For my day job, I write up scouting reports on amateur players for ESPN’s Draft Blog but have been catching minor league games on the side when my schedule permits. I’m happy to bring some of my scouting reports to FanGraphs, and first up is the buzziest prospect of them all, Orioles righty Dylan Bundy. I caught his start in Charleston versus the Yankees affiliate on May 7th and I pieced together some video from the game:
Video after the jump
Fastball – 80/70 (Present/Future)
Bundy came out of the gates throwing 97-99 mph in the first inning and settled in at 95-98 mph for the second and third innings. Bundy left after 61 pitches through three innings when he had some command issues in the third, keeping him from going the scheduled four innings.
The key for Bundy long-term is he creates this velocity almost effortlessly with a clean arm and delivery, which bodes well for his long-term command. When he got in trouble in the third inning, he was overthrowing and leaving some pitches up, which is very normal for a young power pitcher.
Bundy’s fastball has occasional sink and run, but I think he’ll develop more. Pitchers tend to slowly lose velocity as they age and starters tend to add movement and command for a tick or two of velocity as they mature. A 70 fastball is still sitting 94-96 for 100+ pitches, so it’s a subtle adjustment.
Curveball – 50/60
Bundy only threw a handful of curveballs and didn’t have consistent feel for it, leaving it up and not quite finishing it completely. It’s a true 12-to-6 hammer with depth and late bite that flashed plus potential at 76-78 mph. I didn’t get a great look at his curve in this game and there may be better than a 60 pitch here as the tight spin and late bend were impressive.
Changeup – 50/55
Bundy throws a power change at 88-91 mph that has good deception and occasional late dive, but it doesn’t have a lot of movement and he had trouble locating it consistently. The pitch loses life up in the zone and Bundy only threw it a handful of times, so with more development it may be plus, but I didn’t see that in this game.
Cutter – 60/70
If he didn’t throw a cutter/slider hybrid, Bundy would be a great pitching prospect but not necessarily a special one. The Orioles have instructed Bundy to shelve his cutter to simplify his repertoire as the hybrid can sometimes morph into two separate pitches and throwing a slider and curve can affect the feel and shape of both pitches, particularly for young pitchers.
I think it was by accident, but Bundy threw one fastball with heavy cut at 96 mph that was his best pitch of the night and scouts have told me the cutter was Bundy’s best pitch as an amateur. When Bundy has polished his command, curve and changeup more and starts throwing the cutter again, look out.
Command – 45/55
In the scheme of things, Bundy’s command issues in the third inning were just that, one inning of command issues. He’s a freakish athlete with crazy arm speed and a near perfect arm action that had some issues he wasn’t given a chance to solve on the mound. As for more permanent concerns, Bundy doesn’t create much deception or downhill plane (he’s only 6’1), but that’s getting nitpicky.
The question everyone is asking about Bundy is why he’s still in Low-A. The reasons players typically spend their first full season out of high school with one minor league team is an off-the-field reason: learning how to live independently. If you transferred twice during your first semester away from home, you’d learn some bad habits as well and I’m guessing most of you weren’t rich, world class athletes that spent half of your time on the road.
The O’s had to decide where to send Bundy after spring training and while it looks like Hi-A Frederick was the right answer in retrospect, you can irreparably harm a guy’s psyche by promoting him too fast, which wouldn’t happen at Delmarva. Crazier things have happened than a guy like Bundy getting hit around some, and Baltimore saw Bundy post-draft mostly in very short stints in controlled environments and they were taking his best pitch off the table. Sending and keeping him in Delmarva until now was a reasonable decision, even if it doesn’t make sense from a scouting perspective. Speeding up his time table by a month or two isn’t worth messing with the continuity of being with the same pitching coach, teammates and living situation in an important developmental stage.
Fans also seem confused about the low pitch count. I think he would’ve regained his command if he was allowed to go deeper in the game and that’s an example of one lesson where his pitch count may be keeping him from learning. That said, no one understands pitcher injuries enough to say anyone else is definitively wrong about them. Bundy is a franchise cornerstone type of arm that racked up some high pitch counts in high school and threw 100 mph in his first bullpen for big league camp in mid-February, so caution may be prudence in this situation. Reports suggest that Bundy may be promoted soon, and while he’ll likely be able to handle the challenge, there were reasons to start him out in low-A ball.
Fans love comparisons and scouts are wary of them. A player like Bundy is about as unique as they come, so comparisons are even less instructive with him. I like to comp specific parts of a player’s game, so what I think Bundy’s stuff will be like is Josh Beckett or Felix Hernandez in their prime: sitting in the mid-90’s with a nasty slider/cutter, downer curve, hard change and good command—a true ace where everything is at least plus and it all comes together.