A name to file away — Joe Dunigan

It’s a long way from Class A to the Major Leagues, but after the way outfielder Joe Dunigan performed in the Arizona Fall League, I would not be at all surprised if he reaches the big leagues much sooner than you might think.

I just returned from a couple of days in Peoria to watch and talk to the seven Mariners’ prospects who played for the West Division champion Javelinas and came away with a strong impression of the 22-year-old outfielder from Chicago.

Dunigan, selected in the fifth round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, was one of 55 players in the AFL this year that never played higher than Class A, and he shined big-time.

The left-handed hitter batted .280 with three home runs and 14 RBIs in 75 at-bats, finishing among the team leaders in home runs and RBIs. Javelinas manager Kevin Bradshaw, a skipper in the Tigers organization, said Dunigan was the most improved player on his team, which will play for the AFL title on Saturday in Scottsdale.

Oh, Dunigan still has plenty of work to do before he’s MLB-ready — he made six errors in 22 games — but he seems to have a bright future.

Dunigan had a breakout season at Class-A High Desert last season, batting .294 with 30 home runs and 104 RBIs. He, Alex Liddi (.345, 23 home runs, 104 RBIs) and Carlos Peguero (.271, 31, 98) were the offensive stars on a team that went 83-57.

Dunigan said competing against older players, many with Triple-A and even some Major League experience, was a great experience.

“I don’t think the mechanics of my swing are any better, but my approach is much better,” he said. “What I have learned more than anything is the importance of the neck up. I go up there with a better approach, knowing that the pitchers are not going to throw a first-pitch ‘cookie’ down the middle just to get ahead in the count.”

I also talked to pitcher Josh Fields, who had a terrific AFL season. A story on him will be posted on the Mariners’ website later today and on Sunday, there will be a story on Bradshaw’s take on the seven Seattle prospects that played in the highly-regarded development league.

— Jim Street

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