Dylan Bundy's story so far is well-known to many Orioles fans, but let's do a quick rehash to bring everyone up to speed. Considered the best pitcher in the 2011 amateur draft, the Orioles selected Bundy in the first round, fourth overall. He wowed scouts with not only his otherworldly performance on the mound in his senior year of high school (71 IP, 0.20 ERA, 158 K, 5 BB) but also with his intense workouts and work ethic.
Bundy breezed through the low minors in 2012, promoted from low-A Delmarva after making eight starts without allowing an earned run. He demolished high-A batters for 12 starts and had made three starts for the double-A Bowie Baysox when the Orioles called him up for a taste of the big leagues in September. It was Bundy's goal to pitch in the majors before he turned 20 years old, and the Orioles obliged. He made two appearances out of the bullpen before he was shut down for the season, and when he showed up for spring training in 2013 everyone had high hopes. That's when the pain started, and after three months of trying to rehab, Bundy underwent Tommy John surgery on June 27, 2013. He spent the rest of 2013 and half of 2014 resting and rehabbing, and was finally ready to start a professional baseball game on June 15, 2014.
Bundy's 2014 debut was with the short-season Aberdeen Ironbirds, and he spent three starts there before he was moved up to pitch for the high-A Frederick Keys. The Orioles kept him on a pitch count of 75 during these starts, and if you were following him through the box scores you may not have been impressed. But after spending a year away from competitive baseball, the fact is that Dylan Bundy had to re-learn how to pitch. His fastball velocity before his injury was in the upper-90s and he spent much of his 2014 season in the low-90s, only starting to touch 95 towards the end of his season. He had to work on location and on secondary pitches and get his surgically repaired elbow back into game condition.
In nine starts between Aberdeen and Frederick between June 15th and August 5th, Bundy pitched 41 1/3 innings. He struck out fewer batters than he had before his injury, walked more, and didn't throw as hard. But while it's almost always the case that you can't evaluate minor leaguers by their stats alone, it is especially the case for a pitcher returning from major arm surgery. The results don't matter. His health matters. On August 15th, Bundy was shut down with two weeks left in the minor league season due to a strained lat muscle. It's not the best way to end a season, but it's not an elbow or shoulder injury, so it's not worth worrying about.
Thanks to his injury, a bit of shine has come off of Bundy as a prospect. Ranked by most reputable sources in the top five of prospects in all of baseball before the 2013 season, he dropped to 15-30 prior to 2014. ESPN analyst Keith Law ranked Bundy at #31 prior to the start of the 2014 season, but in his mid-season review bumped him all the way up to #12 based on his observation that he is most of the way back from TJ surgery. Tucker Blair of Baseball Prospectus and Orioles Nation saw Bundy pitch in July and gave a rave review, saying that Bundy is one of the most polished pitchers in the minors and that all of his pitches grade as plus or potentially plus.
2015 will be a big year for Dylan Bundy. He will have had a healthy off-season to prepare for spring training, and he'll have to prove that he's all the way back from his surgery and ready to help the Orioles at the major-league level. Even if he doesn't break camp with the Orioles at the start of the 2015 season, you have to hope to see him in Baltimore sooner rather than later.