Now that the Orioles have drafted Oklahoma high school pitcher Dylan Bundy, now comes the development part of the equation, where the organization will work on getting Bundy to the major leagues at a proper pace that will allow the best chance for him to have lasting success.
Easy to say, but hard to do. Many fans are skeptical, with some justification, about the O’s ability to develop young pitchers after so many have come up short of expectations and/or gotten injured in recent years.
As a player that was signed to a major league contract, Bundy may be called on to report to spring training with the other pitchers on the 40-man roster Feb. 18 and have a long time then until the minor league seasons begin April 5. Most minor league pitchers won’t report for spring camp until the first week or so of March.
I’ve heard estimates that the Orioles would probably hold Bundy to a 120-inning limit for this year, give or take a few, during his first full season of pro ball. To get from the start of the year to the end without having to be shut down by using up the allotted innings too fast, Bundy could be held to five-inning outings. He is likely to begin his first year in the Single-A Delmarva Shorebirds’ rotation.
By way of comparison, here is how some other talented high school pitchers were handled in their first few professional seasons:
Zach Britton was the Orioles’ third-round pick out of a Texas high school in 2006 and after signing, he pitched 34 innings that summer at Rookie League Bluefield. He went 64 innings at short-season Single-A Aberdeen in 2007 before making his full-season debut with Delmarva in 2008. Then, in 27 starts over 147 innings, he went 12-7 with a 3.12 ERA. He finished seventh in the South Atlantic league in ERA and fourth in innings. Britton made his big league debut in 2011.
Jeremy Hellickson was Tampa Bay’s fourth-round pick out of a Des Moines, Iowa, high school in 2005 and is now considered one of the game’s best young pitchers. But he didn’t make his full season debut until his third year after pitching six innings in 2005 and 78 in 2006 in short-season ball. In 2007, the right-hander went 13-3 with a 2.67 ERA in 21 starts covering 111 innings in the South Atlantic League. He made his big league debut late in the 2010 season was named the 2011 American League Rookie of the Year, when he went 13-10 with a 2.95 ERA for the Rays.
Most recently, we can look at the case of Jameson Taillon, the talented pitcher that Pittsburgh took with the second pick in round one of the 2010 draft out of a Texas high school. He was taken one spot ahead of the Orioles’ Manny Machado and almost certainly would have been the O’s selection had Pittsburgh taken Machado.
Taillon made his pro ball debut last summer in the South Atlantic League. His first outing was April 27 and he went 2-3 with a 3.98 ERA in 23 starts over 93 innings. The 6-foot-6, 225-lb. right-hander never pitched over five innings and went as deep as five innings in just seven of his starts. He was said to be on a 75-pitch limit in each start.
The Pirates clearly trod lightly and were cautious with one of their top young prospects. Taillon was ranked recently by Baseball America as Pittsburgh’s No. 2 prospect behind Gerrit Cole and here is what Baseball America said about his immediate future for this coming season:
Taillon will begin 2012 in high Class A, and the Pirates will allow him to work deeper into games and use his secondary pitches more often. They won’t rush him, but he’s talented enough to knock on the door to Pittsburgh late in 2013 and eventually become a No. 1 starter.
Britton and Hellickson reached the majors five years after the draft where they were taken. Some feel Bundy, who many say is as advanced as last year’s top college pitchers, could be pushing for major league time as soon as late into his second pro season. That would be lightning fast. Even if he made the majors at some point in 2014, that would be two seasons ahead of Britton and Hellickson.
Via e-mail, I asked Jim Callis of Baseball America how he thought the Orioles should use Bundy this season and he thinks starting him at Delmarva is the right move.
“I like the Orioles’ plan for Bundy. He’s much better served getting 110-120 innings in a full-season league than wasting time in extended spring training and then short-season or Rookie ball. He’s much more advanced than a typical high school pitcher and should be handled accordingly,” Callis wrote.
By the way, not all O’s high school drafted pitchers have struggled. In recent years, hurlers like Dylan’s brother Bobby Bundy, Parker Bridwell, Jamie Esquivel and Sebastian Vader have made progress under the Orioles’ tutelage.
Next up is Dylan Bundy, perhaps the Orioles most touted and talented young pitcher since Ben McDonald.