On Sunday I had the opportunity to witness Dylan Bundy's latest start for the Delmarva Shorebirds in Hagerstown against the Suns. I sat in the third row right behind the plate so I had a really good view of the action. Directly behind me were an Orioles scout (I didn't get his name), Parker Bridwell and Tim Berry who were charting the Shorebirds pitchers. Bridwell and Berry are also starting pitchers for the Shorebirds, Bridwell even made some Orioles top prospect lists. Since I'm not anything close to a scout and don't own a radar gun, all of my velocity readings came from the gun that Parker was holding. It was certainly an interesting perspective to watch a game. There was also a gaggle of scouts standing behind our section who I'm sure were all there to see Bundy. Here's Bundy from my viewpoint.
From the opening pitch, Bundy didn't disappoint. He started the game throwing only his fastball, which ranged from 95-98 mph. The first batter flew out softly to center, so he started the 2nd batter Cutter Dykstra (yes, he's Lenny Dykstra's son) with a steady stream of fastballs as well. Cutter fouled a couple off and worked a full count. After throwing only fastballs to this point, he dropped a 75 mph curveball over the inner half that completely fooled the right handed Dykstra who couldn't take the bat off of his shoulder. Strikeout looking on a very impressive front door curveball that looked like it broke over a foot down and away from him. He threw a couple more fastballs to the next hitter, who lined out to center. First inning completed, and the only curveball of the day.
The first hitter of the 2nd inning was the Suns most dangerous hitter, Matthew Skole. Again, Bundy threw mostly fastballs but he mixed in a 87 mph changeup which had late downward movement. Bundy struck him out swinging on a 97 mph fastball with a little cut action. 2 strikeouts through 4 batters. The next batter saw all fastballs in the 96 mph range and flew out to center. A couple of these fastballs also had cutting action. J.P. Ramirez was up next, and Bundy started him with two 97 mph fastballs before going to the changeup. The change came in at 88, but Ramirez was either ready for it or his bat speed was perfect for a 88 mph change instead of a 97 mph fastball (that's what the scout said anyway.) Ramirez timed it up perfectly and hit a deep fly to right field. Shorebirds right fielder Brenden Webb had to make a jumping catch at the top of the wall in right to prevent extra bases or possibly a home run. Sadly, this was the last offspeed pitch Bundy would throw all afternoon. 2 innings completed, no base runners.
In the third inning, Bundy faced the bottom third of the Suns lineup and overpowered them solely with his fastball. He threw an inside fastball to the first hitter, who broke his bat and hit a soft one hopper to shortstop for the out. He struck out the second batter, Cole Leonida swinging on all fastballs. The 9th batter in the order, Billy Burns, was completely overmatched in his at bat. He swung through the first two fastballs before hitting a high chopper over the mound. Bundy made a nice athletic play going behind the mound on the one hopper for the out. Third inning completed, still no base runners.
The top of the lineup was due up in the fourth as Bundy had still faced the minimum number of batters. I'm not sure why but Bundy must have decided that he only needed his fastball at this point, as that's all he threw. The leadoff batter Brian Goodwin hit a long fly ball to the warning track in left center that left fielder Kyle Hoppy tracked down. Dykstra was up next and he grounded the first pitch he saw to second base for the out. The inning ended when Martinson hit a soft liner that right fielder Brenden Webb fielded easily. All fastballs this inning, still no base runners.
Everyone knew going into the game that Bundy was only going to throw 5 innings, so this was his last inning no matter what happened. The best looking hitter in the game to me was the Suns cleanup man Matthew Skole, who happened to be up to lead off the 5th. Skole was the Nationals 5th round pick in the 2011 draft out of Georgia Tech. He took a 95 mph fastball from Bundy and lined it over the right fielder's head for a double. This would be the only hit that Bundy would give up on the afternoon, and was the first base runner he allowed. Even though the Suns were down 3-0 at this point, they decided to have their number 5 hitter bunt Skole over to third. Again, Bundy looked very athletic coming over toward the third base line to field the bunt and throwing the batter out at first. I guess we shouldn't be surprised but Bundy looks like a very good fielder. Since J.P. Ramirez had taken Bundy to the wall in right his last at bat, Bundy wanted to back him off the plate in this at bat. Unfortunately, he missed off the plate inside and hit him. First and third, one out.
