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We've already begun work on our top fantasy prospect lists here at Fake Teams, and are discussing a number of the prospects for the top spot. On the pitching side, one name that has been at the top of the list in the past could make a return there this offseason.
Dylan Bundy came out of the 2011 draft viewed as one of the best pitching prospects, and expected to move quickly through the minors despite being a high school draftee. Fast forward to the end of his first professional season, and he finished the year in the Orioles' bullpen in the majors, and seemed destined to at least get a shot at a rotation spot in 2013 despite not having turned 20 yet.
And then the wheels came off, as can happen so often with pitching prospects.
Bundy wasn't really ready to go as Spring Training progressed in 2013, was eventually shut down in April from throwing, and ended up needing Tommy John surgery by the end of June. He missed nearly a full year, as he returned to game action on June 15th, 2014 with the Orioles' New York-Penn League affiliate.
His overall numbers for the season weren't too bad: 41 innings pitched, 37 strikeouts, 16 walks, 38 hits allowed, and a 3.27 ERA. However, the performance from game to game was about what you'd expect from someone returning from surgery: some really good starts (9 K, 2 H, 1 BB over 5 IP), and some really poor starts (1 K, 5 BB, 5 H, 2 ER over 4+ IP, 1 K, 2 BB, 6 ER, 6 H over 4+ IP).
As with all prospects, it's not as much about the results as it is about the reports on how the results are achieved. For Bundy, the results don't appear to tell the whole story, which bodes extremely well for him to potentially return to his lofty prospect ceiling. Tucker Blair of Orioles Nation and Baseball Prospectus wrote up Bundy after his start on June 27th, and gave him essentially the same ceiling as pre-injury. He notes specifically that while his velocity is not at the same level, with his command and repertoire it may not matter.
I ranked Bundy as the #9 prospect overall in the minors back in August, directly behind the Mariners' Taijuan Walker, and the only thing that really separates the two of them for me right now is the timeframe to the major leagues. Walker seems likely to be in the starting rotation for Seattle on Opening Day 2015, while Bundy seems likely to return to the minors for at least a part of the season.
Bundy will also have to work his way up in terms of workload as well, as he threw just 41 innings last year, and was kept on a strict innings limit in his first professional season as well. Even with that, he could have the highest potential ceiling of any pitching prospect right now, capable of providing elite performance in four pitching categories across a full season. The shine may have dulled on Bundy to some, but he should be in the running to be the top pitching prospect in baseball right now.