Somerset Patriots pitcher Janson Junk continued his breakout 2021 campaign with yet another dominant start on Tuesday night against the Altoona Curve, going six innings while allowing one run on two hits, striking out six batters.
Even for fans who paid close attention to the Yankees farm system, the name Janson Junk was not a familiar one before the 2021 season. Junk was a 22nd round draft pick in 2017, and faced struggles over the past couple of seasons, posting a 5.54 ERA in 2019, where opponents hit .285 against him.
This season has been a different story. Junk’s 1.46 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, and .174 opponent batting average all lead the Double-A Northeast League by a significant margin. Junk was named Northeast League Pitcher of the Month in June by Minor League Baseball.
Janson Junk had yet another great start last night, allowing one run on two hits in six innings of work. On the season he now has a 1.46 ERA with opponents hitting .174 off him. pic.twitter.com/hQtArw1gar
— Eli Fishman (@elijfishman) July 21, 2021
“I put in a lot of work in the year off,” Junk told reporters after the game. He worked on developing a slider, and using his change-up more, while making some major strides on the mental side of the game. “Having the confidence that all my pitches are elite and I could get anyone out helps a lot… just confidence that my stuff is good and I could compete at any level,” he explained. Junk credits the development of his slider as a key factor in his success this season, adding that “It's been my backbone for right handed hitters and to get ahead. I've just been trying to get more strikeouts with that pitch.”
The 25-year old from Seattle, Junk described himself in a press conference earlier this season as a “laid back, positive guy, and I try to bring that positive energy to the field. I try to not get too down, try to not get too high. I try to just stay level-headed, but I always want to be positive… I can bring it with every single pitch, bring the noise, make it a fun game, bring the intensity and every time I go out there I’ll be competing.”
Is Junk Suddenly Prime Trade Bait?
Junk’s success on the mound has led to his name being mentioned in trade rumors as the July 30 MLB Trade Deadline approaches with the Yankees looking to make some moves. More than a dozen scouts were in attendance to watch Junk’s outing on Tuesday.
Junk is eligible for the Rule 5 Draft next offseason, meaning another team would be able to take him from the Yankees if he is not on the 40-man roster, making him prime trade bait for the time being.
“It's in the back of my head,” Junk said when asked about the trade talk. “But I'm here with the Yankees. I still have to go out there and pitch every single day and put my work in. As a player I’m not really worrying about that. I love the Yankees and would love to stay here but anything can happen.”
Eli Fishman is the Minor League Baseball writer for Jersey Sporting News. He has experience writing for sites such as In The Zone and Last Word on Baseball as well as writing for his school paper, The Columbian. Eli is an incoming freshman at Ithaca College and will be majoring in Sports Media.