to the mound. That will undoubtedly affect his ability to enter the discussion, but his major league track record will afford him some leniency with the Reds coaching staff.
Newcomer Justin Dunn will get a shot at the Reds rotation.
Justin Dunn was originally taken in the first-round of the 2016 MLB Draft by the New York Mets. Dunn ascended to the No. 3 spot in New York's farm system according to MLB Pipeline, but was then dealt to the Seattle Mariners as part of the trade that sent Robinson Cano to the Mets.
Scouts don't worry about Dunn's stuff. He has a fastball that sits in the mid-90s and a plus-slider that is a true "out pitch". Lack of a third offering and injury concerns may ultimately cause Dunn to wind up in the bullpen, but you have to imagine that the 26-year-old's track record as a starter gives him the opportunity to compete for that fifth spot in the rotation.
Dunn spoke with Mark Sheldon, the Reds beat writer for MLB.com about his injury last season and how he's approaching things during spring training. It sounds like the first thing Dunn needs to do is get healthy.
"It’s been a long process for sure, one that’s hopefully ending soon. I’m just a little behind some of the guys. We’ll take it slow and make sure it’s done really well. I’m itching to play and show what I can do."- Justin Dunn, Reds pitcher
This lingering injury should be a bit concerning, especially considering that the Cincinnati Reds shipped two of their more popular players to the Pacific Northwest in exchange for Dunn, Brandon Williamson, Jake Fraley, and player to be named later.
As it stands now, you have to assume that Luis Castillo, Tyler Mahle, and Vladimir Gutierrez are locks to being part of the Reds rotation. Reiver Sanmartin's impressive performance in two starts last season have to count for something, and being left-handed doesn't hurt either.
With that in mind, the final spot in the Cincinnati starting rotation may come down to Justin Dunn, Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, Riley O'Brien, and Graham Ashcraft. Lodolo threw just 60 innings last season, O'Brien failed miserably in his first MLB start, and Ashcraft has yet to play above Double-A. For my money, it's between Dunn and Greene. May the best man win.