boise hawksLast time on Prospects Progress we looked at Zac Rosscup, one of the most major league ready players in the farm system. This time we’ll swing to the other end of the spectrum and take a look at one of the young outfielders improving at the lowest levels of the farm system. The name is familiar, and while Shawon Dunston Jr. does not play the same position or have the arm that made his father famous, he is a fairly good candidate to accelerate up the system on his own merits.

But first, as always, let’s recap the purpose of the Prospects Progress series. The goal here is not to re-rank the prospects (that comes next year) or to assess the strengths and weaknesses of farm as a whole (that also comes next year). The goal for this series is to take each prospect individually, study the progress made so far, and see what we can learn about the future for that player.

There were some questions about Dunston before the season started, understandable questions given that he came out of the 2011 draft quite highly regarded, but failed to do much of anything as a professional in 2012. This year, though, we have a much clearer picture of the sort of prospect Dunston is and what we can expect from him going forward.

Shawon Dunston, OF
Born: February 5, 1993
Acquired: The Cubs took Dunston in the 11th round of the 2011 draft, but he only fell that far because he was thought to be strongly committed to Vanderbilt. It took a sizable signing bonus for the Cubs to get him into the system.

Season Summary

Let’s start with a disclaimer; Dunston is not a power hitter. Through 223 trip to the plate with Boise this season he managed just 10 extra base hits (8 doubles, one triple, and one home run). At 6’2″ and 170 lbs, though, I doubt Dunston is done adding muscle. His power should develop substantially over the next few years, but at the end of the day slugging is not going to be the primary facet of his game.

As evidenced by his wOBA of .358 and his wRC+ of 121, he had a very good year for Boise, but that lack of power led to an oddly lopsided slash line of .290/.378/.358. With an impressive OBP like .378 it should come as no surprise that Dunston actually walked more times (28) than he struck out (25). That led to a walk rate of 12.6% and a strikeout rate of just 11.2%. Toss in his 12 steals in 14 chances over 49 games and Dunston starts to look like a future leadoff hitter in the making.

Defensively, he’ll be just fine in center.  He has the speed, the arm, and appears to be making good progress in terms of reading the ball and taking the best angle.  I don’t think he’ll quite stack up to the defensive wizardry provided Ha and Almora in that position, but there do not appear to be any major concerns just yet about his glove work.

And yet…

There are some additional oddities in the stats, though. As a hitter that clearly relies on getting on base and using his speed … and he has plenty of speed to use … why did he attempt only 14 steals? And for that matter, why was he not able to stretch more singles into doubles and doubles into triples?

In short, I don’t know. We can see that six of his extra base hits came in June, the first month of Boise’s season, and that half his steals came in August, the last full month, but that doesn’t tell us much. We can also see that he slumped badly in August, but that’s not exactly informative either. Slumps happen, even to legitimate prospects, and even the minors. That’s just baseball.

Digging a bit deeper, his splits are pretty even against left-handed and right-handed pitching. The numbers were overall better against lefties (.786 OPS, 50 PA) as we would expect, but his OBP is actually higher against right handers (.384 vs .360, sample size alert on that .360). That is a good sign going forward. If he can continue to get on base at a prodigious rate as he moves up the system he should have a nice career.

Right now I think the simplest and most likely theory on Dunston reflects back to the writeups on him when he was drafted. Because of his lineage, his signing bonus, and his status as a Vanderbilt signee, he was one of the more thoroughly written about of the Cubs picks that year. Many of those articles described him as “raw”. He was given that description more often than just about anyone in that draft class. The talent was there, no question about that, and scouts loved what they saw from his speed. They thought his swing would produce at least average, maybe above average, power once he fleshed out with some muscle. They liked the baseball knowledge and work ethic. And yet he was consistently referred to as project, a raw talent, a work in progress, even more so than many other high school players.

