Any news that involves Dylan Bundy and an “elbow injury” is never good.
According to Steve Melewski of MASN, Bundy, who’s widely regarded as baseball’s top pitching prospect, has been shut down for a couple days after experiencing "mild" elbow tightness. Orioles’ general manager Dan Duquette has already downplayed the injury, stating that the right-hander is “resting until it’s resolved which we expect will be in a couple days.”
Regardless of how the story is spun, there’s obviously reason for concern.
Recently ranked as the Prospect Pipeline’s third-overall prospect headed into the 2013 season, Bundy reached the major leagues as a September call-up last year as a 19-year-old.
The fourth-overall selection in the 2011 draft, Bundy enjoyed a rapid ascension through the Orioles’ system last season, which also marked his first full season in the minor leagues. After dominating at Low-A Delmarva to open the year, the right-hander made equally-impressive stops at both High-A Frederick and Double-A Bowie before ultimately reaching the major leagues in late September.
Across all three minor-league levels, Bundy registered a 2.08 ERA with a 119/28 K/BB in 103.2 innings.
Although he battled tightness in his groin early in spring training, the 20-year-old still threw eight innings in major league camp, posting a 1.13 ERA and an uncharacteristic 5/6 K/BB. Following his outing on March 14th against the Tampa Bay Rays in which he walked two batters over three innings, the Orioles optioned Bundy to Double-A Bowie.
Projected to emerge as the team ace within a matter of years, Bundy’s pure stuff, pitchability and overall maturity make him unlike any other 20-year-old pitcher in the game. So naturally, expect the Orioles to proceed with extreme caution.
Headed into the season, it was widely believed that Bundy would be among the first top-ranked pitching prospects promoted to the major leagues, possibly even in mid-May once he’s clear of service-time concerns. However, with the right-hander now shelved indefinitely, all plans have been put on hold.
Though he fared well this spring in big league camp, some reporters noted that Bundy’s velocity was down a bit. And although decreased velocity is common in spring training with pitchers trying to build stamina following the offseason, it certainly carries more weight when linked to a potential elbow injury. It’s also worth noting that Dylan’s brother, Bobby, also a pitcher in the Orioles organization, suffered an elbow injury last year.
Even though Bundy is an absolute physical specimen with a unique and well-documented training regimen, it obviously does not make him exempt from a future arm injury.
With Double-A Bowie set to open their season on Thursday, the chances of Bundy making the inaugural start are slim. The Orioles would like to get him back to the major leagues as soon as possible, but it’s obviously not worth jeopardizing his incredibly promising career, even if it ultimately dampens the team’s likelihood of returning to the postseason.
We should know more later this week when Bundy is re-evaluated. But until then, I think I speak for all baseball fans when saying my fingers are crossed.