One year ago, 24-year-old Dane Dunning was poised to compete for a rotation slot with the White Sox. Tommy John surgery happened instead. Now the 25-year-old waits to recover even as baseball waits to start. By the time it does, Dunning might be ready to return to the field. (And now he gets his chance in Texas)
- Born: December 20, 1994
- B/T: Right/Right
- 6’4″, 200-lbs
- Drafted by the Washington Natioinals in the 1st round of the 2016 MLB June Amateur Draft in 2016 out of the University of Florida (Gainesville, FL)
His raw numbers are listed above courtesy of baseball-reference.com. Let’s aggregate by year then focus on the important numbers for minor leaguers:
Before his surgery, Dunning was cruising alone like a metronome. A, A+, AA, it just didn’t matter: he would strike out 28% of the batters he faced, and walked around 7% of them for a K%-BB% of 21% while putting up a nice, if not totally dominant, WHIP.
Then we have that big, blank 2019. So now we wait, knowing that control was not Dunning’s strength, and control is often the last thing to return when a pitching has TJS. In the best case, Dunning will show up in AAA late in 2020, and use that time to hone his control while getting back up to speed. Then, at age 26, in 2021, compete for a spot in the White Sox rotation.
In Class A Advanced, he had the same metronomic WHIP for lefties and righties, though he struck out more righties, and lefties hit him harder. Then in Double-A, the ERA was consistent, but the WHIP against lefties was much worse. Note, only two home runs all year: he’s a ground ball specialist.
In three seasons in the minors, comprising 266 innings, he has given up only 18 home runs, and there they are on the spray chart. Fairly spread out too. I keep using the word “metronome” with Dunning, but that’s who is he, a very steady, even pitcher.
Looking in the BaseballHQ.com Minor League Baseball Analyst book, we see that Dunning has four pitches in his arsenal:
His fastball is not plus in speed, but it sinks (remember the ground balls?), so it’s a plus offering.
So is his slider sitting in the mid-80s. That sinker/slider combination is great, and he can lean on that to get guys out.
His curve and his changeup are lesser pitches, but they are both at least average, and with them in his arsenal he has the tools to be a mid-rotation starter at his peak, and a decent #5 as soon as his health allows and the White Sox have an opening.
- Rotowire: Not on their Top 400.
- BaseballHQ: Not on their Top 100.
- Fangraphs: Not on their Top 120.
- Fantasy Six Pack: #524 on their dynasty list.
- Prospects365: #191 on Ray Butler’s Top 200.
- Imaginary Brick Wall: #332 on the Top 487.
- Fantrax: Not on their Top 250.
He had TJS.
That means he won’t get a real chance at the White Sox rotation until he is at least 26.
Will all his pitches come back to what they were?
Fewer walks would be helpful.
We all like dominant pitchers, but there’s something to be said for filling out your rotation with steady ground ball guys who strike out enough batters to be successful in the big leagues. Dunning, if he comes back the same after his surgery, is just the sort of guy you should want in your team’s rotation. A set-him-and-forget-him kinda guy. A metronome.