While Lucas Dunn may have been overshadowed by some of his fellow day two Padres draftees last June, the eighth-rounder has performed as well as any of them in his first full season of professional baseball.
Through his first 35 games, the 23-year-old is hitting .330/.462/.549, good for the third-best OPS in the California League. Among qualified hitters in the Padres system, only Esteury Ruiz has outpaced him by any advanced offensive metric. The four year player out of Louisville doesn’t have one standout tool, but gets strong results out of his across-the-board solid skills, advanced approach at the plate, and high baseball IQ.
Throughout college, Dunn played all over the field, and since joining the organization, has added even more to his positional versatility.
Dunn took time to talk with us during the Storm’s last homestand.
What was your focus coming into this season?
Lucas Dunn: Really just simplifying things and being early. Trying to get my foot down at release and be ready.
Mechanically, it seems like you’ve got a pretty simple approach. Has that always been part of your game?
Lucas Dunn: For the most part I’ve tried to keep it simple. I think in years past, I maybe have gotten late, but now I’ve gotten back to where I want to be.
How are you feeling compared to where you were at the end of last season?
Lucas Dunn: Oh, way better. This is probably some of the best hitting I’ve felt in a long time.
Did you do strength camp? What did that extra time with the staff mean for you?
Lucas Dunn: I got to Arizona January 9 and was there the whole time.
It was really good to be around the complex and get to know everyone and get familiar even more with the organization. I took a lot of time on my body. I’m plenty strong and I’ve worked out plenty, but to actually get mobile and get more flexible and tap into some of that strength I’ve built throughout the years has been a big game-changer for me.
How has the work experimenting at catching been coming along?
Lucas Dunn: I’m still catching bullpens. I think maybe coming up soon, we’ll maybe get behind the plate soon. But I’m still working on the other seven positions I play too.
Had you ever caught before?
Lucas Dunn: No, not since I was like 12.
And did they approach you about it during the draft process or after you signed?
Lucas Dunn: Yeah. I went to a workout in Fort Wayne. One of the guys came up to me and asked if I’d go behind the dish, and I said sure!
How much have you worked with catching coordinator Brian Whatley?
Lucas Dunn: All the time. Through instructs, through spring training, we were together all the time. He’s the man. He’s put a lot into me and he really knows his stuff.
What does it mean for you to have that sort of relationship?
Lucas Dunn: Without Wat, I definitely would not be able to do it. He’s very understanding and he’s great at communicating and we work well together.
Since you are working at so many different positions, how do you split up your time to prepare?
Lucas Dunn: For the most part right now, I’m just making sure that wherever I’m going to play that night, I’m prepared for that. But days I have a DH day, I go out in the outfield and shag some and just make sure I’m prepared. Just get everywhere, a little bit of everything.
What do you know about the professional game today that you didn’t at the end of last year?
Lucas Dunn: Probably just the workload. It’s a lot of games, so the legs are definitely a little bit tired, but you just build up that stamina and build your routine and learn how to take care of your body a little better.
If you were filing a development plan for yourself, what’s your top skill and your top area to improve?
Lucas Dunn: Top skill would just be consistency. Just coming to the ballpark every day ready to do my job. Spots to improve, obviously catching. But for me personally, mobility and just tapping into my body more and being able to stay more flexible at the plate.
[…] to the last in the league in home runs (34), and have a .372 SLG. Most of that slugging came from INF Lucas Dunn. The eighth round pick from last year hit .297/.387/.495 in May with 12 extra base hits […]