Through the 2013 season, then, I think that is how we can best evaluate Dunston. He was a guy with some great tools but who still needed to train those tools and amass the baseball in-game experience that would allow him to translate those tools into runs.  Now that he has some of that needed experience under his belt, I suspect we will see just how potent those tools could be.


Two years in short season ball is probably enough. After walking his way to a .378 OBP in the Northwest League this year, I can’t see Dunston returning to that level in 2014. Next year should be the year in which he gets his first taste of a full season league as a member of Kane County. I’m not sure he’ll stay there all year, though. If he turns in another high OBP walk-fest of a performance the Cubs may very well opt to push him to Daytona and try him against the tougher pitching of the Florida State League.

What I will primarily be watching next year are the steals. If Dunston is going to make his living as a top of the order OBP threat, he needs to maximize the damage he can do with his legs on the basepaths. That will probably mean a lower success rate as he becomes more aggressive, and that is just fine, but I would like to see him become more aggressive. On paper he has the potential to swipe 50 to 60 bags a year. Hopefully we can see some more of that projection realized in game next season.

  • jon

    He sucks, just like his dad.

    • Sandberg

      This comment is worthless.

      • EvenBetterNewsV2.0

        Two wrongs don’t make a right.

        • Funn Dave


      • jon

        Dunston play 11 seasons for the Cubs and never put up a WAR higher than 1.8. Today, that’s like giving Darwin Barney the second base job for the next decade.

        The fact that the Cubs thought they were ‘set’ at SS and never looked to upgrade is just another indictment on past regimes and their inability to properly evaluate players.

        • bbmoney

          Which has nothing to do with why the original comment was worthless.

        • Sandberg

          Now this comment is not worthless. :)

  • Die hard

    He is too tall to be great base stealer but he can be above avg in all phases and help Cubs win

    • JeffR

      What is the max height to be a great base stealer? Maybe he could just slouch when he runs.

      • Die hard

        5 ft 10 in max

        • JulioZuleta

          It’s not like Billy Hamilton is 6’0″ or anything…

          • RD

            As well as Ty Cobb, Vince Coleman, Kenny Lofton, and even Jacoby Ellsbury being 6 ft or taller…

            • JeffR

              I always find it hilarious when people doesn’t know the difference between facts and opinions. So someone 5’10 can be a great base stealer, but if they are 5’11 they can’t be?

              Same people who thinks that there is a magical height that you have to be to play 3rd base. Sure it gets more difficult the taller you are, but there isn’t an exact number that makes you incapable of playing it sufficiently.

            • DarthHater

              Five of the top ten career base stealers are over 5-10. Being 50% wrong is way above Die hard’s usual performance, so cut the guy some slack. 😛

  • itzscott

    When it came to plate discipline, as I recall, his father was right up there with Castro in never seeing a pitch he didn’t like to swing at.

    Interesting that the son appears to be quite the opposite.

    Probably got the “patience” gene from his mother.

    • ssckelley

      This was my initial thoughts as well, there is no comparison between Sr and Jr. You get Sr to 2 strikes and all you had to do was throw a ball into the dirt to get him out, and taking a walk was not part of his game. It will be fun to watch his son develop in the minors and hopefully see him in the majors some day.

    • CubsFaninMS

      I recall Shawon Dunston being worse than Soriano about swinging at the trash curveball away in the dirt. Soriano went on hot streaks when he managed to avoid it.

  • Kyle

    A lot of these guys who put up gaudy walk totals in the very low minors find that the bat gets knocked out of their hands and the walks dry up in AA and beyond.

    Dunston definitely has a lot of talent, though, and he’s the kind of prospect that if you have 10 of them, nine might never make it to AA and one might turn into something awesome. Nice to have around.

    • Noah_I

      Yeah, Dunston sounds very Zeke DeVoss like at this time. I’m going to be curious to see how DeVoss does at Double A in 2014. On Dunston’s side, though, Dunston is only 20 and still has some time to add power. Not big time power, but more than he (or DeVoss) has.

