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“Early on I just had that feeling that he was going to be a little bit more special than the others,” said Larry Turner, the head baseball coach at Owasso High School in Sperry, Oklahoma. He was reminiscing about Dylan Bundy. “The first time I saw him pitch he was probably about 10 years old,” Turner continued. “[Usually] you have some kids that were way ahead of others when they were young, and the other ones seem to catch up by the time they get to high school.” But Bundy “was the exception to the rule.”

Turner coached Bundy during his formative years, and he gives a lot of credit for Bundy’s success to the right-hander’s parents, specifically his father Denver. Dylan and his older brother Bobby, who also pitches in the Orioles’ farm system, learned the value of hard work from their father. “His work ethic is just unmatched,” Turner said of Dylan. “He’s a maniac about working out and doing everything he can to reach his potential.”

It isn’t just Oklahomans from Bundy’s hometown who love his makeup. “What I was most impressed about is how he fit in for a 19-year-old in big-league camp,” Rick Peterson, Baltimore’s Director of Pitching Development, said of Bundy. If you didn’t know any better, “you’d have had no idea that this kid was 19 years old.” Any organization would be thrilled to have a prospect with Bundy’s makeup in their system, but makeup is just where Bundy’s positive attributes begin.

Scouts and player development officials love Bundy’s stuff. His repertoire includes a fastball that sits in the upper 90s with some cut to it, supplemented by a changeup and a curveball, both of which have the makings of plus pitches. The curveball is sharp with 12-to-6 action, but one scout was more excited about the changeup, saying, “I don’t know how many times I’ve seen a high school kid come out with a changeup that far along.”

Bundy isn’t a finished product yet. In spring training, the Orioles sent him (and the rest of their pitchers) to ASMI to undergo detailed biomechanical analysis in Dr. James Andrews’ pitching lab. Bundy was eager to make changes to optimize his delivery, something that isn’t always true of pitchers who are so polished. However, his roughly six-foot frame and muscular build doesn’t lead evaluators to believe that there’s a lot of projection left. He needs to continue working on his secondary stuff, which should get better as he continues to log innings. “This is pretty much it, but it’s very good,” an opposing team’s scout said.

One pitch that’s missing from Bundy’s collection is his cutter, which earned some applause from evaluators when he was at Owasso. Philosophically, the Orioles don’t believe in having young power pitchers throw cutters. Peterson weighed in on the decision to scrap the cutter: “It has a major detriment to fastball velocity over time. It’s a pitch that can be very dangerous for young power pitchers.” Additionally, the Orioles weren’t overly impressed with the pitch when Bundy came to camp with it, which made the decision easy.

Almost from the start of the season, prospect hounds were eager to see Bundy promoted, but Baltimore’s plan for him was precise. The O’s intended to start him off at Low-A to let him get his feet wet in professional baseball. They wanted him to learn what the clubhouse was like and get used to finding his food, doing his laundry, and sitting on a bus for eight hours on a road trip. Had Bundy started off at a higher level, he might have strained his team’s bullpen early on, as the organization slowly built up his workload. He has since been bumped up to High-A and then again to Double-A, and he’s handled the transitions well, despite some small dips in his peripheral stats in his first few starts for Bowie. The pace of the promotions might not have been quick enough to satisfy everyone, but the Orioles knew what they were doing with Bundy before Opening Day and were content to take their time with him this season.

Two weeks ago, Kevin Goldstein wrote about Baltimore’s dilemma as the club considers whether to move him to the majors down the stretch. The Orioles could certainly use a shot in the arm as they aim to hang on for their first winning season since 1997 and nab a playoff spot in the process. Bundy’s makeup give evaluators confidence that he could handle the pressure, and many believe he could be effective against big leaguers who haven’t faced him before, but it’s unclear how a short stint with the Orioles might affect his development.

As Kevin pointed out, there is some precedent for bringing up a player like Bundy. David Price’s late-season promotion in 2008 played a key role in the Rays’ run to the World Series that year. Tampa Bay used Price in a relief role, then again as a starter the following season. Price’s development didn’t stagnate, and he’s now among the better starters in the game. Orioles fans may envision a similar situation for Bundy, but he’s just over a year removed from high school, which makes him a bit different from Price, whom the Rays nabbed with the first overall pick after a college career at Vanderbilt. However, Bundy signed a major-league contract after he was drafted, which means he’s on the 40-man roster and could be called up without removing anyone else from the roster. Buck Showalter's pre-game comments on Wednesday about sending Bundy to the instructional league when it starts on September 12th would seem to preclude this possibility, so the debate about Bundy's readiness probably won't be settled this season.

While it would be fun to see Bundy throwing 100-mph lasers in Camden Yards, expectations shouldn’t be through the roof, at least not from the get-go. Bundy is a superior talent, but he has yet to harness all of his ability. It’s easy to get enamored with elite velocity, but it’s also easy to get hammered despite elite velocity. A jump to the major leagues might have added marginal short-term value to the big-league club, but no one knows how it might have affected Bundy beyond 2012. Regardless of when he arrives, he appears destined to pitch at the top of the club’s rotation next season, and he’s bound to be a strong Rookie of the Year candidate.

