Joe Gunkel joined the Miami Marlins off waivers from the Los Angeles Dodgers. He’s now just one step away from a major league debut.
Throughout the 2018/2019 offseason, Marlin Maniac will devote one article each for every player who appeared in the Miami Marlins system for the 2018 season. Every. Single. Player. This is Part 180 of 286. For the first 100, click here.
Joseph Dillon Gunkel is a 6’5″, 225 lb. right-handed pitcher from Boynton Beach, Florida. Five players have come out of Boynton, including Marlon Byrd and Rick Rhoden. Gunkel was born on December 30th, 1991, and was a starting pitcher for West Chester University in college. In three seasons of Division II play for the Golden Rams, he was 21-7 with a 2.65 ERA, along with 165 K’s in 213 2/3 innings. He was also the winning pitcher of record in the DII National Championship Game in 2012, shutting out Delta State, 9-0.
The Boston Red Sox made Gunkel a 18th round selection in the MLB Amateur Draft of 2013. Chosen with the 533rd overall pick, Gunkel could be the seventh player selected at that spot to make the majors. Chiefly amongst the “533 Club” are Mark Trumbo (2004, Anaheim Angels, 9.5 career WAR) and Gary Alexander (1971, Montreal Expos, 0.6 WAR).
After signing with the Red Sox, Gunkel got into 15 games in relief in their farm system, 14 of them for the short-season-A Lowell Spinners, in the New York-Penn League. He was 3-0 with five saves, a 1.29 ERA and 33 K’s in 21 innings. That’s a 14.14 K/9 rate to go along with a 0.52 WHIP. You can follow Gunkel on Twitter @Joe_Gunkel.
In 2014, Gunkel split his season between the Greenville Drive in the single-A South Atlantic League and the Salem Red Sox in the high-A Carolina League. Again, he was impressive, striking out 101 in 103 2/3 innings with a 1.08 WHIP.
Gunkel struck out another 44 batters in 40 innings between Salem and the double-A Portland Sea Dogs in the Eastern League in 2015. On June 4th, the Red Sox traded him to the Baltimore Orioles for Alejandro De Aza. After joining the Bowie Baysox in the EL, he went 8-4 with a 2.59 ERA over 17 starts. He only struck out 69 in 104 innings, but posted a solid 0.96 WHIP by inducing mostly weak contact.
Gunkel started 28 more games for the Orioles system in 2016, four for the Baysox and 24 for the triple-A Norfolk Tides in the International League. He was 8-14 with a 4.02 ERA after starting the season as their 23rd overall prospect. In the beginning of the 2017 season, the Orioles traded Gunkel to the Los Angeles Dodgers for a player to be named later. After three appearances with the Oklahoma City Dodgers, the Miami Marlins picked him off waivers.
Gunkel joined the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp in the double-A Southern League, and appeared in 24 games, including 21 starts. He put up a 6-10 record and a 4.92 ERA with 69 K’s in 115 innings, with a 1.31 WHIP.
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Aside from a six-week disabled list stop, and the accompanying rehab assignment to the GCL Marlins, Gunkel played with Miami’s triple-A New Orleans Baby Cakes in the Pacific Coast League in 2018. He played in 22 games, starting six times, and striking out 49 in 65 innings. His WHIP dropped to a very respectable 1.07 playing in a league just below baseball’s top level. He was at his best on August 26th, when he struck out four in two innings of scoreless one-hit ball in a 3-2 loss to the Round Rock Express.
Gunkel is still currently rostered with the Baby Cakes, and will have as much a shot as anyone to make the Miami Marlins Opening Day Roster. He probably won’t join the rotation, but could fill a nice role as a middle reliever.
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