In 2007, P.J. Dean
was a fresh-faced kid just out of high school that didn't quite know what to expect as he ventured into the world of professional baseball. As a 7th round pick in the 2007 Draft, Dean headed for the Gulf Coast League and put up decent numbers in nine games for the GCL Nationals.
The Nats saw enough progress in him to move him along to the New York-Penn League in 2008 and he rewarded them with a strong season for Vermont, going 4-1 with a 1.57 ERA in 10 starts for the Lake Monsters. Those numbers, and his developing array of pitches, were good enough to put him at number ten on Baseball America's list of the Top 20 Prospects in the New York - Penn League for 2008.
Perhaps the most encouraging part of Dean's venture into the NYPL was the added velocity on his fastball. Out of high school, Dean was hitting around 90 on most of his pitches and had sporadic movement. This past season though, he picked up a couple of miles per hour on the fastball and his movement is still not where it will need to be, but it has certainly started to develop. In fact, by the time he finishes developing physically and tweaking his mechanics, he could have a mid-90s fastball with at least decent movement. The challenge for 2009 will be to work on keeping his fastball down in the zone, because although he only allowed two home runs in 46 innings - both of which came in his final start of the season - better hitters will take advantage of those fastballs up in the zone and his home run numbers could jump dramatically.
For Dean to succeed, he'll need more than some adjustments on his fastball and location. His secondary pitches aren't anything that will dazzle better hitters, but he has a good change-up that could be made into a good compliment to the fastball if he can hide the pitch better. He tends to change arm speed enough that good hitters will recognize when the change-up is coming and be able to adjust. Again, locating the change-up is going to also be a priority, but all the makings are there for the pitch to become a good secondary pitch for him.
Then, there's his curve, which has decent movement, but hangs a little too often. It's a good, hard curve that may need to be refined a little to get more movement through the zone.
All in all, 2008 was an impressive season for Dean who would have held his ERA under 1.00 if not for a rough outing to finish up the season. While he got the win against Hudson Valley, the outing was one of just two outings where Dean allowed more than one run.
With work on his location, Dean can improve on his strikeout ratio - 34 Ks in 46 innings - and become more of a groundball pitcher able to get better hitters out. At just 19, he was generally facing more advanced hitters and still put up strong numbers. With continued development, Dean will become a strong contender to keep moving steadily up the prospect list and the organizational ladder.
Sometimes, high school right-handers don't get a lot of attention, unless they're a first round pick. P.J. Dean is getting more and more attention after two solid seasons in the Nationals organization.
P.J. Dean showed himself to be a true prospect after a strong New York-Penn League season.