This was the first time all day that Bundy was in trouble, so maybe he'd use his devastating curveball and still work in progress changeup to get out of it, right? Bundy must not think that he needs those pitches to get out of trouble because he threw all fastballs to the next hitter. I guess if I had a fastball as great as Bundy's, I would too. He threw 96 and 97 mph fastballs to the next hitter. A couple showed some nice arm side run, and all of of them had late life. Brett Newsome couldn't catch up to them and struck out swinging on a high fastball. The catcher Leonida was up next with two down and runners still on first and third. Bundy knew this was the end of his outing, and reached back for a little more on the 0-2 count firing his fastest pitch of the day to get the hitter to ground weakly to short. His last pitch of the day registered 99 mph on the gun, and is reminiscent of what Justin Verlander does often towards the end of his outings. It was pretty impressive to see that Bundy had even more in the tank to turn to when he was in trouble and wanted to get out of the inning. The soft groundball ended the inning and also Bundy's day on the mound.
On the day, Bundy threw 5 innings with 0 runs, 1 hit, 1 HBP, 4 strikeouts, and 0 walks. He didn't allow a base runner until the 5th inning when he allowed a double and hit a batter. His fastball command was very good, and he could clearly dominate the Low A Hagerstown hitters solely with the fastball mostly 95-98 mph. The disappointing part of his outing from a development standpoint was the fact that he only threw 1 curveball and 2 changeups. The one curveball that he threw was an absolutely devastating wipeout pitch that he threw for a strike. I would have loved to see him bury a few in the dirt to see if the Suns hitters would swing over the top of it. Rick Peterson, the Orioles director of pitching development has been encouraging Bundy to use more of his secondary pitches so it's hard to say why he didn't use them. Peterson seems to think that he doesn't use them because he doesn't need them to get hitters out. That may be the case, but he needs to work on his secondary pitches in order to pitch in the majors. If he doesn't feel the need to use them in Low A ball, move him to Frederick where he may need them more.
Even though Bundy has only thrown his fastball, curveball, and changeup this year, he apparently also has a slider. He certainly hasn't needed it thus far, but it's exciting that he was even more weapons at his disposal when he does need them. He only threw two changeups, one of which was foul tipped while the other was taken to the wall in right. The pitch definitely has the potential to be a plus pitch for him with similar arm action to his fastball and late downward life. In order to refine it, he just needs to throw it more often.
There is some talk of Bundy being moved up to Frederick to continue his season either now or after one more start. I certainly feel that he's ready to be moved up after he's dominated Low A ball with a 0.00 ERA and 40 strikeouts to 2 walks in 30 innings. He's only let up 5 hits in those 30 innings. Just to further illuminate his dominance, he's struck out 40% of the hitters to face him this season. That's 2 out of every 5 batters! He'd have even more strikeouts this season if he didn't get everyone out. If he actually let up a few hits, he'd have a chance to get more k's.
More than his success though, I think it's the fact that he needs to be forced to use his secondary pitches that necessitates the promotion. He knows that he has an electric fastball that would be effective against major league hitters right now. However, a starting pitcher can't succeed in the majors with one pitch. He needs to work on his changeup, curveball, and even his slider. The development of his secondary offerings is really all that's standing in the way of him being a phenomenal pitcher.
All in all, Bundy definitely lived up to the hype. His fastball is absolutely electric and he's almost certainly ready for the next challenge in his career. If you have the chance to go see him pitch, it's definitely worth the price of admission. I certainly will go see him again if I have the chance. Maybe I'll see you there.