      • CubFan Paul


    • Brett

      The best part? He probably wouldn’t even come up in a conversation about the Cubs’ top 10 positional prospects. Deeeeeeeeeep.

      (Not that I’m saying anything about the Cubs’ pitching prospects … )

      • Luke

        He might not crack the Top 40 again.

        Deep is an understatement.

        • On The Farm

          Really, there are at least 40 other guys you are more interested in than Dunston. That is saying something. I realize the further away you get from your top 20 guys get interchangeable, but he seems like he would be a guy in the 34-40 range.

          • Luke

            That’s where he’d likely fall, but that is a crowded arena. Last year after about 25 there were a ton of candidates that were, to some extent, interchangeable.

      • Isaac

        How dare you state that our system is incredibly deep in pitching…oh that’s right, you didn’t.

      • Kyle

        I don’t think he’d make most teams’ top-10 positional prospects. Some, probably, but most? I wanna be pretty iffy on that. I can’t say definitely not though.

        But we are really deeeeeep.

        • When the Music’s Over

          Dunston is a good example of the pre-CBA “overslot” type of player the front office claims would have accelerated the rebuild. Most of these guys are still flyers.

          • Luke

            He’s an example. I’m not so sure he’s a good example. The overslot types were a fairly diverse bunch. It would be tough to come up with one good example that encompasses all of them.

            • When the Music’s Over

              What I mean is that I agree with Kyle in his sentiment that the front office and a lot of people acting as if the change in the CBA totally f*cked the front office and the rebuild is exaggeration. So many of these overslot type of guys weren’t/aren’t very special players. Intriguing to varying levels, sure, but game changers, no.

            • WGNstatic

              I wonder how much longer signing guys to over-slot bonuses was going to be a big advantage.

              The reason that teams like the Red Sox were able to get rich (in terms of prospects) using that strategy is precisely because teams like the Cubs were being cheapskates in the draft. As more and more teams caught on, the benefit to the early adopters would dry up.

              • Kyle

                Dead on. And we were already past the point where the benefits had begun to dry up significantly.

              • Terencemann

                Just to point out, small market teams were doing it, too. It was the group of teams that didn’t want to have to spend money on the draft that pushed the slot rules in place but there also isn’t an owner out there who will complain about spending less money.

        • Isaac

          “Teams’ strong desire to hang onto draft picks is likely greater than any of us have taken into account. Stephen Drew, who is connected to draft pick compensation after rejecting a qualifying offer, represents the only true everyday alternative to Peralta on the open market. The amount for which he signs will be one of the most interesting stories of the offseason from this point forth.” – Steve Adams

          Care to admit you were wrong regarding the current valuation of draft picks, Kyle? This is a trend that isn’t stopping. Teams are going to continue to escalate the value of their draft picks to the point where they are viewed as hugely valuable, similar to the NFL.

          • aaronb

            Lets get past November before we start making sweeping proclamations. Drew just played on a 1 year contract. Hasn’t gotten 1000 at bats over the last 3 years. And just hit .253 in a season where he missed significant time.

            He wasn’t a hot commodity as a free agent last year….He SHOULDN’T be that different this year.

            • Isaac

              This debate had absolutely nothing to do with Stephen Drew, he just happens to be the example used.

          • Kyle

            Don’t believe a word of what teams say in the offseason as reasons.

            Hemming and hawing about giving up a draft pick is a way of trying to drive the prices down on these players, not legitimate concern.

            • Isaac

              Matt Trueblood (Minnesota): Do teams worry too much about draft picks lost when signing premium free agents?

              Jason Parks: Perhaps they don’t worry enough about it.

              …It’s coming. Get on board or shut your eyes.

              • aaronb

                Draft picks are great building blocks to helping your system improve. They shouldn’t however be an impediment to real improvement at the MLB level.

                Josh Donaldson is the only comp pick that has contributed anything at the MLB level for the Cubs. And he was 4 years post trade before that materialized.

