Andrew Dunlap from Westbury Christian High in Houston is one of the draft’s most fascinating prospects. Read or listen to the interview below to learn about his conversion from catcher to pitcher (and how he recently touched 96 mph), his new training buddy Trevor Bauer and why he won’t be playing for his high school team this spring . . .
Welcome everyone to a Baseball America Q&A. I’m Conor Glassey and joining me on the line is Andrew Dunlap. Andrew, thank you for taking the time. How’s everything going for you?
Oh, it’s going well. I’m just training and working on this pitching thing.
Nice. Well, let’s start off talking about Twitter for a minute. Twitter is how I got in touch with you for this interview. What’s the story behind your Twitter handle, @DunDeuce?
Haha, oh wow, I did not see this one coming. So, my freshman year of getting hazed in high school, I went to an all-guys Catholic high school where they did a little bit of freshman fun stuff. So everyone would throw out all these nicknames based upon my last name, Dunlap. And so I had pretty much Dun-followed by any other word, expletive, anything you can think of. And one that stuck was DunDeuce. I don’t know why, but that’s how that came about.
Nice, so you’re wearing it proud?
I’m wearing it proud, exactly. Another one that stuck was The Lone Ranger, because I would always stretch by myself and get in trouble a little bit, but that’s another story.
Well, it doesn’t look like you’re super into Twitter, like some of these guys who I see are Tweeting 100 times a day.
No. I don’t know. I had one about two years ago and I deleted it because I never used it and then I figured that it’d be good to just get connected again. Although I’m not like a huge social media guy. I mean, I’ll get on it and I like to follow people, but I don’t really have too much to say.
So, you probably didn’t see the Tweet I wrote about you this summer, at PG National?
Oh I actually did see that Tweet. One of my buddies sent it to me over a text message and was like, ‘Hey, you’re infamous.’
Well, tell everybody what happened. You were at PG National in the Metrodome and you thought you hit a home run, but what happened there?
Right. OK, so I actually got jammed a little bit, but I thought I got enough to hit it out in the Metrodome. And so, I don’t know. It wasn’t a conscious decision to start walking out of the box, but it just happened. And then, what also happened, is that the ball did not clear the fence and ended up hitting right below the yellow line. And what also ended up happening was that I looked like a complete idiot when I got thrown out at third after walking halfway to first base.
Now that you’re a pitcher—and we’ll get to that a little bit later—but now that you’re a pitcher, how would you react if someone walked out of the box the way you walked out of the box like that?
Oh, I think they’d get stuck the next at bat. They’d wear it.
One other thing about Twitter is that you’ve been chatting a little back and forth with Trevor Bauer. How did that come about?
Trevor and I met this offseason. Well, we met a long time ago when I caught a bullpen for Scott Kazmir and he was there, but I didn’t really get to know him. I got to know him this offseason working out at the Texas Baseball Ranch. There was a little article in ESPN about it and it’s kind of getting some attention lately. So I’ve been working out there this offseason with Trevor and a few other minor and major leaguers. Trevor and I just kind of got to know each other working out every day or every other day. And we also go to DST—Dynamic Sports Training, Lee Fiocchi’s place and we work out with some other guys like Carl Crawford. He’s the big name and there’s another feature on him, on E:60, so I’ve just gotten to know him this offseason.
So is this offseason your first time at the Texas Baseball Ranch?
No. I’ve been going there for about a year before this offseason. A little over a year, actually. But this was my first offseason as a pitcher at the Texas Baseball Ranch. It’s geared for pitchers, I had just been using it for arm strength as a catcher.
Trevor Bauer’s become infamous for his pregame routine. Are you a guy who’s going out there going pole-to-pole and shaking the javelin and doing all that stuff?
I do that stuff, although I wouldn’t say I’m necessarily infamous for it. I don’t know, I might become infamous for it. I don’t like to draw attention to myself, so I kind of go and do it in the batting cage. And then the longtoss, there’s no way to avoid that, so I would do that before the game. If I were to come out of the bullpen, I would just do some of those weighted balls. I don’t know if he’s gotten attention for that, but I would do that in the bullpen and then get ready to go. I’m probably not as much of a story as Trevor is, but that’s all right.
Is that why you were called The Lone Ranger, because you were out there doing that stuff by yourself?
Yeah. While everybody was doing the static stretches, I talked to my coach was like, ‘Hey, I like to stretch this way, is it OK if I do that after we finish stretching?’ And he was all right with it, kind of hesitantly all right with it, so I would do some extra stretching and all the seniors were like, ‘There’s The Lone Ranger, just running free.’
Tell me a little bit more about the weighted balls you mentioned.
