Mets: David Peterson, Justin Dunn having very different rookie years

BOSTON, MA - JULY 28: David Peterson #77 of the New York Mets pitches in the first inning of a game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on July 28, 2020 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - JULY 28: David Peterson #77 of the New York Mets pitches in the first inning of a game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on July 28, 2020 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images) /

Two former first-round picks of the New York Mets are moving in opposite directions so far during the 2020 regular season.

At one point back at the beginning of 2018 the New York Mets possessed two pitchers who were taken in back-to-back years in the first round of the MLB Draft. Both of these pitchers were deemed to be part of the future core. Those two pitchers were right-handed pitcher Justin Dunn who was drafted out of Boston College in the first round back in 2016, and left-hander David Peterson who was drafted out of the University of Oregon in 2017.

Dunn had been ranked heading into the 2018 season as the Mets second-ranked prospect by, with Peterson sliding in right behind him in as the third-ranked prospect in the Mets system.

By the end of 2018, Dunn would be included in an offseason blockbuster deal to the Seattle Mariners with fellow top prospect Jarred Kelenic, as well as outfielder Jay Bruce, reliever Anthony Swarzak, and reliever Gerson Bautista for second baseman Robinson Cano and closer Edwin Diaz. Both Dunn and Kelenic were the most important pieces in the deal back to Seattle and now are considered part of Seattle’s future core.

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Many Mets fans at the time were and still are disgruntled with the trade. Fans (including myself) believed both Dunn and the recently drafted Kelenic, were too much of a price to pay for both Cano and Diaz.

After the trade, the spotlight in the Mets system was put solely on the hulking southpaw David Peterson.

Peterson was elevated in the Minor League ranking system but it was rightfully deserved. Many in the organization were excited about the prospects of the former Oregon Duck by his no-nonsense approach on the mound as evident by him averaging only 2.5 walks-per-nine innings since debuting in the minors and ranking among Minor League leaders in ground-ball rate.

The race was now on for both pitchers to make their highly anticipated Major League debuts. Dunn would be the first and make his debut last season with the Seattle Mariners on September 10, 2019. He would go on to allow two runs over 2/3 of an inning in his first big league appearance. Dunn would ultimately make four appearances and pitch to a 2.70 ERA over 6.2 innings during the 2019 season with Seattle.

Fast forward to 2020, and things have not gone the way Dunn or the Mariners had envisioned after his end to 2019. Through four starts, the 24-year old right-hander has produced a 7.80 ERA over 15 innings, while producing an ugly 1.80 WHIP. It’s tough to envision Dunn being any more of an upgrade to the Mets current rotation which is struggling for bodies.

Dunn’s low 90’s fastball which on average tops out around 91 MPH and his lack of a feel for his secondary pitches seems to be why Dunn is getting teed off on at this point in the season. The 24-year old right-hander has struggled with his command, as he has walked nine batters while only striking out five. Dunn was never really known as a hard thrower and struggled to throw strikes in the minors which seemed to be his Achilles heel. At this point in the season, both of those sentiments are still true.

The 24-year old Peterson would make his much-anticipated debut for the Mets on July 28 against the Boston Red Sox, while getting his first Major League win in the process. Peterson went 5.2 innings and only allowed two earned runs while striking out three. Despite the recent shoulder fatigue that landed him on the Injured List, Peterson has had the better overall numbers compared to Dunn and was in the running for National League Rookie of the Year.

In the four overall starts that Peterson has made this season, he has put up a solid 2.91 ERA over 21.2 innings with a stellar 1.15 WHIP. The key for Peterson is to keep the ball on the ground, which he has done at a 43% clip this season.

Peterson also has shown great swing and miss ability. Going way back to his college days back on March 3, 2017, Peterson had set an Oregon University school record with 17 strikeouts, breaking the previous record of 14 held by Tyler Anderson, who is a pitcher with the San Francisco Giants. On April 29, 2017, he broke his own record after recording 20 strikeouts in a complete-game shutout of Arizona State University.

These strikeout numbers translated back to the minors as his strikeouts-per-nine innings rate had jumped from 8.1 to 9.5 across the past two seasons. He currently possesses a 17/8 strikeout to walk ratio in the majors. Peterson’s average fastball and sinker velocity is 93 MPH but his feel for his secondary pitches and being able to mix them in with both the fastball and sinker have helped provide him with the success he has had at the big league level.

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While it’s premature to argue which pitcher will end up with the better career when it is all said and done, there is no doubt that as of today that David Peterson is outperforming Justin Dunn at this point in their young careers.