Shawon Dunston, Jr., outfielder, 6-2, 170
Drafted in the 11th Round in 2012
Probable 2014 landing spot: Low-A Kane County
Possible Cubs Comp: Brock Davis, with a bit more pop.
This will be as much on college baseball as pro baseball. Some of this will come as no surprise to many of you. However, I think it all parse together fairly well.
Shawon Dunston's father played for the Cubs, as you surely know. In an entirely different way, he was the second Cubs shortstop I really enjoyed, having missed Ernie Banks playing there. While Don Kessinger was a more technically sound shortstop than the elder Dunston, Shawon Sr. unleashed some cannon throws to first. Some went into the seats behind first base.
As Dunston, Sr. had a lengthy pro career, which is continuing as a coach, money wasn't a problem in the household. Intelligence wasn't either, as the younger had signed to play ball at Vanderbilt University. When players sign to go there for college baseball, the scholarship (though not complete like in football or basketball) is imposing. Had Dunston signed at a less prestigious school, he would have been a much earlier pick. And, likely, had gotten a bit smaller of a bonus.
Was the $1.275 million bonus given to Dunston a bit excessive? To answer that question, two items must be remembered. That was in the last year of the "Wild West" days of bonuses. There were no 'real' limits on bonus offers. Bud Selig could kick, scream, and delay the player's development, but as long as the team followed the rules, they would eventually get him signed. (This changed in 2012.)
The other item is, he was going to an SEC school to start, probably by his sophomore year. There isn't a better baseball conference, and Vanderbilt is upper-crust in the rugged competition. Oftentimes, a collegiate will fill in as a freshman, bat in the lower-end of the order as a sophomore, and represent who he is as a junior. Had Dunston not signed, he would be a junior this season. He would be hitting probably top five of a Top Ten ranked team.
Had the Cubs not signed him, they might have grabbed another relief pitcher along the line for a season.
That is, largely, the difference in signing Dunston or not.
He has obvious pedigree. His defense has been solid, though maybe more in left field than preferred. He has been injured a bit, which couldn't totally be foreseen. I'm a Dunston fan, and he seems like a genuinely nice kid on Twitter. He has baseball ability, though to justify his bonus to most, he'd better have a solid couple of years in the show.
Truth be told, he probably will be a blip or less in the long history of the Cubs franchise. That is enough for cynics to discount him. Which, as per his Twitter commentary, he's heard more than once. On the other hand, if he breaks camp with Kane County, I wouldn't be surprised to see Shawon-O-Meters across Low-A Level cities. I would be amused.
In my take though, the question isn't "Will Dunston make the majors to justify his pick?" It's more, "Was the Cubs willingness in 2011 to start spending money on players like Dunston who might be able to hit and run like center fielders a bit past due?"
To that, I say yes, and would give a broad smile like Shawon's daddy used to when he tripled to right center.