After being drafted in 2011, Dylan Bundy has finally gotten his chance to be a member of the Orioles starting rotation. In his two outings so far, Bundy has been very good (5 IP, 0 ER, 5 Ks) and very bad (3.1 IP, 4 ER, eight base runners). What can we expect to see from the 23-year-old flamethrower as he continues to make his transition from reliever to starter? Let’s take a dive into Bundy’s pitches and see what he brings to the table with each offering.
His fastball shows enormous potential. In his first official start, Bundy was able to dial it up to 98.5 mph, and sat around 96 mph across the outing — excellent velocity numbers that create a solid foundation. He features a four-seam fastball, though the pitch does get a touch of horizontal movement on it, based on a slight tilt of his wrist as he delivers the pitch.
These are the kinds of fastballs that Bundy needs to deliver consistently, as pinpointing the outside corner with movement at 96 mph will create difficult at-bats for any hitter.
Velocity and movement are major elements that can dictate success with heaters, though the biggest factor is its command. Bundy has a bit of work to do in this area, with his fastballs ending up over the heart of the plate too frequently:
Such poor location has allowed batters to hold a .518 slugging percentage and a 32.6 percent line-drive rate against his fastball this season, costing the team 6.3 runs. To get the full picture, watch Bundy miss his spot with a fastball to Even Longoria, who in turn makes the rookie pay for his mistake:
Establishing good fastball command not only would allow Bundy to avoid quick runs but also allow his secondary pitches to become more effective. His change-up and curveball are above average, although they can truly excel only when he flexes dominance with his fastball.
To match a hard fastball, it’s often best to have a change-up with nearly the same spin and movement, and Bundy’s off-speed pitch fits the bill. It comes in around 10 mph slower, at 84.7 mph, while accentuating the slight tilt of his fastball with 7.3 inches of horizontal break, just above league average for a slow ball.
As Bundy has joined the Orioles rotation, he has featured the pitch more often in his two starts, doubling his 12.1 percent usage rate in June to 24.9 percent in July — and for good reason. Batters are whiffing on the pitch at a 23.2 percent rate, while making contact just 62.5 percent of the time.
As Bundy continues to develop as a starter for Baltimore, he will need to be relying further on his change-up to keep batters in check as they gear up for his fastball. This pitch’s success hinges heavily on his fastball’s command, as establishing his fastball early will generate more whiffs and weakly hit balls, with hitters on their front foot expecting a 96-mph pitch.
Bundy’s third offering is a breaking ball that has the potential to become a major asset but needs a little polish. On the plus side, the pitch is getting about 1.5 inches more vertical drop than your typical hook, giving him a possible putaway pitch with more development time:
For now, however, Bundy is struggling to get batters to miss on his curve, earning an abysmal 5.2 percent whiff rate in 2016. That may be a product of his pitch selection, or it could be his inability to make the pitch seem more hittable early in its delivery. Take a look at his breaking ball locations so far this year:
You’ll notice that he is consistently pulling his breaker down and away from right-handed batters. This is what this pitch looks like in real-time, where you’ll notice that the Indians’ Juan Uribe wanted to offer at the pitch but saw that it was far too low to induce a swing.
Additionally, Bundy is abandoning his curveball when deep into at-bats, throwing the pitch less than 10 percent of the time in two- or three-ball counts. Instead, its primary usage is getting a first pitch strike — Bundy throws curveballs at a 26.3 percent rate in 0-0 counts. There is potential to turn his breaking ball into a more prolific member of his arsenal, though he’ll need to have more confidence in the pitch to keep batters on their toes deeper into counts.
Bundy has the three pitches he needs to be an effective starter for the Orioles. There is work to be done commanding his fastball as well as gaining confidence with his curveball, though the 23-year-old has a high ceiling and could flourish for Baltimore with enough time to harness his pitches. His change-up is easily his best pitch and will keep him afloat as he tweaks his other offerings. There is a lot for Orioles fans to be excited about, though it may take a moment for Bundy’s star to ascend at the major league level.
All stats courtesy of FanGraphs and Brooks Baseball; all GIFs via Pitcher List.