Why a Dylan Bundy September Call-Up Will Follow Manny Machado's
Calling up top position prospect Manny Machado wasn’t the only move the Baltimore Orioles made Thursday, as they also promoted Dylan Bundy, their top pitching prospect and the unanimous top pitching prospect in baseball, from High- to Double-A.
Pitching in his first professional season, Bundy, 19, has been one of the top stories in the minor leagues. Bundy was the No. 4 overall draft pick in 2011, and his career got off to a legendary start at Low-A Delmarva when the right-hander fired 30 scoreless innings with 40 strikeouts and two walks.
With good reason, clearly, the Orioles promoted Bundy to High-A Frederick, where he’s only continued to impress. He’s hasn’t exactly been as unhittable as he was at Low-A, but for a 19-year-old, Bundy's extraordinary polish and command of all his pitches is undeniable.
After the All-Star break, I ranked Bundy as the No. 2 prospect in baseball as part of Prospect Pipeline’s Midseason Top 50 Prospects and had this to say about the right-hander:
He features a 94-98 mph four-seam fastball that has scraped triple digits, as well as a low 90s two-seamer and cutter. Unlike most 19-year-old pitchers, Bundy already has both a feel for and knowledge of how to manipulate his fastball, working both sides of the plate and changing the hitter’s eye level.
However, the Orioles have asked him to not throw the cutter—easily his best overall pitch. It’s a pitch that will still be there when he’s asked to revive it, but until then, he’ll work on refining his off-speed offerings.
The right-hander’s secondary arsenal consists of a deuce that consistently shows plus shape and break, though his command of the pitch has been challenged at High-A. Lastly, he mixes in an advanced changeup that should be yet another plus offering in time.
A physical and athletic pitcher, Bundy has repeatable mechanics and can handle a greater workload than expected from a prep arm. As the top pitching prospect in the minor leagues, the Orioles know that they have a special player on their hands in Bundy. He has the potential to reach the major leagues much quicker than the other prep arms out of the 2011 draft class, as well as the potential to be an immediate star.
Although I don’t know if I necessarily agree with the notion of rushing him to the major leagues, I do believe that the Orioles will promote Bundy in September—even if they fall out of the playoff race.
He’s already on the 40-man roster, so promoting him once the rosters expand on September 1 wouldn’t require the demotion (or DFA) of a major leaguer.
The remaining question is whether the Orioles would use their uber-prospect as a starter or reliever. My guess would be that they place him in the bullpen and allow him to work an inning here and there to get his feet wet and become comfortable with life in the major leagues.
The Orioles-Bundy situation is reminiscent of when the Rays called up David Price down the stretch of 2008 season and used him as a high-leverage, late-inning reliever.
However, the fundamental difference between Price and Bundy is that Price was 23 years old when he was promoted. Bundy, on the other hand, won’t celebrate his 20th birthday until November.
Then again, we all remember the impact 20-year-old Francisco Rodriguez made when he was called up toward the end of the 2002 season and subsequently added to the Angels playoff roster. “K-Rod,” as he was instantly dubbed, served as the team’s X-factor that postseason, and the Orioles recognize a similar potential in Bundy.
Will the Orioles promote Dylan Bundy to the major leagues in September?
If the O’s are still in the hunt come September, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of Bundy even making a few starts. He’s thrown only 84.1 innings this season, and, while pitching at Delmarva, the right-hander worked as part of a six-man rotation. Therefore, his workload shouldn't raise any red flags.
There’s a strong argument to made both for and against bringing up Bundy so quickly, primarily because his future is so insanely bright that’s it’s frightening to consider altering the course of his development in such an extreme manner.
However, the Orioles' decision to promote him to Double-A conveys the message that they believe the 19-year-old may be able to help the team in the near-to-immediate future.
And so far, everything that Dylan Bundy has done in the minor leagues confirms that belief.
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