There may not have been a more heralded prep pitching prospect this decade than Dylan Bundy, and when the Orioles drafted him fourth overall in 2011 the hype certainly seemed deserved. Bundy was the Gatorade State Player of the Year in Oklahoma from 2009-2011 and took home the national Gatorade Player of the Year award in 2011. As a senior he pitched 71 innings and struck out 158 batters. He walked four. His ERA was 0.25. That's one quarter of one run per nine innings!
Bundy signed a major league contract with the Orioles upon being drafted and was immediately placed on their 40 man roster. He made his professional debut the following season in 2012 in the class-A Sally League. There he made eight starts and pitched 30.0 innings without allowing an earned run. He was then promoted to the high-A Carolina League, where he made 12 starts and posted a 2.84 ERA in 57.0 innings. He ended his first minor league season by making three starts in AA, allowing six earned runs in 16.2 innings pitched.
The Orioles called Bundy up to the major leagues for the final few weeks of the 2012 season. He made his major league debut on September 23rd, 2012 at the age of 19. He would only make two appearances and throw 1.2 scoreless innings out the O's bullpen down the stretch that season. However, it appeared that Baltimore had a legitimate ace-in-waiting that was ready to front their starting rotation for the next several years.
Things haven't quite worked out that way, though. Brewers fans should be familiar with the work of pitching guru Rick Petersen, who serves as Baltimore's minor league pitching coordinator. Bundy underwent Petersen's biomechanical analysis when he entered the organization and it was decided that the O's would tweak his mechanics. In an interview with Fangraphs, Bundy explained:
"We were trying to get my arm in a higher position...I got my hands moving...really, I just got away from the things I did in high school. I changed throughout the course of my first full minor league season and I don't think I should have. The only thing I really regretted was changing those minor things my first year in pro ball. I should have just stuck with what I did best. I should have just picked up a ball and thrown it...if that's how you throw, don't change it."
Dylan didn't throw a pitch at any level in 2013 and underwent Tommy John surgery on June 27th, 2013 (which coincidentally was the day my daughter was born). He wouldn't return to action until the following June and made nine minor league starts through the end of the season. He struggled with injuries again in 2015 and made just eight starts before getting shut down with a shoulder issue. The O's assigned him to the Arizona Fall League to try and make up for lost time, but he was sent home after just two appearances with muscle strain in his forearm though it's been characterized a minor issue.
That brings us to today and Bundy's cloudy future. Since he was added to the 40 man roster way back when he was drafted, the 23 year old is now out of minor league options. The Orioles basically need to keep a pitcher who has thrown only 65 competitive innings since 2013 on their 25 man roster all season long next year, regardless of his performance. One could almost liken Dylan's situation to that of a Rule 5 draft pick. With intentions of competing in the AL East, that sort of roster inflexibility could be a detriment to the team.
The Brewers on the other hand won't be competing for much of anything in 2016. GM David Stearns has been up front about his desire to add as much young, controllable talent as possible to build a competitive team with a sustainable pipeline in the future. In other words, the Brewers would be in a much better position to keep Bundy on their active roster and allow him to rebuild his arm and innings back up slowly while the major league team is likely to flounder, anyhow.
The Orioles have been willing to move Dylan in the past and I asked Roch Kobatko, the O's beat writer at MASN, if he could potentially be available this winter and what his value might be. Here's what he said:
@brewerfan28 Available, yes, but out of options, hasn't pitched above AA, injured, etc. Not a lot of value right now— Roch Kubatko (@masnRoch) December 1, 2015
So it sounds like Dylan Bundy could be had and that the price may not be very steep. In fact, one could probably consider it buying low on him at this point. The Orioles added Mark Trumbo yesterday but depending on how they plan to use him the club still has probable needs at first base, designated hitter, and in left field. As it so happens, the Brewers have two legitimate major league regulars in Khris Davis and Adam Lind that could be immediate fits in Baltimore's lineup. Both players could be viewed as expendable pieces for the Brewers at this juncture, though the Orioles might have more interest in Davis given his four remaining years of club control. Either way some sort of deal could perhaps be formed centering around one of those two Brewers with Bundy coming back to Milwaukee, though some secondary pieces could probably end up being involved on both sides.
Even despite his injuries, Bundy is still lauded as pitching prospect. He's remained ranked as a consensus top 100 prospect while battling his various ailments and is currently ranked as Baltimore's number two prospect by MLB Pipeline. His overall grade according to MLB Pipeline is still a 55 and his future value according to Fangraphs is 60. When he is on the mound he features good control and throws four above-average offerings, three of which are said to have plus or better potential. Eric Longenhagen of ESPN had the chance to scout his short AFL stint and noted that Dylan showed flashes of his old self and should still have at least mid-rotation potential. The only thing that is truly holding him back is his health.
Attempting to acquire Dylan Bundy would be a significant risk given his injury history, but I think it's one the Brewers and their award-winning medical staff could afford to take while they are in a transitional phase. With their current situation and roster construction the club would be able to ease him back into action out of the bullpen and not worry about his results or rust, and the upside could be enormous. He has six seasons of club control remaining despite being out of options, and he could still become a very effective major league starter. Hell, maybe the Brewers could even get lucky and find that there's an "ace" still in there that was just waiting for a change of scenery.