We use the weighted balls for this concept called deceleration. You want to maximize the deceleration of our arms. You’ll see guys—I did it when I first started pitching—when they throw, their arm kind of snaps back and hits their leg and then pops back up. The philosophy at the Ranch is that bad deceleration can lead to a lot of soreness, labrum tears, basically everything that you don’t want. Also having good deceleration helps with arm recovery. If I’m going to be a bullpen guy, I want to decelerate my arm properly so I can recover for the next day. Throwing a heavier object kind of emphasizes the drills we do. If a righthander would normally step into his throw with his left leg, we do drills where you step with your right leg and throw the weighted ball and let it slow down by your side, so it emphasizes proper deceleration.
If another pitcher came up to you and asked, ‘What’s the single-most important thing I need to know or need to do to become a better pitcher?’ What would you tell them?
I think it’s different for everybody. If this guy were 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds and athletic and could throw the ball 95 mph then it’d be different than a guy who’s 6-foot-5 and 150 pounds and not athletic and throws 82. I’d tell the guy that needs velocity, let’s look at your mechanics and let’s try and get you as athletic in your throwing as possible and push your explosiveness and try to be more athletic on the mound to push velocity. And with the other guy, you might want to sit down and look at his command—that’s what I’m really focusing on right now—and his offspeed and stuff. And also safety. Everybody needs to be able to throw pain-free. There’s some things that are tell-tale signs of arm pain or your arm’s going to be fatigued or you’re going to have an injury in the future. So, we want to look at that and see if any of those signs are there and then correct them.
You go to a Christian high school and from your Twitter, it seems like you’re interested in studying religion. So I wanted to throw something out there to you: To me, all these different pitching philosophies are a lot like different religions in that everyone believes the one they follow is the one way and everyone else has it wrong, or is misguided or hasn’t been enlightened yet. What do you think of that analogy?
My dad’s been using that analogy for a while. The arguments that occur between the multiple philosophies are a lot like religious arguments. I would agree with that to some extent. There’s obviously some differences in that a lot of guys in throwing have pieces of the puzzle. The guy that I train under, Ron (Wolforth), he doesn’t claim to know everything, he’s just a student of throwing. He’s always picking up pieces from other people, just multiple guys along the way. So, I think that’s where the analogy would fall apart because I don’t think many religions try to take pieces from other religions and learn from them.
Well, whatever you’re doing, it seems to be working for you. A couple weeks ago, at Perfect Game’s indoor showcase, you touched 96 mph. What was your reaction when you heard that?
I was excited. I mean, I wasn’t ecstatic because I had been training and it wasn’t a huge surprise. I had thrown a few bullpens, but I’d only thrown to a radar gun once before that and in that I was 92-95 at Rice University. So, when I hit 96, I knew I was going to be a little more amped up at this thing because of all the scouts. That was my goal, 96. But, on the other hand, I was kind of scared because I’m used to long-tossing beforehand and it was freezing cold outside. I tried to go out there and throw, but my fingers were freezing over. It wasn’t that I didn’t think I was going to be able to throw, it was just new. I hadn’t thrown without long-tossing beforehand in a while, so I didn’t know what to expect.
Obviously everyone knew you had a strong arm, but to get on the mound in early February and pump 96, that’s no joke. Has there been more scouting interest in you since that workout?
Yes. I got a bunch of questionnaires and stuff, but I really didn’t get the kind of personal interest. I’ve been getting a lot deeper interest since then than I did as a catcher. I think guys were interested in my bat and my arm, but I don’t think they saw me catching at a professional level. This pitching workout showed them that I might have a future as a pitcher.
Yeah, it wasn’t too long ago that you were considered more of a catcher. What was it that led to you wanting to focus more on your pitching?
I think it was one instance, really. This fall, I was just messing around in a game. We were playing at Alvin Community College after Jupiter. It was Nov. 10, I feel like. I was playing outfield with the (Houston) Banditos with Ray DeLeon and we just ran out of pitching and Ray was like, ‘Dunalap, you’ve got a strong arm. Get in here and close us out!’ So I got up there in the last inning and just threw the ball as hard as I could and, after the game, Coach (Patrick) Hallmark from Rice came up to me and was like, ‘Dude, you were 93-95. What’s the deal? You need to put the gear away and focus on this.’ So, I think this was the climax of me feeling more and more unsure about my future as a catcher. Once I hit 95 and felt good about it, that kind of just made me make the decision to switch.
I would imagine throwing 95 makes that decision a little easier.
It was an excited decision.
How do you feel that your history as a hitter, and specifically as a catcher, will help you on the mound?
I think it will help me a lot because I can look at people and kind of get a feel for what their weakness might be while hitting, just because I’ve been doing it for a while. Also, I don’t know if I know exactly what pitch to throw, but I have a good feel for pitch calling, so that’s going to help me out a lot. Now, it might cause some controversy, some butting heads with catchers, but that’s neither here nor there.
Obviously the velocity is there, but walk me through your secondary stuff.
I though a fastball, curveball, slider and changeup—just typical stuff. I’ve always had a pretty good, 11-5, sometimes 12-6 curve. People have been telling me to focus on my slider, so I’ve been working a lot recently on my slider and my changeup is just a work in progress. It’s wild, but it’s slow and I throw it with the same arm action. So, if I can get my changeup controlled and a nasty slider, then that’s all I’m going to need.
