During a breakout 2023 season for the Chattanooga Lookouts, speedy center fielder Blake Dunn has made a case for being the minor league player of the year in the Cincinnati Reds’ system.
If that happens, it won’t be the first time the 24-year-old Michigan native’s sports skills have been recognized.
Long before he made his mark in the Double-A Southern League, Dunn was an all-state athlete in four sports at Saugatuck High School, located just northwest of Kalamazoo on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan.
With 16 varsity letters by the end of his prep career for the Trailblazers in 2017, Dunn could put on a show in any form of competition.
While playing for the football team coached by his father, Dunn scored 153 varsity touchdowns (101 rushing, 40 passing, six kick returns, three interception returns, one fumble return, one punt return, one catch) and had 12,025 all-purpose yards. As a free safety, Dunn had 263 tackles and 19 interceptions. He also was the team’s kicker, adding 127 extra points and several field goals.
“I was around sports from the time I was able to walk,” Dunn said. “When I was in elementary school, I would come to my dad’s high school coaching office and do my homework, then head out to the football field. I would be out there hanging with him and all the guys. I quickly loved the competition side of all sports.”
Dunn set the scoring record for the Saugatuck boys’ basketball program with 1,541 career points, including a 51-point game and a junior season in which he averaged nearly 27 per game. His athleticism also translated to the track, where Dunn won six MHSA individual state championships in hurdles, along with being a part of a title-winning relay team.
Still, Dunn’s star was always its brightest on the diamond
He struck out 246 batters in 148 innings as he carried a 1.50 ERA over his first three seasons. Despite tearing his ACL while running track the spring of his senior year, which caused Dunn to miss most of his final baseball season, he still compiled 128 stolen bases, 103 RBIs, 69 extra-base hits (13 home runs) and a .561 batting average for Saugatuck.
“Being an athlete and playing four sports helped me become who I am today,” Dunn said. “Each sport teaches you something different. In football, there are 22 guys who make up a team on offense and defense. Basketball there is only five on the court, and in baseball there are nine. Each sport brought you together and added something different to your personality.”
To no surprise, Dunn starred in his four college seasons at Western Michigan, where he batted .333 with a .430 on-base percentage, 101 runs scored and 50 stolen bases in 135 games.
The Reds selected him in the 15th round of the 2021 MLB draft with the 450th pick overall.
There were setbacks for Dunn in his first two pro seasons — a broken nose in 2021 was followed by a forearm strain and a separated shoulder in 2022 — but a clean bill of health this year has allowed Dunn to take off. The 6-foot, 210-pounder has become one of the hottest minor league prospects in a loaded system that is showing up in the majors, helping the rise of the Reds in the National League Central Division.
The right-handed hitting Dunn has been particularly hard on left-handed pitchers, with a .379 batting average, a 1.213 on-base plus slugging percentage, 13 extra-base hits and seven home runs in 87 at-bats.
In July, he put up numbers even Ted Williams would be proud on his way to being honored as the Reds’ minor league player of the month. Dunn hit a scorching .446 (37-of-83) for the month, which included a five-hit performance, back-to-back four-hit games and four three-hit games, as well as a six-RBI night in a 29-3 win against the Rocket City Trash Pandas. Dunn hit four home runs in July, when he also drove in 24 runs and stole 17 bases.
Dunn arrived in Chattanooga on June 6, having started the season closer to home in Ohio with the High-A Dayton Dragons. Overall with the Lookouts, he is hitting .342 with a .939 on-base plus slugging percentage and 24 stolen bases.
For the year, Dunn is batting .312 with 15 home runs, 61 RBIs, 43 stolen bases and 80 runs scored between two levels. He is hitting .300 for his professional career with 20 home runs, 105 runs scored, 83 RBIs and 68 stolen bases in 496 at-bats to go with a .418 on-base percentage and .894 slugging percentage.
“The best part of this season has been enjoying being able to play,” Dunn said. “I try not to focus too much on numbers, even though I know that’s what people see. I just try to focus on my everyday routine and try to improve my craft every time I am out there. We are all trying to get better and one day help the big league club win a World Series.”
Contact Patrick MacCoon at firstname.lastname@example.org.