With the skillset to be a dominant starting pitcher or shut-down bullpen pitcher, White Sox prospect Dane Dunning is making his way towards the MLB and is expected to be called up before the season ends.
Also a right-handed pitcher along with Giolito and Lopez, Dunning was overlooked in this trade. Many, however, forget Dunning was drafted in the first round by the Nationals in 2016. He was actually drafted in 2013 by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 34th round but elected to attend the University of Florida.
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The former Gator struggled in his freshman and sophomore year, especially his freshman year. In only 24 innings pitched, he posted an ERA of 4.50, but only started one game. He kept the walk numbers down and strikeouts were at 31.
Impressive, but compared to his final year as a junior at Florida, it is considered struggling. In 2016, his junior year, he posted a 2.29 ERA in 78.2 innings pitched. He only walked 12 while striking out 88.
Dunning had a decent sophomore year when he started 14 games of his 16 appearances, but was converted to a reliever similar to his freshman year. He recorded two saves but was clearly dominant. His impressive junior year prompted the Nationals to use the 29th overall pick on him.
He continued his dominance with the Nationals organization posting a 2.02 ERA with two teams in their farm system. The potential he showed must have caught the eye of White Sox general manager Rick Hahn as he was sent to Chicago.
Dunning has yet to show signs of slowing down considering his dominant 2018. He started the year at High-A Winston-Salem posting a 2.59 ERA in 24 innings as a starter. He then earned a promotion to Double-A Birmingham. In 11 games, all started, he posted a 2.76 ERA. However, he struggled greatly getting the ball over the plate allowing 23 walks in 62 innings.
A positive to take out of Dunning’s Double-A season was the fact that he did not give up a home run. A young pitcher that can keep the ball in the park is a good sign. Yes control problems is not ideal in a young pitcher, but it is easier to work on getting the ball over the plate than keeping it in the park. Once Dunning gets the call-up, working with legendary pitching coach Don Cooper will help the 24-year-old.
Dunning was unfortunately shut down in late June because of a moderate elbow sprain. But with his plus-pitch fastball and rapidly developing changeup and slider is paving the way very quickly for him.
Dunning is expected to begin his 2019 with Triple-A Charlotte but is expected to end his season in Chicago, given he continues his dominance and keeps the walk numbers low.
It is hard to see where Dunning will primarily provide his skills, in the rotation or bullpen. With Michael Kopech shut down for all of 2019, Dunning could end his season apart of the rotation. But he will have an uphill battle for the spot in 2020 with the names of Giolito, Lopez, Kopech, Carlos Rodon, Dylan Cease expected to fill out the starting five.
Plus former White Sox ace Chris Sale becomes a free agent after the 2019 season and fans would love for Rick Hahn to pursue him. Despite how unlikely it is for a White Sox and Sale reunion to happen in 2020, it is not impossible.
Though he may not make the rotation in 2020, or maybe even 2019, Dunning is still a fantastic arm to have in the arsenal. And when number 59 in the MLB Top 100 prospects gets called up to the White Sox, the versatile Dunning will be dominant.