Dane Dunning hasn't been a regular part of Florida's rotation since midway through his sophomore season in 2015. That wasn't enough to keep the righty out of the first round of the 2016 MLB Draft, as the Washington Nationals selected the versatile Gators junior with the No. 29 pick of the first round on Thursday night.
Dunning is 5-3 in 2016, with a 2.50 ERA that is fourth on Florida's staff among pitchers with more than 20 innings thrown. He, like fellow first-rounder A.J. Puk, is known as a strikeout artist: Dunning has fanned 164 batters in 152.2 career innings pitched, and has 78 Ks in 68.1 innings in 2016.
Though he has been used primarily as a middle / long reliever for the better part of the last two years after failing to lock down Florida's Sunday starter role as a sophomore, Dunning has found his stride as a junior. He's been especially potent since allowing three runs in just 3.2 innings at LSU in mid-May: In four outings since then, Dunning's allowed just five hits and one run in 7.2 innings of work.
And he's improved considerably on an iffy start to the season in which he gave up at least one run in three of his first four appearances, none longer than 3.2 innings. Since then, Dunning's allowed more than one run just three more times in 25 appearances, one of them a six-inning, 10-strikeout, two-run performance in a midweek game against North Florida.
Dunning has a lively fastball that sits in the low- to mid-90s, and it's substantially ahead of his off-speed repertoire at this point. But he's mostly a reliever right now by dint of Florida's embarrasment of riches in its rotation, and his talent makes him a prospect who could be a starter, while his success as a reliever makes him a pitcher with a high floor.
Dunning is Florida's 18th first-rounder in program history, and the sixth under reportedly Gainesville-rooted coach Kevin O'Sullivan in just nine years. He's also by far the most prominent Gator to be selected by the Nationals, who had previously drafted five Gators, but none before the MLB Draft's 22nd round.