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South Side Sox Top Prospect No. 6: Dane Dunning

Yes, if you’re counting, it’s now three of the past four blue chips on the list having undergone major surgery in the past year

Third ace: Before his arm injury, Dunning was drafting a cool third behind Michael Kopech and Dylan Cease as future White Sox starter stars.
Kim Contreras/South Side Sox

Dane Dunning
200 pounds
Throws: Right
Age: 24
2018 SSS Top Prospect ranking: 6
SSS rank among all right-handed starting pitchers in the system: 3

Dunning had a successful three-year run with the Florida Gators, beginning as a reliever in his freshman season, transitioning to starter, and finally switching to a swing-man role for his junior season. Why a swingman, instead of an ace? It may have had something to do with the fact that A.J. Puk, Brady Singer, Jackson Kowar, and Alex Faedo (all eventual first-round picks) were in the Gators rotation as well.

Dunning did, however, post his best collegiate marks in his junior season, with a 2.29 ERA and 1.02 WHIP over 77 23 innings. In his 33 outings (five starts), he allowed just 68 hits (.235 OBA) and 12 walks (1.39 BB/9) while striking out 88 (10.20 K/9). Due to those results and obvious potential, the Washington Nationals selected him in the first round (29th overall) of the 2016 MLB Draft.

Dunning pitched well for the Nationals short-season affiliates in 35 23 innings over eight starts, posting a combined 2.02 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, and 32 strikeouts (8.07 K/9) while relinquishing just 26 hits (.198 OBA) and seven walks (1.77 BB/9). Following the season, on December 7, he was traded to the White Sox, along with Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito, for Adam Eaton.

To say Dunning dominated Kannapolis in his four starts there in 2017 was like saying the earth is round. In 24 13 innings for the Intimidators, he posted a microscopic 0.35 ERA, 0.58 WHIP, and 33 strikeouts (11.42 K/9) in 26 innings while allowing just 13 hits (.143 OBA) and two walks (0.69 BB/9). His results with Winston-Salem, while not quite as fantastic, were still top-notch. In 22 starts for the Dash totaling 118 innings, he posted a 3.51 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, and 135 strikeouts (10.30 K/9) while ceding just 114 hits (.250 OBA) and 36 walks (2.75 BB/9).

He started 2018 with Winston-Salem in four starts, before earning an early promotion to Birmingham. In 15 starts covering 86 13 innings for both squads, he posted a nifty 2.71 ERA and 1.19 WHIP. In those innings, he allowed just 77 hits (.235 OBA) and 26 walks (2.71 BB/9) while fanning 100 hitters (10.42 K/9). Unfortunately, Dunning suffered a mild elbow strain in late June and missed the remainder of the year. At the time, no surgery was deemed necessary, as Dunning got a clean bill of health while working out in Arizona last fall.

As evidenced by his low walk numbers throughout college and the minors, he’s got exceptional control, and with the relatively low number of hits allowed for a control pitcher, Dunning has exceptional command as well. His fastball peaks at 95-96 mph, but is extremely effective due to its heavy sinking action. He also features an above-average slider, which grades slightly higher than his improving change. Lefties batted .256 against his offerings in 2018, while righties hit just .221 against him.

Dunning was on track to return to Birmingham, with a likely promotion to Charlotte at some point this season, as of spring training (where Kim’s photo above was taken). However, Dunning continued feeling elbow discomfort, and before he could even begin competitive pitching this spring it was determined he’d need Tommy John surgery, shelving Dunning until 2020.

Take a look!

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