The situation: The Orioles used seven relievers to throw 181 pitches in their 18-inning victory on Tuesday night. Bundy, who was slated for a few weeks of instructional league, was already on the 40-man roster, and makes the most sense for the 2012 Baltimore Orioles’ bullpen.
Background: Bundy was the 4th player off the board in the 2011 draft, and seen by many as the best talent available in the entire class. The O’s inked the 19-year-old to a Major League contract north of $6 million, setting him up for a quick rise through the system. Bundy began his minor league career with Low-A Delmarva, where he struck out 40 batters, walked two, and didn’t allow a single run in 30 innings. The Orioles slowly built up Bundy’s workload as they moved him up the ladder. A mid-season promotion to High-A Frederick presented a challenge, but the Oklahoma native rose to the occasion, this time fanning 66 and walking 18 in 57 innings, prompting another promotion, this time to Double-A. When I wrote about Bundy a few weeks ago, he was pitching well in Double-A and multiple evaluators believed he could get big leaguers out right now.
What he can do: He has a classic power pitcher’s repertoire, with the ability to slice fastballs through the zone in the upper-90s, often touching 100. Bundy also uses an advanced changeup and a sharp 12-to-6 curveball, both of which have the makings of plus pitches. Pitchers often see a tick up in their velocity when relegated to relief roles, so we could see Bundy tap into triple digits more consistently over the next few weeks, depending upon Baltimore’s plan.
Immediate big league future: Just over a year removed from high school, Bundy is ready to get outs in the majors. As an extra reliever in a strong bullpen, it’s not entirely clear what the O’s will do with him in the next several days. A debut tonight and some innings over the next few days would make sense because of the depleted pen. Against batters who have never seen him, and probably won’t get to see him multiple times, I expect Bundy to replicate his minor league performance in Baltimore over the next few weeks.
Long-term: There isn’t a lot of development left for Bundy. He needs to be more consistent with his pitches, but that should come as he picks up more innings. The makings of a top-of-the-rotation arm are there, but he is not without flaws. Evaluators don’t love that he’s a generous 6 feet tall, and he has slight back shoulder lean in his delivery. His strengths do, however, far outweigh his weaknesses. With a possible trio of pitches that includes an 80 fastball, and 60 (or better) changeup and curveballs, along with plus-plus command and control, Bundy could be a monster. There is room for error, but, overall, he’s an outstanding prospect and could start an All Star game a few years from now.