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Dylan Bundy Is Emerging as the Ace of the Orioles Rotation

After a shaky 2016 and several injury-ridden seasons before that, Dylan Bundy is finally healthy and living up to expectations.

Baltimore Sun

It’s been a long, winding road for Dylan Bundy. Snagged up fourth overall in the 2011 draft out of an Oklahoma high school, it didn’t take long for Bundy to reach the big leagues. He would make his Major League debut just over a year later for Baltimore. Since 2012, Bundy has had numerous injuries: Tommy John, lat strains, shoulder problems, and elbow soreness.

It was never a doubt that he had good enough stuff to succeed at this level. The question was: Will he stay healthy?

Great Start to 2017

Through six starts this season, Bundy has accumulated a 1.82 ERA to go along with a 4-1 record. A big reason for the success he’s endured so far is a pitch Bundy brought back — the cutter. He’s used it a lot this year, which has created many swings and misses. It was always a pitch he had in his bag of tricks, but he didn’t feel comfortable enough throwing it last season— just three years after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Bundy’s fastball velocity is averaging around 91 mph this year, which is down from the 94 mph he averaged last season when working out of the bullpen. But the reason that hasn’t mattered is because he’s mixing it up. Bundy is commanding all his pitches and keeping hitters off balance. The slider has looked very sharp and has had some great depth, along with a filthy change up that contains some nice arm side tail.

A lot of people would say it’s worrisome that Bundy isn't sitting in the mid 90’s. But velocity isn’t everything. Baseball managers would rather have a pitcher that can spot up and locate his pitches than one who leaves a ball up in the zone at 95 mph. It’s the big leagues, and if you leave a fastball up in the zone at 95, you will get hit. There’s been fantasy writers saying that the velocity drop and lack of strikeouts is a worry for Bundy, and maybe a cause for concern that the 24-year-old could get injured again. But personally, I don’t think so. He can still rear back and hit the mid 90’s if he wants to, but it’s a long 162-game season and there’s a lot of big games he will be pitching in later in the year. I’d much rather see a pitcher who can command all his pitches and keep an opposing lineup guessing than one who only has a two-pitch combo and can locate neither one, even if he does throw 97.

Go-To Guy in the Rotation so Far

I know it’s early in the season, but so far Bundy is proving that he has the potential to be the ace of this staff. I strongly believe his fastball velocity is going to increase the more he pitches. Just look at his history. I know he’s had several arm injuries, but Bundy was hitting the high 90’s in high school. You don’t just lose that type of arm strength. Another thing that needs to be taken into account is the fact that this is Bundy’s first year as a full-time starting pitcher. The mentality of a starting pitcher and relief pitcher are quite different. Bullpen pitchers come in, give it all they have for two innings, and are out of the game. But as a starter, you need to pace yourself so you can give your team a solid six or seven innings. Movement on a fastball is just as important as velocity, too. Like I mentioned earlier a guy with a straight 96 mph fastball is going to get knocked around, but a guy with a 91 mph heater with dirty tail and sink is going to get outs. That’s exactly what Bundy has done by mixing it up between the four seamer, two seamer, and cut fastball.

It’s not an easy transition from the bullpen to a starter, but Dylan Bundy has made it look easy so far. As the velocity improves, I also believe you will see more strikeouts from him.

If Dylan Bundy continues to carve up opposing lineups, there’s no doubt he WILL be known as the ace of the Baltimore Orioles rotation.

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