The Orioles rebuilding project being in a “subtract from the 2020 roster to maybe make things better in the future” phase continued on Wednesday afternoon. Ken Rosenthal was the first to report on the O’s trading Dylan Bundy to the Angels.
ESPN’s Jeff Passan expanded the report by being the first to name the four pitchers acquired by the Orioles. They are: RHP Kyle Bradish, RHP Kyle Brnovich, RHP Isaac Mattson, and RHP Zach Peek.
Of these four pitchers, only Bradish appears in the top 30 Angels prospects list in the most recent MLB Pipeline ranking, and he’s there at #21. The Angels farm system is not loaded at present, with only one top 100 in MLB prospect. Their top eight prospects on this ranking are all position players, so even if the O’s had gotten the best-ranked Angels pitching prospect, that would only have been worth so much.
It’s not an immediate trade return that will have anyone dancing naked in the streets. Maybe the Orioles new development program can turn one or more of these guys into something useful. A bit about each of the new Orioles:
Bradish, 23, was a fourth round pick in the 2018 draft. He jumped right to the High-A level for his professional debut in 2019, where he struck out 120 batters - but also walked 53 - in 101 innings for the Inland Empire 66ers. MLB Pipeline’s scouting report praises his deceptive delivery but notes that it’s caused him command problems. They still believe in his potential to brandish a four-pitch mix and stick in a rotation.
Brnovich, 22, was just drafted in the eighth round this season. He didn’t appear in a professional game this season after signing. In his junior season at Elon University before being drafted, Brnovich struck out 110 batters in 86 innings. That’s the kind of guy Elias drafted a lot of in his first Orioles draft class.
Peek, 21, was the Angels sixth round pick this year. The Winthrop University product has also not yet made his professional debut. His junior season saw him strike out 91 batters in 87.1 innings.
Mattson, 24, was a 19th round pick in the 2017 draft. He is a reliever who struck out 110 batters in 73.1 innings in 2019, the bulk of which were at the Double-A level. Again, it’s not hard to imagine why Elias might have targeted this guy.
Bundy being traded is not much of a surprise because the simple reality is that the Orioles are not very likely to be any good before he becomes a free agent at the end of the 2021 season. His being traded is easier to stomach than the recent Jonathan Villar swap because it’s not as much of a blatant salary dump.
A bevy of minor leaguers, even if none of them are top 100 prospects, provides at least something to cling to that there may be some future value for a good Orioles team out of this deal.
The trade officially seals Bundy in the category of Andy MacPhail/Dan Duquette-drafted-or-acquired pitchers who had some hype and just never put it all together hear. The O’s drafted him #4 overall in the 2011 draft and he was a top 5 prospect in most rankings prior to the 2013 season.
Not long after that, the injuries started happening. First, there was Tommy John surgery, and while he was recovering from that, there was calcification in his shoulder. When Bundy finally made it back to MLB for the 2016 season, having pitched in two games late in 2012, he was only there because the team had to put him on the team with all of his minor league options exhausted.
That was a result of Bundy signing an MLB contract when he was drafted. Bundy was one of the last pitchers to do this. The practice was no longer allowed starting in the 2012 draft.
What might have been with that Bundy, who could throw hard, had a devastating cutter, and was absolutely headed for the top of the rotation? We will never know. What the Orioles ended up with was a guy with a 91.5mph fastball on average who, after four full seasons, sports a career MLB ERA of 4.67 and FIP of 4.75.
It just never worked out better than that. So in that sense, an underwhelming return, even for two years of control, isn’t too surprising either. It’s now the Angels’s problem whether or not Bundy’s August and September of the 2019 season, where he had “only” a 3.99 ERA as he held batters to a .702 OPS and gave up just six home runs in 58.2 innings, is some new and improved Bundy.
After the whole Jake Arrieta experience, I won’t be shocked if Bundy is suddenly better somewhere else, but it’s worth remembering that there was that same fear about what would happen with Kevin Gausman, and since being traded to the Braves, Gausman was dumped on waivers to the Reds, who non-tendered him this offseason. Even leaving the Orioles wasn’t enough to save him.
In the meantime, the quest for the #1 pick in the 2021 draft proceeds. The 54-108 Orioles will probably be worse next year. According to Fangraphs, the #1 prospect in the 2021 draft class right now is Vanderbilt pitcher Kumar Rocker.
Let the tanking slogan commence: The Orioles are FUBAR for Kumar.