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ultimatedub
8/30
Buck said yesterday that he's going to instructional and will not get called up this year.
bornyank1
8/30
I added a note about this.
tim270
8/30
With the addition of Saunders, the return of Hammel, and the general effectiveness of the O's BP, I really don't even think Bundy does much to improve the ML club, so I'd be shocked to see him brought up. BTW, does BP care to chime in on the wisdom of having him scrap his cutter?
jparks77
8/30
Putting the cutter on the shelf forces the other secondary offerings into the sequence. The cutter is a bread winning pitch, a monster that would ruin hitters at the minor league level. Bundy is better served by strengthening his weaknesses in the minors rather than dominate with his existing strengths. When you put the total package together, the cutter will re-emerge. I'm not the biggest fan of young arms throwing cutters anyway. I prefer to see a heavy dose of 4-seam FBs to build that arm strength and help establish command.
tim270
8/30
Thanks for the response. That's pretty much where I'm at on it. Of course, Keith Law said "The entire industry is laughing at the O's" on the issue, but typical Law, that wasn't very insightful or accurate. There's no definitive proof that a cutter diminishes fastball velocity, but there's plenty of anecdotal evidence, and w an arm like Bundy's, it doesn't make much sense to risk it.
jparks77
8/30
As with everything in development, the specifics depend on the specifics of the player. Bundy's arm is special, and his cutter is special, and he would crush minor league hitters with it. I haven't spoken to anybody that thought putting the cutter on the shelf was laughable; just the opposite, in fact. It makes sense from a developmental point of view, especially if Bundy used the cutter as a pacifier pitch, an offering of comfort that he would defer to over other offerings. The point of the minors is to work on your deficiencies, not put up the best numbers or get the most hype or get to the majors as fast as possible. It's not a race, and rushing the process can have severe consequences. I dont see how limiting the use of the cutter in the name of secondary pitch development is something worth laughing at. The Baltimore Orioles are tasked with developing Bundy, not the members of the media or members of other organizations. They know the player, they have their plan, and everything else comes from an obstructed view from the bleachers.
tim270
8/30
Again thanks for the response. I'm on the same page as you. We've been debating it a bit as O's fans but that's where I've always come down: Dogmatic approaches again the cutter don't make sense, of course, but as a plan of development, this makes perfect sense to me.
jparks77
8/30
..and that's not to say you can't be critical of developmental philosophy. These players don't come with easy to follow instructions like a Chia pet; their growth is often quite unpredictable and orgs can make bad decisions along the way. As it relates to Bundy, I like the approach because it's focused on the big picture, putting a known commodity on the back-burner in order to build up weaker pitches. He will be better served by a more complete and well-rounded arsenal, and he's 19-years-old, so the team doesn't have to rush the process. Would I like to see Bundy pitching in the majors, using the FB/CT/CB to miss bats? Hell yes. But Im on the sidelines, and I'm not the one trying to build a sustainable monster.
sgrcuts
8/30
The only issue here is that the O's have basically flat out said he will NEVER throw his cutter. How much does he ceiling get dinged if he doesn't throw his cutter?
Klochner
8/30
Yeah, I totally understand the idea that he should shelf the cutter in the name of improving his other secondary options. What I read--and maybe I'm misinterpreting Duquette's comments--is that they wanted him to stop throwing the cutter period, not just as a way to improve his other offerings, but just to remove it from his repertoire entirely. Hudson, I'd be curious to hear you expand (if it's possible) on the sentence: "Additionally, the Orioles weren’t overly impressed with the pitch when Bundy came to camp with it, which made the decision easy." as everything I've read previously echoes Jason's sentiments that it's just a monster pitch.
Hudsonbelinsky
8/30
I had heard and read the same things about Bundy's cutter. When he showed up at Spring Training, the Orioles thought of the cutter as merely average. I didn't talk to any area scouts who saw him last year, and he hasn't used the pitch this year, so I could only go off of what the O's had to say about it. Another thing to consider: Roy Halladay and Chris Carpenter both came up with Toronto without throwing cutters. Philosophically, there are many people who don't believe in having young power pitchers throw cutters. I can't speak to the long term plan, but if he needs a new pitch when he's 25 or 30, the cutter will be an option that he can go to. There's also been some discussion of implementing a slider. The short term plan is to work on the FB/CU/CH combo. The future is uncertain.
smallflowers
8/31
This is a fascinating thread. Thanks to Jason and Hudson! Could I ask what you mean when you continually say "young" power pitchers? Does this refer to a pitcher that hasn't established a mature innings level in the bigs, or are we simply talking about age ranges here? Or just simply: a still developing pitcher with youth on his side?
Hudsonbelinsky
8/31
This is sort of unclear, in my opinion. At FanGraphs, Eno Sarris recently looked at how pitchers who use cutters have lost fastball velocity over the past decade, and there doesn't seem to be too much proof there in terms of Pitch F/X. But that study also didn't include players who used cutters in high school or college, or anyone in an age-21 season or younger, simply because the data isn't available. By "young" I'm talking about players who have yet to reach maturity and are still growing and developing, and those players aren't in the majors so we don't get to look at their PFX data to test this phenomenon. In the absence of conclusive evidence either way, I'm inclined to trust the Orioles, who run their pitchers through extensive analyses before making decisions about long term developmental plans.
Klochner
8/30
Thanks, I appreciate the clarification.