Dane Dunning isn’t exactly one of the top names that come to mind when assessing the White Sox’ war chest of prospects, but he’s still a big enough name to make tonight’s game against the Detroit Tigers a notable point in the White Sox’ rebuild. He gets the against another high-level prospect, Casey Mize, the no. 1 overall pick from the 2018 draft and the club’s second-highest rated prospect.
Dunning was drafted out of the University of Florida by the Washington Nationals with the 29th overall pick in the 2016 draft and came to Chicago via the trade that sent Adam Eaton to Washington. Though Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo López headlined the deal, Dunning began at the Class A level and slowly worked his way up the system since being acquired in 2016. He’s thrown to a 2.79 ERA in the minors and is rated as the team’s #8 prospect entering the season, according to MLB Pipeline.
Not known as much of a power pitcher, Dunning, 25, sits low-90s with his fastball, but his height of 6’4 gives him plenty of sinking action. He struck out 300 batters in 266 innings during his career in the Minors. At his most recent stop, with Double-A Birmingham in 2018, he had a 2.76 ERA and struck out 69 in 62 innings.f He’s spent this season down at the team’s Schaumburg site and was seen, along with Jimmy Lambert, as an almost sure-thing to get a promotion at some point in the season, either appearing in the rotation or out of the bullpen (On a Gators rotation that featured five future first-round picks, Dunning performed as a shut-down swingman to a 2.29 ERA in 78.2 innings).
Despite the success he enjoyed through the minors, Dunning underwent Tommy John surgery in March of 2019, so it’s been over a year since he pitched in non-exhibition action. Though it may seem like a rush for him to bypass real game action before making his first career start in a season where every game matters almost three times more than usual, desperate times call for desperate measures, and the White Sox, with injuries to two of the five starters listed in their rotation at the beginning of the year, are in desperate times.
The Sox have taken two games of this four-game series against Detroit, putting themselves in third place of the AL Central, still a game-and-a-half back of the Cleveland Indians and in striking distance of the first-place Twins, of whom they are three games behind. It’s unclear how many innings Dunning will get tonight and it’s unclear even how many innings Mize will get. But against a rotation that has been one of baseball’s worst, the White Sox have stepped up to the challenge to make some ground in the division race. A four-game sweep would be huge for their season’s outlooks, and they even have a chance to pick up a few more wins against a struggling Cubs team this upcoming weekend.