In conjunction with calling up top position prospect Manny Machado on August 9, the Baltimore Orioles also promoted Dylan Bundy, their top pitching prospect and the unanimous top pitching prospect in baseball, from High-A to Double-A.
Pitching in his first professional season, the 19-year-old has been one of the top stories in the minor leagues. The No. 4 overall draft pick in 2011, Bundy saw his career get off to a legendary start at Low-A Delmarva when he fired 30 scoreless innings with 40 strikeouts and two walks.
With good reason, clearly, the Orioles promoted Bundy to High-A Frederick, where he continued to impress. He’s hasn’t exactly been as unhittable as he was at Low-A, but for a 19-year-old, the right-hander’s extraordinary polish and command of all his pitches is drool worthy.
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 in my scouting report:
He features a 94-98 mph four-seam fastball that has scraped triple digits, as well as a mid-90s two-seamer. 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.
Currently 3.5 games behind the Yankees in the American League East and half a game ahead of Tampa Bay for the second wild-card spot, the Orioles, it seemed, were poised to call up Bundy to contribute over the final month of the season.
He’s already on the 40-man roster, so promoting him once the rosters expand on September 1 wouldn’t require the demotion or release of a major leaguer.
However, according MLB.com’s Brittany Ghiroli, Buck Showalter told reporters on Wednesday that Bundy will not be called up in September. Instead, he will pitch in the instructional league following the conclusion of the Double-A season.
The Orioles-Bundy situation had the potential for something similar to when the Rays called up David Price down the stretch of 2008 season and used him as a high-leverage, late-inning reliever. Who knows; with his arsenal, Baltimore probably would have given Bundy a few starts, as well.
I’m sure that I’m not alone, but I imagined Bundy carving his way through September and putting up a fight against the American League East-leading New York Yankees as part of the Orioles' quest for a division title and playoff berth.
Perhaps I'm of this opinion because I believe he has as much upside as any pitching prospect in the game, but the thought of Bundy receiving a start against Yankees during the two teams' four-game series in early September is one that should excite all baseball fans.
Furthermore, with 16 combined games remaining against AL East opponents, Bundy has the potential to be the savior of Baltimore's season, with the team potentially riding his presumed success into the playoffs.
While the organization’s decision to send him to the instructional league is admirable considering that he’s already thrown 103.2 innings across three levels, it’s hard not to think that the Orioles may be missing out on a major contribution from one of the game’s most promising prospects.