As we continue our tour of the top prospects across the Chicago baseball landscape this afternoon, we look at the Chicago White Sox #10 prospect, Dane Dunning.
Drafted 29th overall in the 2016 MLB Draft out of the University of Florida, the Washington Nationals were hoping that the 22 year-old right-hander would be a solid pitcher for the future. However, this offseason, they realized their window of opportunity was now, and so the White Sox got Dunning to come over with 2 elite pitching prospects, Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito. Although Dunning is a much lower caliber pitcher than those two, he is fresh out of college and has time to develop. MLB Pipeline rates him as a 50 (average) overall prospect.
In 2016 after being drafted, Dunning pitched to a 3-2 record with a 2.02 ERA over the course of eight stars in the Washington Nationals minor league system. Dunning allowed only eight earned runs over a span of 35.2 innings pitched, and struck out 32 hitters while walking only seven. Dunning was also able to keep the ball in the park, allowing only one home run during his first professional season in the Nationals farm system.
With limited action in the minors, the best we can do is analyze Dunning’s features and his time in Gainesville. He possesses a solid, sharply moving fastball that sits in the low 90s, but tops out around 95 mph. However, the rest of Dunning’s pitches are around average. His changeup has the chance to be above average, but his slider isn’t particularly good. Dunning’s accuracy is mediocre, but his overall control is stellar.
Dunning pitched decently as a key part of the Gator rotation his first two years, but he really turned it on his junior (most recent) year. In 2016, Dunning pitched 78.2 innings (five games started), finishing with an excellent 2.29 ERA, .235 batting average allowed, and 88 K.
However, that points to a potential issue of his- he thrived in bullpen roles, but never established himself as a quality starter. With development, he could become a back-of-the-rotation guy, but it’s a long shot, considering the White Sox’ plethora of pitching prospects.
In 35.2 IP, Dunning performed to a 2.02 ERA, .925 WHIP, and 32 K stat line. Although in low A-ball leagues, it’s encouraging to see him throw well against other talented prospects.
Looking ahead to his future with the White Sox, Dunning should spend at least a couple seasons improving. The hurler will likely spend most of 2017 with the White Sox lowest minor league affiliates: rookie ball Great Falls, Single-A Kannapolis, and advanced A-ball Winston-Salem. Then in 2018, he should jump to Double-A Birmingham and then Triple-A Charlotte.
2018 will likely be the make-or-break campaign for Dunning, as the White Sox will begin to contend and start eyeing their experienced prospects to bolster their team. If he performs well, he has a good shot to start with the team in 2019, or catch on later. However, it won’t be easy if his pitching counterparts pan out and earn spots with the White Sox. If that’s the case, the White Sox could possibly trade Dunning for a veteran hitter for a small lineup upgrade. Either way, the White Sox will greatly benefit if Dunning reaches his ceiling, giving them excellent depth.