25 April 2012

Is Dylan Bundy Being Mishandled?

Recently there has been some discussion on how the Orioles are handling Dylan Bundy.  Baseball Prospectus' podcast Up and In discussed it, Keith Law mentioned it on Baseball Today, and Steve Melewski has responded peculiarly as he seems to derisively mention that Law has a podcast (Does Melewski have podcast want?). 

My personal thought on it is that I found the supposed Orioles perspective as half way defensible.  I disagree with Keith Law in that I think it can be argued that with Bundy's inning limit, which is also defensible, that it is good to ease into 5-whatever inning starts as the season progresses.  I do agree with him that Delmarva is simply too low of a level. 

Melewski mentioned that the staggered process of giving Bundy a few starts in Delmarva, a few more in Bowie, and then getting him to Bowie was in part:
... getting acclimated to the pro game, the bus rides, new teammates and many other things away from the field. To me, letting him settle in to his surroundings and ease into the games makes sense.
This is just a silly statement to me.  If you want a guy to settle into being a pro, then do you (A) shuttle him around through three affiliates over the summer or (B) keep him basically sitting in one affiliate all year?  If you want a guy to have stability, don't you want him to have the same teammates and coaches to give him some stability over the season?  It is not like he is working on skills to socialize and develop support structures on a rung by rung move. 

This whole discussion does beg the question: how have other elite high school pitchers been handled over the past few years?

Dylan Bundy
6'1 195
20yo in 2012
Bundy is starting out in A ball in Delmarva.  Melewski wrote in the above article that this will be the Orioles' plan:
Three starts at three innings, for a total of nine.
Three starts at four innings, for a total of 12.
Around 10 starts at five innings, for a total of 50.
That leaves around 50-60 innings for his last eight or so starts beginning around mid July.
That will result in about 120-130 innings pitched at Delmarva, HiA Frederick, and maybe some time in Bowie.

Archie Bradley
6'4 225
20yo in 2012
Bradley has an amazing fastball and curveball that has resulted in a lot of swing and misses.  His has a changeup in progress and has spent less time pitching than other prospects because he was also a quarterback in high school.  I do not know what the long term plan is for Bradley this season, but they are letting him make full starts and he has been dominant.  They may keep him in low A to work on the change up, but I think they could promote him right now.

Jameson Taillon
6'6 225
20yo in 2011
The Pirates were criticized a bit last year for their handling of Taillon.  The team is notorious for putting their pitchers through a strict fastball diet their first year in order to work on fastball command.  As elite a selection Taillon was, it appears they did the same with him.  He spent the entire season at A ball West Virginia and was about 30% better than league average. 

This year in HiA Bradenton, he has been eliciting a miss rate of 62%.

Zack Wheeler
6'4 185
20yo in 2010
Wheeler also started out in A ball Augusta and put in 58.2 innings.  This was largely the result of a fingernail injury that kept him off the mound.  In 2011, he spent the entire season at HiA and put in 115 IP.

Jacob Turner
6'5 210
19yo in 2010
Turner split his first full season as a pro divided relatively equally between A ball West Michigan and HiA Lakeland.  In 2011, he moved through AA and AAA to hit the MLB level.

Tyler Matzek
6'3 210
20yo in 2010
Majority opinion had Matzek as the top high school pitcher in the draft back in 2009 and he slipped due to his perceived asking price.  The Rockies started him out in A ball Asheville where he showed he had amazing swing and miss stuff, but that he had difficulty hitting the strike zone.  Add in some issues with the Rockies tinkering his mechanics and he has had a rough couple years.  In 2012, he is making another run at HiA ball and is still experiencing issues getting strikes.

Every single elite high school pitcher wound up throwing at A ball to begin their first full season.  Some teams (e.g., Pirates) were conservative and left the player there while other teams (e.g., Tigers) pushed their guy to HiA.  None of the four pitchers from the 2009 and 2010 draft classes made it to AA.

There is a thought that Bundy is so polished that he should not be treated like other high school pitchers.  If you look at the pitchers drafted before him; first selection Gerrit Cole is at HiA, Danny Hultzen is at AA, and Trevor Bauer is at AA.  I think you could make the argument that Bundy would be better challenged at HiA.  That said, although I think having him throw at Delmarva is wasting an opportunity for him to pitch against higher competition and have more stability off the field over the course of a season...it is doubtful to have any long standing effect on him one way or the other.


SeanP said...

Isn't Bundy 19 this season? His birthday is in November.

Jon Shepherd said...

I based it on season years...I think he is 19.7 or something halfway through the year...so round up.

Anonymous said...

There's been discussion (obviously) about this in the Sun. When he has been interviewed, Bundy has pointed out that he has been working on his off speed pitches. Particularly his change up. It appears the thinking is, have him focus on pitching, and emphasize his secondary pitches, in an environment where he can take the risks, without getting hammered.

The O's will move him up shortly. He's obviously got LowA figured out. He's doing well enough with his repertoire that he can go to the next level and not be gun-shy.

He'll get a couple of longer starts in Delmarva, just to see how he does facing the opposing lineups a second time. Once he proves himself in that environment, he'll move up to HiA.

And I wouldn't be at all surprised to see him in AAA by the end of the year. If he's as good as advertised, and stays healthy, there won't be any reason (other than innings) to keep him from a visit to Norfolk by August.

Chip said...

Part of Melewski's article talked about the fact that Bundy is working on developing his changeup at Delmarva. And because Delmarva has a 6-man rotation, that means he can get two bullpen sessions in between starts and not just one, so he has more time to work on it there.

Since having a great changeup will make him that much more dominant a pitcher, the O's plan makes a fair bit of sense. Also, because of the innings limitation, if they do bump him to Frederick mid-year, he can pitch more innings at Frederick than he would have been able to if he had been pitching full games at Delmarva, since he won't be close to his innings limit.

My guess would be he'll be in Frederick after the all-star break, assuming they're happy with his changeup. He'll probably have about five or six starts pitching at least five innings by that point.

Jon Shepherd said...

I just do not find any of this as solid arguments. His stuff will play against HiA competition. He could pitch every sixth day as someone who comes in the game in the 6th inning and get 3 innings and still have two bullpen sessions if that is really consequential.

The whole thing about not getting hammered is just a poor thought to me because no one can hit him. It is not like he is meeting any adversity on the field at all. It is all gravy. I doubt it will hinder him, but I think you provide as much resistance as possible when training someone to be a MLB pitcher.

Libby Shea said...

It seems like they're trying to teach him how to pitch, specifically to develop his secondary pitches. I think he could probably dominate hitters at every minor league level with his current stuff. Palmer in particular seems to think he is already close to major league ready.

I guess they don't want him to be challenged and forced to rely on his fastball, but rather to develop the change in an environment where he won't be touched.

If he finishes at AA or AAA, he's got to be in the majors by 2013, right?

Anonymous said...

Jon, while I definitely see your point about challenging a player, I think the O's were right in this instance. Dylan has shown to be a mature guy for his age, but still young and less exposed to the realities of life on the trail. Also, I think they want to establish rhythm in his game before throwing him in the deep end. I wouldn't be surprised if he saw 4 levels this year...and it will bear out to make perfect sense. There is no reason to rush this kid - his talent will move him fast enough.