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This week’s notes take a lean toward some of the younger arms in baseball. One of these pitchers was a former top pick as a high school pitcher in the 2011 draft, while the other worked the system to skip the draft process and sign as an international free agent despite being born and raised in New Jersey. Let’s see if this odd couple of flamethrowers has anything in common.

Dylan Bundy

It’s been a long a road for Bundy, who was taken fourth overall in the 2011 draft as a high schooler and advanced quickly to make his MLB debut the very next season. Tragedy struck in 2013, as a busted UCL took Dylan down for Tommy John surgery in June of that year, and his road back from going under the knife has not been without its setbacks. He made his return to the bigs this season but was confined to the bullpen for the first half of the year. He was inserted into the starting rotation after the All-Star break, and though he has dealt with bouts of inconsistency, the overall return for Bundy has been positive as he builds up his stamina to handle a starter’s workload.

Date

IP

R

H

HR

BB

K

PC

August 22

6.0

2

3

1

4

4

94

Bundy has taken well to the rotation, with a 2.95 ERA and 38:11 K:BB in the seven starts where he was allowed to throw more than 70 pitches, covering 39.2 innings of work, a stretch that includes just 27 hits (including six homers) allowed. The Orioles have kept him on a strict pitch count, holding Bundy at 94 pitches or fewer in all of his starts, a restriction that has resulted in just one of his starts going deeper than 6.0 frames, and that required just one hit and one walk in order to provide the necessary efficiency.

Bundy had a reputation for having impeccable mechanics, especially for a high school prospect, back when he was eligible for the 2011 draft, though I have been a bit more skeptical from the get-go. Bundy has a very graceful finish to his delivery, with a smooth leg kick that pops up after release point as he stabilizes the recoil phase of his follow-through, and I have long been convinced that this aesthetically-pleasing attribute has biased evaluators, and that his mechanics – while solid – are far from the level of precision and efficiency for which he has been widely credited.

Mechanics Report Card

Feb ‘13

Aug ‘16

Balance

50

50

Momentum

60

55

Torque

70

65

Posture

50

45

Repetition

N/A

55

Overall

B-

The grades in the left-hand column represent what I gave Bundy in the 2013 Starting Pitcher Guide, which came out prior to the ‘13 regular season. I had not seen enough at that point to give him a grade for repetition, a crucial distinction given the assumptive consistency that goes along with the conventional assessment that he had pristine mechanics. My main issue with his delivery at the time had to do with balance and posture, elements that were merely average, which would be great for a high school pitcher in a vacuum, but for a pitcher with Bundy’s reputation such marks were considered disappointing. Here’s what he looks like today:

Not much has changed. From a the standpoint of the mechanics report card, Bundy’s before and after photos look remarkably similar to those of Jameson Taillon, who was profiled last week. Bundy’s delivery has all of the same thumbprints that were on display pre-surgery, with slight dings to his power categories of momentum and torque, two areas that might take some time before he rediscovers peak form. That said, his torque is still in elite company, and it currently flashes a 70 grade on his best pitches.

The similarities to Taillon continue with Bundy’s posture, which has become worse over time as he has exaggerated his over-the-top arm slot. The extra spine-tilt hasn’t degraded to the same degree as Taillon, but Bundy’s posture has fallen to the same below-average grade. Power and stability are typically a trade-off, such that one can understand when a pitcher sacrifices one (say power) in order to augment the other (stability), but when a pitcher is off-peak in both directions then it speaks to where he stands now versus where he used to be.

Alex Reyes

The timing seemed to match up when Reyes was promoted to the majors, given that St. Louis starter Michael Wacha had just hit the disabled list and Reyes had started all 69 games that he had played in the minor leagues. The Cards have chosen to keep Reyes in the bullpen (at least up until today), where the young fireballer has thrived.

Date

IP

R

H

HR

BB

K

PC

August 23

2.1

0

2

0

1

4

33

August 19

1.0

0

1

0

1

1

22

August 16

2.0

0

1

0

1

4

37

The Cards have used Reyes for extended stints, with 2.0 or more innings pitched in three of his four outings so far this season. All told, he’s struck out 13 batters with four walks and a pristine ERA through 9.1 innings out of the bullpen. The fastball has been electric, averaging 98.5 mph while throwing the heat on more than 75-percent of his offerings. Batters know that they’re getting the fastball, especially when ahead in the count, but so far there’s little that major-league hitters have been able to do with it.

Reyes should be available without limitations to his innings, given that he missed the first two months of the season while serving a drug suspension, so the initial choice to shift Reyes to the bullpen had nothing to do with inning counts season to season. Luke Weaver hardly seems like a roadblock to a rotation spot, so the move likely had more to do with Reyes himself, and to this end, I agree with the move.

The right-hander had a bumpy ride through Triple-A this season, carrying a 4.96 ERA while walking 4.4 batters per nine, but his K rate was legit, with 93 strikeouts in 65.1 innings. The stats indicate that he wasn’t ready for a starting gig in the majors, but his stuff profiles well in the bullpen right now and the Cards have a pennant to chase. Chalk another one up to the Cardinals’ player development and baseball ops, a club that gets the most out of its resources.

So how do Reyes’ mechanics stack up?

Mechanics Report Card

Balance

60

Momentum

50

Torque

70

Posture

50

Repetition

40

Overall

B-

The first caveat here is that we’re assessing Reyes’ delivery out of the bullpen, and pitchers tend to ramp up the power – often at the expense of stability – when they’re only needed for a handful of outs as opposed to 20 of them. That said, his balance is still excellent, thanks to a very simple delivery that further greases his transition to the bullpen, as his shift to the stretch requires little adjustment. His delivery is boring before foot strike, but once he pulls the trigger of trunk rotation his delivery explodes with power.

His momentum is strong early, directing his energy straight at the plate while leading with the hip, though he downshifts after max left lift into a modest pace to the plate. The above-average lift and the below-average stride combine for a merely average grade for momentum, and given his difficulties with coordinating the gears of rotation into a repeatable release point, Reyes might be open to making some changes. For now, the poor command is marginalized due to the short stints in the bullpen.

Reyes’ torque is driven by his hips. He doesn’t utilize much upper-body load, with hip-shoulder separation that is driven by a big delay to his trigger that allows the hips to rotate after foot strike while the upper half stays closed. But that torque is substantial, as the time between foot strike and the start of trunk rotation is large enough that Reyes often struggles with the coordination of his gears, which forms the foundations of his issues with control and command.

The head bails out near release point, as Reyes invokes considerable spine tilt once he kicks his high-speed rotation into gear. The end result is head displacement that typically hovers around average, but the degree of spine-tilt can also vary from pitch to pitch, adding another layer to the onion that is his exorbitant walk rate.

With Mike Leake scratched from yesterday’s start due to shingles, Reyes is slated to take the hill today for his first major league start. There’s a good chance that he’ll be on a limited pitch count, but we’ll get the opportunity to see how his approach translates to role of a starter, whether his delivery suffers as he fatigues, and if the fastball frequency diminishes a bit as he’s tasked with a second trip through the order.

Thank you for reading

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