After writing a post titled, “Is It Too Soon to Worry About Matt Strahm?” and then the next week writing, “It’s Time to Worry About Byron Buxton,” I thought I would stop worrying so much and write something positive for a change. Let’s talk about someone that looks good so far. A guy starting to fulfill his potential. The culmination of a story years in the making.
Dylan Bundy was drafted fourth overall in 2011 after being named the best high school baseball player in the country. He was ranked as the top pitching prospect in baseball in 2013, ahead of Jose Fernandez (RIP) and Gerrit Cole. But then, disaster! Tommy John followed by shoulder issues derailed him for most or all of 2013, 2014, and 2015. In 2016, he returned but only in a mix of starting and relief pitching.
His current stretch of success certainly started in 2016. He put up a respectable 10.5% swinging strike rate, to go with a K%-BB% over 13%. He forced nearly 20% of all fly balls against him to be pop-ups. He also held hitters to a 28% hard hit rate. Look, he still had a 4.61 xFIP and a 4.02 ERA, so let’s not get carried away, but there were still positive steps.
Then, 2017 began. In 19.1 innings, he’s got a 1.86 ERA, 1.64 FIP, and a not-as-good-but-still-great 3.04 xFIP. His swinging strike % is up to 13.2% and his K%-BB% sits at 19.4%. His hard hit % is down at 21.2%. His infield-fly ball rate is still at 17.6%. His walk rate has been cut in half.
So, what happened? Is it just that he’s finally healthy? Nope. In high school, some scouts gave his cutter an 80 grade, with most giving it at least a 70 (on an 80 scale). The Orioles had some weird organizational rule that pitchers can’t throw cutters, so they forced him to drop it. In 2017, it’s back with a vengeance. He dropped his four seam usage by over 20% this year and dropped both his curve and change use to make room for a 28% surge (from basically 0) in cutters. Pitch F/X calls it a slider, but regardless, he’s gotten hitters to swing and miss at one third of them so far.
Armed with his great cutter and improved control (so far), I believe Dylan Bundy is poised for a real breakout. His home park is not great for pitchers, but the strikeouts should help with that to some degree. His K% is a solid 23.6% so far, but his elite swinging strike rate means there is room to move that up. All aboard the Bundy train! Choo choo! Tschus!