5.) Can Dylan Bundy stay healthy?
The Orioles made starting pitching a priority in three consecutive drafts. The resulting picks — Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman, and Hunter Harvey — have not panned out to date. Only Gausman has been able to stay healthy, and he has been handled inconsistently by management. Gausman’s 2015 can only be seen as a step back, but the right-hander can’t take all the blame for that after he entered the season with no clearly defined role.
Bundy got back on the mound this spring at the Double-A level, but he was shut down after only 11 appearances. The former top pick, who reached the Majors in his first year of professional ball before missing all of 2013 with Tommy John, made only nine appearances in 2014. Over the past three years, Bundy has thrown only 66.1 innings, while nagging injuries continue to cause the big club to treat him with kid gloves. As Bundy was part of the final draft class to be eligible to sign Major League contracts, he is now out of options and must be placed on the 25-man roster for 2016. If Bundy is not on the Opening Day roster, the Orioles will risk exposing him to waivers. Even with a significant injury history, someone would take a chance on Bundy.
Bundy has thrown two innings so far in the Arizona Fall League. His fastball has been clocked as high as 94 mph, and he has shown good command of his secondary pitches in limited work. After missing virtually the entire season, this can only be viewed as a positive. The fastball velocity will begin coming back as Bundy builds up his arm. As for 2016, Bundy will likely start the year in the bullpen while he stretches his arm out to handle a full workload. Even though he has mostly worked as a starting pitcher the past two years, the Orioles have been very strict with Bundy’s innings. He will not be thrown to the wolves and asked to start right off the bat. Bundy could make for an interesting name in the bullpen, especially considering Zach Britton‘s transformation in the bullpen. The right-hander seems to have a build more suited for relief pitching, and if he manages to stay healthy and excels in the bullpen, the Orioles could think about keeping him out there. The bullpen, with Britton, O’Day (very likely to re-sign, in my opinion), and Mychal Givens, who was impressive as a rookie, could be the league’s best. Bundy just has to stay healthy to make it a reality.