Between Justin Dunn and Evan White, which Mariners player faces more pressure in 2021?

Mar 21, 2021, 12:47 PM
Mariners 1B Evan White...
Mariners 1B Evan White struggled at the plate during his rookie season in 2020. (Getty)

The Mariners have a lot of young players set to see plenty of playing time in the 2021 season, but two guys who appear to be under more pressure than the rest of their young teammates are Justin Dunn and Evan White.

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Dunn, who the Mariners acquired ahead of the 2019 season in a trade with the New York Mets, made his MLB debut at the end of 2019 and then was a full-time member of Seattle’s starting rotation last season.

White, meanwhile, was the Mariners’ first-round pick in the 2017 MLB Draft and he made his MLB debut on opening day last season and was Seattle’s starting first baseman for the whole season after signing a long-term deal during the 2020 offseason.

Despite seeing plenty of playing time last season and having some great moments, both Dunn and White struggled overall.

Dunn went 4-1 with a 4.34 ERA in 45.2 innings, but he only struck out 38 batters while walking 31. Dunn also allowed 10 home runs, gave up a lot of hard contact, struggled to throw strikes and miss bats, and his velocity was in the low 90s all season long while his breaking balls and changeup weren’t that great.

White, meanwhile, won a Gold Glove in the field, but at the plate, he slashed .176/.252/.346. He did hit eight home runs and hit the ball hard, but he struggled overall to make contact and he struck out in more than 40% of his plate appearances.

Top Mariners brass have said that Dunn’s velocity is up and he reshaped his body this offseason, and he figures to make Seattle’s six-man starting rotation. White also is expected to once again be the Mariners’ starting first baseman.

But between the two youngsters, who’s under more pressure during the 2021 season? Jake Heaps and Stacy Rost of 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jake and Stacy shared their thoughts on Friday.

Rost thinks White far and away is under more pressure this season.

“They’ve already invested in Evan White,” Rost said, referencing White’s contract extension. “Evan White is someone they are banking on for the future. Justin Dunn would be great, but I don’t think they see – unless I’m mistaken – I don’t think they see his ceiling as ‘this (could be) our ace.’ I see it as ‘this could be a pretty reliable part of our rotation,’ and you really want it to work out.”

Rost added that because it’s apparent that White is seen as a franchise cornerstone, he faces more pressure because he’s someone the Mariners want to build around.

Heaps said there’s a strong case to be made for both Dunn and White, depending on the “interpretation” of pressure.

“If you’re talking about the Mariners and the commitment they made to one of these players? Without a doubt it’s Evan White,” he said. “But for the players themselves, Evan White isn’t going anywhere after this year. Evan White will continue to be the first baseman after this year. Justin Dunn is the player who has to prove he can be in the starting rotation.”

The Mariners have a lot of talented young pitchers in the farm system since the team used their first-round pick each of the last three seasons on college starting pitchers. That could soon impact his role at the MLB level.

“Justin Dunn, he’s fighting maybe becoming a long reliever (instead of) being in the starting rotation,” Heaps said. “As an individual, their career arc, their trajectory, who will be most impacted by this year? I think it will be Justin Dunn.”

Listen to the full discussion at this link or in the player below.

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Between Justin Dunn and Evan White, which Mariners player faces more pressure in 2021?