By Rich Arleo
CBS Local Sports, in our 30 Players 30 Days spring training feature, profiles one young player from each Major League Baseball team leading up to opening day.
2016 season (Majors): 36 G, 14 GS, 109 2/3 IP, 4.02 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 10 W, 104 SO, 42 BB
When the Baltimore Orioles drafted Dylan Bundy No. 4 overall in the 2011 MLB Draft, they thought they were getting their ace of the future. After debuting with the Orioles at 19 years old in ‘12, it looked like that future was right around the corner. The past few years have had some bumps in the road, but while it may have taken longer than many hoped, Bundy’s first extended stint in the bigs went well and he’s ready to prove this season that he belongs atop the rotation for years to come.
In his first professional season in ‘12, Bundy obliterated hitters at three Minor League levels with a 2.08 ERA, 0.916 WHIP and 119 strikeouts in 103 2/3 innings before making two appearances with the O’s at the end of the year. Most expected Bundy to arrive at Camden Yards full time in ‘13 until the nightmare scenario struck. Bundy underwent Tommy John surgery that June and didn’t throw another pitch in the Minor Leagues until the second half of the ‘14 season. After throwing only 22 innings in ‘15, shoulder soreness returned and he was shelved for the rest of the year. When he felt arm soreness trying to return in the Arizona Fall League last year, things were looking bleak.
Bundy was worked along slowly last year and found success in the bullpen to start the season. He managed to avoid injury before making his first start in July. The right-hander’s workload increased each outing, and five years after he was drafted, Bundy threw his first quality start; striking out seven and allowing one hit in seven scoreless innings on Aug. 2 against the Texas Rangers.
Finishing last season healthy and in the rotation was huge for Bundy and the Orioles, and he now enters a crucial season. Bundy begins Spring Training injury-free and has said the arm concerns are no longer at the forefront of his mind. While the risk of re-injury is there considering his past, a clean slate has the righty focused on developing pitches and nailing down a rotation spot rather than rehabbing and regaining strength.
Bundy features a fastball that hovers around 94 miles per hour (maxing out around 98), a sharp curveball and a changeup — his most effective pitch according to PITCHf/x data on Fangraphs — that clocked in on average about 10 MPH slower than the fastball last year. He’s also been working on developing what he calls a hybrid cutter/slider, a pitch he says he didn’t utilize last season. Should that pitch develop to where he wants it, Bundy could become even more dangerous with four plus-pitches in his arsenal. If it doesn’t, it sounds like he won’t have any problems dropping it from his repertoire and focusing on his three main pitches.
The Orioles have been searching for their next ace for a bit now, with veteran Chris Tillman (career 4.13 ERA) manning the role of late and fellow young right-hander Kevin Gausman also coming along slowly ahead of free-agent disappointments Ubaldo Jimenez and the now-jettisoned Yovani Gallardo. While the possibility of an innings limit is there and caution and concern will surround Bundy in the eyes of the media and fans all season, he has a real shot at living up to his full potential and becoming the No. 1 the O’s need by season’s end.
Rich Arleo is a freelance sports writer and editor who covers Major League Baseball and fantasy sports. You can follow him on Twitter, @Rarleo.