ARIZONA: I saw Dylan Bundy’s second outing of the Arizona Fall League season Friday, as he squared off against an impressive Luke Weaver and the rest of the Surprise Saguaros. Bundy threw just one inning — same as his debut outing on Monday — and threw 14 of his 19 pitches for strikes in his lone inning of work. Bundy allowed one run on two hits today in his frame, but didn’t look out of control and showed an overall very workable four-pitch arsenal, especially for a player who has lost so much time to injuries since 2012.
Though he hadn’t pitched in a game since May prior to Monday of this week, the former “super prospect” who was known as a workout freak entering the 2011 Draft looked every bit how one would recall on Friday. Physically speaking, he was definitely in mid-season form: wide, muscular shoulders, a broad barrel chest, a tapered midsection over a very strong lower half. Though he is on the smaller end of starting pitchers, especially for a right-handed arm, he compensates for his lack of height (and subsequently, natural angle) with tremendous strength, athleticism, and body control. Despite lacking the prototype 6’4″ or 6’5″ height of a power pitcher, all his other physical features certainly check the “power arm” boxes in my book.
Bundy came out working very “free and easy” in scouting terms on Friday, working out of the windup and starting Saguaros leadoff hitter Charlie Tilson off simply with fastballs at 92-93 down and away, much like one begins a bullpen session. His arm worked loosely through release, and he maintained great balance upon his delivery’s finish throughout the outing, especially when working from the windup.
Bundy’s fastball sat 91-94 in his one inning of work, showing late bursting action that hinted to me that there’s probably more velocity in the tank as he builds up strength this fall. Though he had yet to throw it in game action here in Arizona before Friday, Bundy showed a lot of faith in a promising split-like changeup in the high-80s, especially to the left-handed hitters he faced. The pitch showed upside, with good arm-speed and “sell” with late, darting action down and away to left-handed bats. In some ways, Bundy threw his changeup so hard at 87-88 it almost played like a two-seam fastball.
Bundy’s slider seemed to be his primary breaking ball over a true curveball, but he showed both even in a quick 19-pitch outing. The slider was in the 82-84 range and seemed to play like a roughly-average MLB slider, with low-to-mid 80s velocity and fair sharpness and depth. Bundy certainly is strong enough and has the traditional power-pitcher fastball/slider combo to continue to re-develop his slider into a swing-and-miss pitch post-injuries, and as he builds up innings I do think the slider will become an above-average weapon. I can see Bundy adding a tick more velocity on his slider later this year as he gains confidence spinning it out front, and with that increased finish to his armspeed at release, I think his slider will also show sharper, deeper break and generate more swings over the top. Bundy also showed a true curveball in the mid-70s that had nice 12-6 downer action, though it seemed more of his “second look” breaking ball — the slider being the better of the two to generate strikeouts when up in the count.
What was most impressive to me was the way Bundy both mixed all four of his pitches right off the bat in this game, but also, how seamlessly he filled the zone with his entire arsenal. Bundy has such great athleticism and body control, he seems to very easily repeat a clean delivery that allows him above-average ability to throw strikes with off-speed pitches. His overall control — and especially his “touch” on his off-speed pitches within the strike zone — was made even more impressive to me because control of secondary pitches is often one of the last things an injured pitcher regains upon returning to game action.
Today’s outing felt like another positive step for Bundy, who is out of options entering 2016 despite only pitching one season at the MLB level and being just 22 years old. He faces a somewhat unusual situation entering Spring Training 2016: because Bundy was selected in the 2011 draft — before the implementation of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement that took effect in 2012 — “Major League” contracts could still be handed out to amateurs through the draft. This rule has since been changed, but as a result, it has left those few amateurs who received MLB deals coming out of the draft before 2012 in unusual contractual and roster situations. For instance, though it did not involve his option years, per se, readers might remember Bryce Harper being in a similarly unusual situation regarding his minimum salary and subsequent arbitration payouts before the start of last season.
The bottom line is that Baltimore will have to find some active-roster role for Bundy in 2016, or else he will have to be exposed to waivers as an out-of-options player before being able to be sent back to the minors to build up innings. If he wasn’t out of options, a more prototypical innings limit plan that included time in the minor leagues would certainly be a possibility given his recent injury history.
The good news is that a healthy Dylan Bundy still is a very valuable asset; the pitcher some scouts call the “best prep righty in a decade” before his injuries showed a deep four-pitch arsenal with usable control of his pitches on Friday. It is too early in his rehab to accurately predict exactly what role awaits Bundy in 2016 and beyond — and there certainly exists a chance he may never recover the raw stuff he demonstrated before his injuries — but to me, he still showed an overall toolset that fits the profile of a solid middle-rotation starter, at the very least. Bundy may require time in a shorter role or as a swingman at the MLB level to gradually increase his usage and innings in 2016 (my own thought, albeit an unsubstantiated one), but for an Orioles team that is currently set to lose starter Wei-Yin Chen and relief ace Darren O’Day to free agency, there certainly could be a naturally-created necessity for a healthy Bundy to provide value next season in a variety of roles for the Orioles.