Shawn Dubin (Photo from MiLB website)

This week’s player scouting report is a pitcher I’ve had my eye on for a couple of years now. And even though he was ranked among the Astros’ top 10 prospects to begin the season, it feels as though what he’s accomplished during his time in the organization always seems to get overshadowed by flashier prospects.

I think it’s time to change that. So here’s my breakdown on someone I feel is one of the Space Cowboys’ most underrated relief arms, Shawn Dubin.

Initial overview

As mentioned in our feature story on Dubin last season, the 26-year-old started his college career at Erie Community College in New York after taking a year off from the sport after high school. He then transferred to the University of Buffalo for the 2016 and 2017 seasons, when he posted a 5.50 ERA in 129.1 innings.

But after the school shuttered their baseball program, he wound up at NAIA Georgetown College in Kentucky in 2018, where he had a 2.09 ERA while amassing 128 strikeouts in 94.2 innings and was named an NAIA All-American. That was enough to catch the eye of the Astros, who took Dubin in the 13th round of the 2018 draft.

He had a career 3.70 ERA and an 11.9 K/9 mark in 189.2 pro innings entering the 2022 season, which he also began as the organization’s No. 7 overall prospect according to MLB Pipeline. This season, he has punched out 48 batters in 31 innings – a rate of 13.9 K/9.

Landan’s lowdown

Dubin has worked as both a starter and reliever at all stops in his pro career, and has largely been more effective as a reliever (3.33 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 13.1 K/9 in 73 IP) than a starter (4.58 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 11.8 K/9 in 147.1 IP). That has continued this season, as he sports a 1.84 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in six relief appearances (14.1 IP) as opposed to a 11.57 ERA and 2.33 WHIP in five starts (16.1 IP).

The discrepancy there could be due to any number of factors. Dubin’s frame is a little on the slight side at 6-foot-1 and 171 pounds, and numerous publicly available scouting reports have cited his high-effort delivery – which can decrease a pitcher's durability – as a detractor. It could also be that as a starter, pitchers need to be wary of how to attack hitters (in theory) a second or third time through the order, thus a more calculating approach is needed. Simply put, they can’t just “let it eat” and go all out.

Both of those reasons could inherently be why Dubin has struggled a bit more as a starter. He told me last season that he had added a cutter and curveball to his arsenal – one that already contained a mid-90s fastball and wipeout slider. However, the effectiveness of said pitches appears to be tied to Dubin’s ability to just go out and throw them without having to worry about conserving energy or thinking about a secondary approach for another potential matchup later on.

It’s an interesting conundrum. The very thing that makes him so effective as a reliever, is what might make him susceptible to those struggles as a starter. Which is why it’s probably most prudent for the Astros to develop him as a reliever for the time being.

All of that said – I don’t hear his name spoken very much when talking about near-ready pitching prospects. Much of the talk is (rightfully) on top-ranked prospect Hunter Brown, who has nothing left to prove in the minors at this point. But beyond that, most talk that I’ve heard seems focused on No. 5 prospect Forrest Whitley (who hasn’t pitched since 2019) or No. 6 prospect Peter Solomon (6.20 ERA, 1.52 WHIP in 12 outings with Sugar Land this season) – but not Dubin, who has largely outperformed the rest.

For reference – Brown has a career 12.2 K/9 and 31.8 percent strikeout rate in 180 minor league innings; Dubin (counting this season) is at 12.2 K/9 and a 32.5 percent strikeout rate in 220.2 innings with a lower walk rate. Strictly as a reliever, he is at 13.1 K/9 and a 34.9 percent rate.

It’s not a perfect comparison given that Brown is primarily a starter and several years younger, but it serves as a nice starting point for just how lethal Dubin has been as a reliever. So it baffles me a little bit that he doesn’t get more love.


Dubin is a bit on the older side for a prospect, as he will turn 27 this September – but that doesn’t mean his exploits should be discounted. And if the Astros organization’s track record is any indication, he certainly hasn’t been. As such, I think there’s a very real possibility of a September call-up and a decent shot for Dubin to break camp with the Astros next season.

The Astros have become especially adept at finding diamonds in the rough that have been key to their success since 2015 – especially on the mound. And I think Dubin has a very real shot to be the next one, so don’t be surprised if he’s contributing to their next playoff run in the near future. And though he has worked as both a starter and reliever, his most immediate contribution would be in the bullpen due to the factors mentioned above.

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