You’re in an interesting situation with your high school, tell me about that and where will scouts be able to see you pitch this spring?
I don’t think there’s many opportunities to be seen this spring, except for just bullpens. I’m setting up some bullpens with some scouts here in South Texas that want to see me throw. I’m considering throwing in an alternative high school league, the Perfect Game league up in Iowa. (Perfect Game president) Jerry Ford talked to me about that after I threw. But that’s still under consideration. Mostly just bullpens right now and hopefully get some hitters there from Houston.
But a little on my high school situation. In February of 2011, I transferred high schools from Lamar High School to Westbury Christian. I had been on varsity the whole fall and I was placed on JV that fall of 2010 and it wasn’t looking like a good situation. The coach at Westbury Christian, Ricky Watkins, said that I could come and start and play immediately, they needed a catcher. So, that’s what I did. I got a lot of playing time that spring and got a lot better and I was really excited about everything. So that summer going into my senior year, I played well and everything went great, but I didn’t get any (college) offers. I mean, I got a few small offers, but I didn’t want to take them. So, I decided in the early fall of 2011, my senior year, that I wanted another go-around at that summer that I just finished to see if I could find a place to play. I was a young 2012, so I figured my age wouldn’t be a problem in becoming a 2013 grad, so I just decided I was going to postpone my graduation and take another year to develop and get better after that summer. Obviously it’s a little unusual because I wasn’t going to be in school or playing for a team, but I think it’s worked out a lot better than I planned.
What goes into something like that—delaying your graduation like that? What does that process entail?
That was an interesting discussion with my school. I don’t think they quite understood it, but they were really helpful in the end. There was a semester class at the end of senior year—economics—that I just decided not to take. That would seem idiotic to anybody except for me. So, I didn’t take that economics class and therefore I was unable to get my diploma. I worked it out with my high school where I could take that economics class this year and get my diploma when I finish it. I’m currently taking that right now and I’m going to get my diploma in late March or April.
That’s pretty rare. Most people are trying to get out of high school. You’re like the high school version of “Van Wilder!”
Haha, yeah. It wasn’t ideal. It’s not like I love being in high school. But I love baseball and it’s been my dream to play in college. So, I wasn’t going to give it up quite yet.
Did you ever consider going the junior college route or doing something like that?
Actually, I didn’t consider it at the time. After I started getting D-I offers and playing a lot better is when I started to consider the juco route.
Which schools are in the mix for you now? You haven’t committed anywhere yet, right?
No. Well, I was committed to Texas Tech, but I de-committed because I committed there as a catcher and when I started pitching, I literally started pitching and the November signing day came about and I ended up de-committing because I didn’t want to go somewhere where I committed as a catcher, it just wasn’t the right fit. So, right now I’m currently deciding between UNC, Rice and University of San Diego.
Nice. What has been your best baseball memory so far?
I think my best baseball memory was 2011 fall, I played with Marucci Elite for the first time in the Jupiter World Wood Bat underclass. In that tournament, I don’t know, I was just swinging as hard as I could. I only had like four hits out of 19 at-bats, but all four hits were like super clutch. I had like a grand slam that put us ahead in one of the last innings of the playoffs. Then I had a solo home run that put us ahead in the last inning to put us in the playoffs. Then I had a bases-clearing triple that put us ahead as well. I think I had like 10 RBIs in four hits and that was probably the most fun I’ve had playing baseball.
What about in your down time—what do you like to do when you’re not playing baseball?
I’m at a coffee shop right now. I spend a lot of time there at one right by my house that serves really good coffee. I have a lot of odd hobbies like drinking coffee and reading and doing outdoorsy stuff.
That doesn’t sound odd to me, I’m from Seattle!
OK, yeah. I would fit in well there, I guess. Although I love Texas too much. I don’t know, I spend most of my time training for baseball. But apart from that, reading and music and all that good stuff.
What’s your favorite book?
Ooh . . . I don’t know. I would say that The Bible is my favorite book, but it sounds pretty cliche to the Average Joe who hears that. I wish I had an hour to talk to every Average Joe who hears that. But, no, The Bible is my favorite book because I think it tells the story of humanity and its relationship with its creator.
Do you have a favorite baseball player?
Hmm . . . five years ago I would have said Lance Berkman, and it’s not that I don’t like him anymore, he’s still awesome. And then two years ago, I would have said Josh Hamilton, and it’s not like I don’t like him anymore, he’s awesome, but I would say my favorite player is Fernando Rodney. He’s hysterical and when I watch him pitch, he just looks like he’s in a world of his own. He looks like he doesn’t care, but he just gets up there and throws fuzz. He’s my favorite player to watch.
Nice. Anything else you’d like to add before we wrap this up?
Um, no. Thank you for the opportunity to share everything and I look forward to seeing what the future holds.