6/7/2014 7:13 P.M. ET
Move to the mound helps Dunatov get drafted by Tribe
By Alec Shirkey / MLB.com
Jordan Dunatov has learned to embrace change. He had to after playing for three different schools over the last three years.
So when the college junior was given the chance to convert from outfielder to pitcher in December, he did not hesitate to seize it. And though he would appear in just six games with the University of Nevada, Reno this season, the right-handed Dunatov still showed enough athleticism and projectable talent for the Indians to justify taking him in the 12th round of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft on Saturday.
The move to the mound worked out better than even Dunatov had hoped.
"I'm ecstatic," he said. "It's a dream come true."
Dunatov's coaches, however, were not surprised by the pick. With all of the raw tools at his disposal to go with his 6-foot-5, 200-pound frame -- a fastball that topped out at 97 mph and a hard slider that sits around 84-86 mph coming just months after he made the transition -- the level of interest he drew from scouts hardly surprised those on the Nevada staff.
"He's a superb athlete," pitching coach Dave Lawn said. "It's a right-handed pitcher professional body. A lot of people came away saying for a guy who's just played around with pitching and never done it full time, he didn't look like a guy trying to learn how to pitch."
Dunatov's career as a hitter began with its own share of promise. He was drafted out of high school by the Pirates, who spent a 14th-round selection on him, but Dunatov opted to sign on with perennial college contender Oregon State. He still stands by the decision.
"I think it was the right move going to college," Dunatov said. "I wasn't ready to go play pro ball. I thought I was. I wanted to. And then things didn't work out the way I expected."
Dunatov struggled as a freshman for the Beavers before transferring to Central Arizona College -- a JUCO program -- where he hit .262 and stole eight bases in 36 games. But the same scouting hype that had enveloped him in high school had since cooled off, and the Majors were no longer calling Dunatov's name.
"I was hoping to go in the Draft last year and that never really worked out for me," he said.
Instead, Nevada would pick up the phone and seek out Dunatov's help. But with talented players already ahead of him on the roster, the young hitter's chances of making his mark looked slim.
And then, as the weather grew colder and fall practice neared its end, the story altered its course. Lawn had Dunatov try his hand at pitching in a scrimmage and found the tall righty could hit 89-91 mph with little coaching or practice.
"So we said, 'Oh boy,'" Lawn said.
Despite his natural gifts, Dunatov still endured his setbacks. Biceps tendinitis in January took him away from pitching for a time. And even after rehabbing, the 21-year-old's appearances on the hill were few and far between, with roles already handed out to the more experienced pitchers at Nevada.
Then, with just eight weeks left in the season, Dunatov saw his moment.
"I finally got in there and got to throw when we were getting blown out by Fresno State. I was up to 94-95 mph, had a hard slider," Dunatov said. "Next day, my head coach [Jay Johnson] said, 'Hey, Jordan, I know you want to play pro ball. You can keep on hitting if you want, but pitching is going to be where your future is.' I said, 'I think so, too.'"
Not long after, it would be Major League scouts saying, "Oh boy."
"Then the buzz started, just non-stop," Lawn said. "'When might he pitch? Can we come see his bullpen?' He's doing a [simulated] game in late April, and there's probably 15-20 scouts here for a [simulated] game on a Monday."
Now a 2014 draftee, Dunatov's interest in signing with the Tribe is no secret. After nearly three years as a transient college outfielder, the big-bodied pitcher out of Scottsdale, Ariz., says he will try his hand at professional baseball after being drafted for a second time.
But the name of the game has always been change for Dunatov, and now he'll have his chance to shine at another spot on the diamond with the Indians.
"I've enjoyed my journey in college, getting to move around, see different places," he said. "I really learned about myself as a player and person."
Alec Shirkey is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.