Dane Dunning was a first-round pick for the Nationals in 2016. Since then, he has been traded twice.

Once for Chris Sale. Once for Lance Lynn.

That’s some quality talent. That says a lot about what teams think of Dunning. Tommy John surgery derailed him. But finally, a few weeks after the 2020 started, he made his Major League debut. And now, in 2021, he appears to be a Major Leaguer for good.

He just might be the ace of the Rangers staff. Already. After seven Major League starts. 

The challenge is, since he is coming off Tommy John surgery, he averaged just 4.8 innings per start last season. And not because he pitched like Jordan Lyles and was at eight earned runs by then. It was because of an abundance of caution to protect his arm. 

There’s no reason to think that won’t continue. Look at how the Rangers treated Mike Minor when he was here. 

So, the challenge is, the Rangers best pitcher can’t go deep into games. Compound that with the rest of their starters don’t go deep into games because they are buried early, and the Rangers are going to need to rely heavily on its bullpen in 2021. 

That’s never a good thing.

But Dunning missed almost two entire years on the mound. And, because of the pandemic, he didn’t have the opportunity to rehab in minor league games. So, once he was ready, he was tossed into the fire, in the middle of the White Sox playoff chase. 

He won’t have that to worry about with the Rangers. Here, he can just build up his arm, learn, and just pitch.

Dunning is still considered a rookie. 

That’s the state of the Rangers rotation. A rookie will lead them forward. 

It’s a start.