      • JulioZuleta

        Yeah I like Dunston, but no way he’d be top 10. Off the top of my head, Baez, Almora, Bryant, Soler, Alcantara, Vogelbach, Amaya, Candelario, Olt, and Villanueva are all significantly ahead of him and I suspect an argument can be made for another 10-15 guys. Good stuff.

        • Funn Dave

          I think the conversation is about whether he’d be a top ten in a *different* organization. Personally, I doubt he would be a top 10 in most systems, but I still think he’s an interesting, write-up-worthy prospect.

        • ssckelley

          Just a few years ago Dunston would have been a top 10 prospect.

          • Kyle


            • MightyBear

              I agree with Kyle on this.

              • Isaac

                I do too….definitely not.

        • cub2014

          these HS prospects (like dungston)
          you never really know what you have
          until they reach AA and are at least
          20 yrs old. Until then you just dont

          Only 1 example but interesting:
          M Cabrera 17yr .259 .338 hr 5 -A
          Candelario 17yr .337 .443 hr 5 RK

          M Cabrera 18yr .268 .328 hr 7 A
          Candelario 18yr .281 .345 hr 6 -A

          M Cabrera 19yr .274 .333 hr 9 +A
          Candelario 19yr .256 .346 hr 11 A

          M Cabrera 20yr .365 .429 hr 10 AA
          Cabrera minors K%- 16 BB%-8
          Candelario minors K%-15 BB%-12

          Candelario is a level behind Cabrera at
          same age. But his numbers look very
          similiar up until this point. We will see
          what he does at AA in his 20-21st year.

          • Kyle

            “Candelario is a level behind Cabrera at
            same age. ”

            That’s *really* important.

            • On The Farm

              It’s really what makes or break the comparison.

              • cub2014

                ya for whatever reason Candelario had
                great numbers in Rookie ball at 17 but unlike
                Cabrera the Cubs left him there the whole
                year? That is why there is a year difference.
                But my point is you never know with these kids
                until they get AA at a young age. Otherwise they
                have progressed at the same speed.

                But I would be as excited about K & BB
                rates as anything.

                • On The Farm

                  Well yeah kind of I mean by Cabrera’s 20 year old season he was dominating AA and played 87 games in the MLB. Candelario could be held back in KC (he probably won’t be), but if they did it wouldn’t even be that crazy if he spent a few more months at A ball.

                  He does have a nice K and BB %s, but being a year behind and knowing that even if Candelario kills it in A+ this season he will still be well behind Cabrera.

                  • cub2014

                    farm, no I agree my point is
                    that Cabrera’s numbers were
                    pretty average until he got to AA.
                    So you dont know what you have
                    until they reach that level and they
                    can obviously even bust after that.

                    The bad part about prospects
                    (Theo knows this) that even if they
                    get to the majors its a year or two
                    usually before they become stars.

                    So if Baez & Alcantera make it up
                    this year its probably 2016 before
                    we even know.

                    So the frustrating part is if we arent
                    going to improve the team now we
                    wont even know what we have until
                    2016. I cant imagine that is the plan,
                    I hope it’s not.

      • Jeff

        One thing that never comes up in conversation amongst baseball executives about the Chicago Cubs top prospects is “pitching prospects”

        Manure is also another thing measure with the term deeeep. lol

        Brett, have you heard anything more about Arizona’s interest in Samardjiza?

        I like some of the pieces they could send our way, like Bradley, Skaggs and Trahan.

        Any word on a bigger deal with say, Schierholtz and another player to get more back our way? I’m sure Bradley is the sticking point for them.

    • CubFan Paul

      “guys who put up gaudy walk totals in the very low minors find that the bat gets knocked out of their hands and the walks dry up in AA and beyond”

      I’ll be watching Zeke Devoss this year to see if he bucks the trend

    • On The Farm

      Agreed, I am not overly excited about Dunston (although I will want to give him a look when he comes through on the KC squad). He looks like he could be a useful major leaguer, but has a lot of work to put in to get there.

