On Monday evening, the Chicago White Sox announced that prospect Dane Dunning underwent Tommy John surgery. The surgery was performed by Dr. James Andrews following Dunning being sidelined for weeks with forearm discomfort. It is just another loss to a prospect that has dampened a promising rebuild.
When general manager Rick Hahn began the team’s rebuild in December of 2016, his ability to acquire a large amount of minor league talent whether through trades or the draft, brought excitement back to the White Sox. Now with the start of the 2019 season less than two weeks away, the team has suffered another significant injury to the rebuild.
Dunning will mark the third prominent White Sox pitcher who will require Tommy John surgery since 2017. Relief pitcher Zack Burdi required the surgery in 2017 costing him a chance to play in the majors in 2018.
Starting pitcher Michael Kopech was the team’s best pitching prospect and was called up late in the season. Kopech started for games before he was sidelined with a tear in his arm requiring the surgery that will keep him out until 2020.
Dunning was the team’s second most anticipated pitching prospect behind Dylan Cease this season. Cease is expected to be called up mid-way through the season while Dunning was given an outside chance to be called up this year, but for certain next year.
Injuries have had a heavy toll on the White Sox minor league system as 2017 first round pick Jake Burger missed all of last season with a torn Achilles. Pitcher Alec Hansen frightfully regressed through 2017 as many believed he would make it to the majors before both Kopech and Cease.
The extensive injuries have been excruciating for all involved with the White Sox organization from the front office to the fans. Hahn and management must wait for these injuries to heal before determining if the players will develop into the players they projected them to become. For the fans, it another year of waiting to see promising talent at the major league level that could possibly lead the team back to contention.
The Dunning injury comes at the worst time following the free agent debacle and many still waiting for the team’s top prospect Eloy Jimenez’s promotion to the majors. The excitement for rebuilds begins with the promotion of young talent in waves. In 2017, Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito, and Reylando Lopez sparked hope late in the year with their call-ups. Last season, Kopech did the same before his injury as each start was appointment television. This season it will be both Jimenez and Cease.
All that momentum will be extinguished as following Cease and Jimenez, there will be a gap in the callups. Fans will have to wait until 2020 to see Kopech and probably 2021 at the earlier to see Dunning. Injuries are costly because they delay development and delay a team’s ability to start competing again.