It happens every year. A high school pitcher suffers an injury that causes him to drop significantly in the amateur draft. Those who’ve not been exposed in the major scouting circuits may fall off of draft boards completely and see their potential careers aborted or detoured in the college ranks.
Other arms with with high ceilings are be nabbed in the middle rounds by organizations who hope to lure the youngsters to professional ball with over-slot bonuses, or at least establish a relationship with the player in hopes to redraft him down the line. These teenagers are invariably offered discounted money compared to the bonuses that would have been in store for them if health permitted. Still, zealous organizations are sometimes able to convince kids to sign for reasonable prices and get started with their careers.
Such was the case for Bobby Bundy, a 6 foot, 2 inch right-handed pitcher out of Sperry, Oklahoma. Bundy was steadily climbing up 2008 draft boards as scouts saw more of his heavy, 91-94 MPH fastball, potential plus curve, and developing change up, until a knee injury suffered in a basketball game in the winter before his senior year kept him off the mound for most of the season. He was able to take the mound late in the spring, thanks in part to the aid of a knee brace, but showed scouts diminished velocity, sitting 88-91 with his fastball.
Still, the Orioles believed that his velocity would return and, when coupled with his big breaking curve, warranted consideration for a significant bonus in the draft. Partially due to skepticism regarding his recovery, and partially due to whispers of significant demands, Bundy fell to Baltimore in the eighth round of the 2008 draft.
Despite a commitment to Arkansas to be a two-way player for the highly regarded baseball program, Bundy eventually agreed to sign for a $600,000 bonus, the largest awarded to an eighth-rounder at the time. Orioles’ Scouting Director Joe Jordan, along with scouts who had seen Bundy throw during his junior year of high school, regarded him as a sleeper pick to become a top prospect in Baltimore’s system.
For Bobby Bundy, 2009 was a season more about process than results. The 19 year old made just 12 starts as he attempted to recover his velocity and adapt to the rigors of professional ball. Bundy posted a 5.10 ERA over 54 2/3 innings with rookie level Bluefield. Still, there were some positives to take away from the season: twice as many strike outs as walks, batted ball data that leaned toward ground balls, and a FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching, a statistic that attempts to neutralize run allowance for factors that pitchers control most) of 4.55, over half a run lower than his actual ERA.
Bundy, a notorious workout warrior, came back strong in 2010, ready for a longer season and heavier workload. The 20-year-old hurler worked 116 inning for low-A Delmarva, split up between 18 starts at 10 relief appearances. With regained velocity and a tighter curve, Bundy showed scouts glimpses of the potential that kept him from falling further in the draft two years before.
With his injuries finally behind him, Bundy came into 2011 Spring Training with a clear goal: to become a complete pitcher. Working extensively on the development of his change-up, the consistency of his breaking ball, and the improved control and command of his total arsenal, Bundy entered the season primed to emerge as a top prospect at the age of 21.
Through nine starts spanning 49 2/3 innings, Bundy has accumulated 8.52 strikeouts, 1.81 walks, and 0.36 home runs per nine innings, while showing the strongest ground ball tendencies of his young career. In perhaps his most impressive accomplishment, Bundy is going deeper into games than ever, averaging over five-and-a-half innings per start. The righty will likely see his innings capped at about 150 this season, but learning to utilize his arsenal while facing a lineup two or three times a game is an invaluable lesson at this point in his development.
Bundy is an excellent candidate for a mid- or late-season promotion, setting the stage for a spring training invite in 2012. He still has a few things to work on in the minor leagues, and AA will be a big test for him, but regardless of where Bundy finishes the season he should be a lock for a spot on Baltimore’s top ten prospects list.
It’s a Family Thing
Interestingly enough, Bobby may not be the most talented pitcher in the Bundy family. His brother Dylan Bundy, a 6’1″ right-handed pitcher also out of Sperry, Oklahoma, is a near lock for a top 10 selection in this year’s Amateur Draft, only a week away. Despite good company, Dylan is considered one of the best pitching prospects to ever emerge from the area. With a mid-to-upper 90s fastball (which has touched triple digits on at least one occasion this season) and a feel for pitching that is advanced beyond his years, Dylan Bundy has emerged as arguably the best prep pitcher in a deep draft class.
This presents an interesting scenario for the Baltimore Orioles, who hold the fourth overall pick. Dylan has been placed anywhere from first to fifth on mock draft boards recently syndicated by respected national organizations. It is not inconceivable (perhaps even likely at this point) that, should he fall to the fourth selection, Dylan could join his brother Bobby in the Orioles organization.
Denver Bundy, father of Dylan and Bobby and adviser for Jay Franklin’s BBI Sports Group, played an instrumental role in securing Bobby’s precedent setting bonus in 2008, and will likely be actively involved in Dylan’s negotiation process as well. Franklin, the Bundy family, Joe Jordan already have an established relationship, but Dylan will not come cheaply. Rumors have circulated around the blogosphere that the Bundy’s are looking for a $30 million signing bonus. It’s unclear how much truth there is to these rumors, and it’s highly unlikely that Dylan signs for anywhere near that figure, but what can be taken from all this is the fact that any drafting team must be prepared to play hard ball in order to the talented young pitcher.
Still, it’s a very real possibility that Baltimore fans may soon be dreaming of an Oriole rotation anchored by two immensely talented pitchers named Bundy.