  • Rebuilding

    If we could combine the son’s plate discipline with the Dad’s other tools we might have something. Kyle said it best – doubtful he does anything at AA in his career, but possible something clicks and he becomes a true prospect. The kind of guys you lke to get in the 11th round

  • Aaron

    Flamethrower Marcus Stroman has the ability to be a shut-down closer. Here are his 2013 stats: (111.2 IP, 129 K, 27 BB, 99 H, 3.30 ERA at Double-A). I would like to see him part of any trade with the Blue Jays for SHARK. I believe the FO sees the value here as well. However, the Blue Jays will need to add some more into the trade than just this 1 player. If Toronto add in Aaron Sanchez, this is a done deal for me.

    • Mick

      Who is this in reply too?

      Reports are that Stroman is working on a cutter as his 3rd pitch which should keep him in the rotation. I think it’s too soon to push this guy into the bullpen especially since he’s been injury free and his delivery is silky smooth.

      I really like where these Shark rumors are going though and shout out to Assman22 for dropping the inside scoop on us last night.

      • On The Farm

        Thanks for bringing up the conversation from last night. I missed it so seeing that conversation most definitely made my Tuesday better.

      • Funn Dave

        I don’t think he’s responding to anyone. You can’t have replies unless there are initial comments to which to reply.

  • Senor Cub

    Time to bust out the…. Shawn-O-Meter!

    Ahh..the good ole times!

    • jon

      I would hope a Shawn-O-Meter today would include OBP

  • Senor Cub


    • Senor Cub

      Sorry that was supposed to be a Shawon-O-Meter URL…Sorry, sorry, sorry!

      • Cubbie Blues


        • Funn Dave

          Good find.

        • Senor Cub

          That really does bring back some good memories.

  • Spriggs

    Since Dunston Jr bats left handed, I am very surprised that his overall numbers are better against lefties.

    I’ve seen Dunston play a lot over the last two years and have seen flashes of his power. I think we’ll see that develop as he adds muscle and weight. His defense in the OF is excellent and his arm is good. I love his work ethic. He was crushed to be left behind in AZ last year, but he never pouted.

    I was very pleasantly surprised with his OB and walk rates this year, but will be even more surprised if that continues as he moves up.

  • Funn Dave

    I like this “season summary,” “and yet,” “prognosis” format.

  • JM

    Other than the OBP, citing impressive speed makes him sound a great deal like Campana. Now where are all those people that disregard the stolen base?

  • Patrick W.

    I don’t know about his arm, but in a sample size of one: I was in Hillsboro OR when the Hawks took on the Hops this season, sitting in the front row down the third base line. With one out and a runner on third for the Hops, Dunston fielded a fly ball in Left field, about 250 feet from home. The runner tagged and as Dunston let rip his throw the runner retreated to the base. The ball ended up about 30 feet up the 1st base line, caught by the catcher on the fly at about head level. Not an accurate throw, but the crowd murmured “wow”.

  • The Dude Abides

    Bourn on a good day, more than likely hang around the minors a year or two longer than he should because of his name. I guess we’ll know how it turns out in about five years.

  • Fastball

    He is the equivalent of a college sophomore. H3 has some filling out to do. If the kids are all going to be evaluated like this. Might as well start sending them all home now. I would say 6’2″ is the height damned near ever scout in baseball is hoping for in a kid. Been to show cases everywhere in this country. 6’2″ speed an arm and they can teach him everything else. Ya I would just shoot Dunston now. Not worth the training bill. Okay this kid will be 200 lbs and still fast. 2016 he wilk be at AAA or close.

  • baseballet

    Looking forward to the Shawon-O-Meter Jr.!

  • Rizzomaniac

    If campana could take a walk the dunston does he would be a very valuable player. Unfortunately he does not.

  • cub1

    I’m impressed by the fact he had more walks than strikeouts. That is very difficult to do. It shows an advanced approach and great bat control.