First Impressions: SP Dane Dunning

First Impressions: SP Dane Dunning

Written by: Danny Hacker
Follow him on Twitter: @theGREATdanny94
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After injuries to Carlos Rodon and Reynaldo Lopez, the opt out of Michael Kopech and the inconsistencies of Lucas Giolito, Dylan Cease and Gio Gonzalez, to say pitching has been an issue for the White Sox is an understatement. After two failed bullpen games, the organization finally called up Dane Dunning to start vs the Tigers in a great matchup vs Casey Mize. Dane Dunning was drafted in the 1st round by the Washington Nationals out of University of Florida before being shipped out to the White Sox along with Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez in exchange for Adam Eaton in December of 2016. After a rapid rise in the organization, Dunning had to have Tommy John Surgery in early 2019 and as a result missed all of ’19 and worked his way back in Spring Training and Summer camp. Dunning is my personal favorite pitching prospect in the minors currently and last night, he definitely showed why that is.

The Line: 4.1, 3ER, 3R, 5H, 7K, 1BB on 73 Pitches (1 Home Run) and an overall 36% CSW%

The Pitch Breakdown: 73 Total Pitches (44 for Strikes, 60.2%)

Pitch:Number/%CSW%Avg VeloMax VeloSpin Rate
4 Seam Fastball30 (41%)37%92.2 mph94.2 mph2,199 RPM
Slider21 (29%)33%81.5 mph82.6 mph2,102 RPM
Sinker11 (15%)45%92.0 mph93.5 mph2,066 RPM
Knuckle Curve6 (8%)33%79.4 mph80.7 mph2,354 RPM
Changeup5 (7%)20%86.5 mph87.5 mph1,994 RPM

Dunning’s fastball sat around 92 mph with a spin rate of 2,199 RPM which resulted in a 37% CSW%. The thing about Dunning’s fastball that makes it so impactful despite low 90s velocity is the movement on the pitch and it was on clear display last night of when it’s on and when it’s not. Right off the get go to Goodrum, he threw a rising fastball to get a swing and miss for the first of two strikeouts on the night with the fastball. The other was in the 2nd inning vs Victor Reyes on a high inside fastball that he completely swung through. However the biggest thing the fastball did for Dunning was set everything else up, which is what it always has done (he threw only 41% fastballs last night), as he painted the zone all night with it seen above.

Dunning’s fastball command allowed his secondaries to thrive because he was getting corner strikes all night and the placement was spot on as he mixed them in. However that ultimately is what did him in the 4th and mainly the 5th innings as he lost his fastball command and started throwing everything high, as also seen above in the chart. Once that started happening, hitters began to make more contact as Goodrum hit a fastball for a fly ball, Cabrera lined out on a curveball, Schoop singled on another fastball and then Reyes singled on a sinker. He got out of the 4th but again struggled with fastball command in the 5th and thus he gave up a three run home run and ultimately that’s when he left the game.

As I said above, when Dunning’s fastball command is on, the rest of his stuff plays up incredibly well. He threw 4 secondary pitches last night; a Slider, a Sinker, a Knuckle Curveball and a Changeup.

Dunning’s Slider sat around 81.5 mph and had a spin rate of 2,102 RPM which resulted in a 33% CSW% while his Knuckle Curveball sat around 79.4 mph and had a spin rate of 2,354 RPM which resulted in a 33% CSW%.

His Sinker sat around 92 mph and had a spin rate of 2,066 RPM which resulted in a 45% CSW% while his Changeup sat around 86.5 mph and had a spin rate of 1,994 RPM which resulted in a 20% CSW%.

There’s a bit of discrepancy as to what exactly the rest of Dunning’s five strikeouts were as Savant says all 5 were on Sliders while the broadcast and what I saw looked more like a couple on curveballs and a couple on sliders (which might affect the pitch distribution if that’s an error) but regardless he had Tigers hitters completely on their toes last night with them (he struck out the side in the 3rd on all secondary pitches).

Dunning threw his secondaries with a lot of confidence last night and mixed them all in pretty well (59% of total pitches were secondary pitches while 41% were the fastball) which is definitely something I wanted to see right away out of him as it is how he has gotten to this point so far. The peak of Dunning’s confidence in his secondaries was on a 3-2 count to Jorge Bonifacio with runners on 1st and 3rd and 2 out when instead of throwing a fastball in the zone to ensure he wouldn’t walk him, he threw a curveball that completely dropped out of the zone and got Bonifacio to swing and miss for the final out of the 4th and his seventh strikeout on the day. It was so ballsy but he had that much confidence in them to throw it and that’s what you want to see out of a starting pitcher.

Dunning threw 73 total pitches, of which 44 of them were strikes and resulted in a 60.2% strike%. Dunning’s reputation as a strike thrower and having above average command/control were on full display for most of last night.

As mentioned above, the ability to place the fastball allowed his secondaries to thrive and also hurt him when he started missing up with it and thus is why it’s important for Dunning to maintain that fastball command because he doesn’t have blazing velocity on it (92.1 mph average last night which is normally what he sits at).

The loss of fastball command in the 4th and 5th innings seemed to just be a result of continuing to distance himself away from Tommy John Surgery and should not be a concern moving forward. It was also in the 5th inning that he issued the only walk of the game, a 3-0 fastball inside to Isaac Paredes but otherwise he had stayed out of 3 ball counts pretty consistently all night (that was the only time he had gone 3-0 to a hitter and went to a 3-2 count only 3 other times) so even with losing his fastball command a bit, he still limited the ability to reduce walks.

I’ve been higher than most on Dane Dunning for quite a few years now and overall, this outing showed why it is I have been so high on him. Plus control/command, a fastball with quite a bit of movement on it and a kitchen sink arsenal of secondaries that keep hitters completely at bay and swinging. Dunning’s ceiling is that of a number two starter, in my opinion and definitely can reach it while his floor is that of a #3 starter. Regardless of number, Dunning is definitely in the rotation for the long haul and as he builds up from Tommy John Surgery he should be able to definitely go further into games.

Obviously there’s a chance he could end up in the bullpen if he can’t consistently throw deep outings but I really don’t think that will be an issue at all. This debut was the one I was most excited for of the White Sox rebuild and it definitely did not disappoint.

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