Dylan Bundy came to the Orioles organization with sky high expectations after being the fourth overall draft pick in the 2011 MLB Draft. He flashed a 96 mph fastball in high school and had projections of becoming a true number one ace.
Joe Jordan was the Orioles’ director of amateur scouting when Bundy was selected in the first round out of Owasso High School in Oklamhoma. Jordan was effusive in his praise at the time, but also included an ominous warning in his comments after the two sides agreed to contract terms:
“He [Bundy] has every intangible that really, really good players have. Barring injury, we agreed to terms with a very special player. It’s because of talent. I know this kid. I know his intangibles. I think this is a kid that is not afraid to be really, really good.”
Bundy started 23 games in the minors in 2012, the year after he was drafted, and spun a dazzling 2.08 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 4.25 SO/9. He pitched 1.2 innings in Baltimore at the tail end of that year and then wasn’t seen in the majors again until 2016.
Midway through the 2013 season, Bundy had Tommy John surgery. After an arduous recovery and some shoulder issues that spanned the next couple years, Bundy worked his way back to Baltimore in 2016, first pitching out of the bullpen before eventually joining the rotation.
But somewhere along the way, Bundy lost the zip on his fastball. It’s been a frequent topic of conversation among Orioles faithful ever since and it’s also an easy excuse for why Bundy has not yet lived up to the hype that surrounded him when he was drafted.
The right-hander led the Orioles’ pitching staff in games started this past season with 30. The next closest pitcher was John Means with 27, while there were handful of others in the teens.
Over the past couple years Bundy has shown durability, starting 28 games in 2017 and 31 games in 2018. Looking deeper though, the right-hander has not been able to reach 200 innings pitched despite that consistently high number of games started. The past three years, he’s thrown 169.2, 171.2 and 161.2 innings.
On a young starting pitching staff, the consistency of making virtually every start is usually enough reason to keep someone around. And who else do the O’s really have right now, other than Bundy and rookie sensation John Means. Spots need to be filled.
Bundy also showed some improvement in the area of home runs allowed, which has been an Achilles heel of his for some time. The first three months of the season, the right-hander allowed nine, four and six homers. The last three months, he allowed four, three and three. Bundy averaged between four and six starts per month.
But while Bundy does post up every fifth day to pitch, the quality of his innings has not been consistent. In 2019, he was 7-14 with a 4.79 ERA, 4.73 FIP, 1.36 WHIP, 162 SO, 58 BB and 29 home runs allowed. That comes out to 1.6 HR/9, 3.2 BB/9, 9.0 SO/9 and 2.79 SO/W.
Here’s a throw in stat that I found interesting: In six games this past season with Austin Wynns catching, Bundy had a 3.03 ERA and .180 BAA. Of course there’s a lot of other factors that go into a matchup besides the battery mate, but also consider Bundy had a 5.51 ERA in 16 games when Pedro Severino caught and a 5.12 ERA in six games when Chance Sisco was behind the plate. Jesus Sucre was the only other player to catch Bundy (two games).
It was an up-and-down season for Bundy when you go through the monthly totals. He actually finished on a bit of upswing, pitching to a 4.11 ERA and 1.29 WHIP in August. Then in September/October, those numbers improved to 3.80 and 1.35. His only superior month was back in May, when he posted a 2.64 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 3.25 SO/W.
The beginning of the season was a problem for the right-hander, seeing as he allowed nine homers and 21 total earned runs in 28.1 innings pitched in April/March. In June, he gave up 16 earned runs in 25.1 innings and in July allowed 14 runs in 18.2 innings. In Bundy’s three worst months, his ERA was between 5.68 and 6.75.
In his career, Bundy has not traditionally performed well towards the end of the baseball season, which makes his finish in 2019 a bit more significant. As far as career splits, Bundy has a 6.99 ERA in July, 4.52 ERA in August and 5.29 ERA in September/October.
When it comes to Bundy and the Orioles’ future, the bottom line is that the club needs starting pitchers and Dylan Bundy is a known resource with a few more years of club control. Baseball Reference lists his 2019 salary as $2.8 million and 2022 as the earliest he can become a free agent.
It will be interesting to see how much Bundy’s salary goes up this year and at what point the club would consider the money is not worth it, if the performance stays the same or declines. But right now, Bundy would seem to be penciled into the top of the rotation for the next couple years at least.
At the same time, it is hard to envision Bundy on the next good Orioles team many years down the road. With the disappearance of his fastball, propensity to give up the long ball and overall inconsistency, there are higher upside pitchers working their way to Baltimore.
Maybe Bundy’s future is in the bullpen, or maybe he turns a corner this upcoming season in the rotation. But it seems like we’ve been saying that for a couple years now. Best guess is that he will be around for a bit longer, but his long term security seems tenuous.