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I know, I know. We’ve seen plenty of Dylan Bundy before with Baltimore when he was not very good. But since the Angels acquired him this offseason and tinkered with his pitch mix, the former top prospect has blossomed. It’s fair to wonder if the Angels would actually deal Bundy, since the Halos have been looking for pitching for what seems like ages. Yet, even with expanded playoffs this year, it looks like the Angels may waste another of Mike Trout’s prime seasons and miss October baseball. At 8-16 and with ever-declining playoff odds, it may be time to sell.

Background & Performance

The Orioles drafted Bundy with the fourth overall selection in the 2011 draft and instantly was one of the top pitching prospects in the league. He made top-100 lists annually from 2012 through 2016, ranking as high as the second-best prospect on Baseball America and MLB.com.

Bundy actually debuted in 2012 as a 19 year-old, but that was just a cameo. He was one of the last (maybe the last, though I’m not sure where to confirm) draftees to receive a Major League contract before the league barred that practice. A barrage of injuries held him back in subsequent years, and Bundy wouldn’t resurface in the big leagues again until 2016.

The now 27 year-old right had a lackluster run in the Orioles’ rotation for a few years: in just over 614 innings, he recorded a 4.67 ERA (94 ERA+). His big problem was the longball. Bundy gave up 114 dingers, or 1.7 per nine innings with the Birds. His worst was 2018, when he surrendered 41 homers in 171 2/3 frames. Yikes.

Bundy never lived up to the hype while with the O’s. Health may have played a big factor in that, but that didn’t stop the Angels from pursuing the former uber-prospect this past offseason. LA’s faith in Bundy has been rewarded thus far. In five starts, he has a 2.48 ERA in 32 2/3 innings. It may be a small sample size, but he’s suppressing hard contact, limiting walks, striking out more batters, and keeping the ball in the yard. That’s a recipe for success.

Pitch mix

Injuries and wear-and-tear sapped Bundy of the power fastball from his prospect days, but that didn’t stop him from leaning on it heavily with Baltimore. He was able to spin it at an above average clip, but it never really played because of a lack of velocity (~91 MPH) and Bundy’s control-over-command profile. It’s one thing to throw a high-spin fastball over the heart of the plate if you’re Chad Green. It’s another if you can’t reach the mid-to-upper nineties with it. So, the Angels had Bundy mix things up.

Overall, Bundy’s now throwing his slider (30.5 percent) more than any other pitch. He’s basically bumped up the pitch’s usage by 10 percent and dropped his fastball usage in tandem. It makes sense: his slider has been a nasty pitch for a long time. Hitters have whiffed 47.4 percent of the time against the pitch and have a .190 xwOBA against it during Bundy’s career. Here’s what the pitch looks like:

The righty has also found some success with his changeup, which he actually started to ramp up usage of last year. It’s a pitch that gets above average movement and is nearly a 10 MPH difference compared to his fastball. It’s whiff rate has been above 30 percent since last year, too. Here’s a good changeup:

The pitch mix change has been pretty drastic against both sides of hitters, but it’s most noticeable vs. righties.

He’s basically spamming his slider against them and it’s working. Righties are hitting .080/.148/.100 vs. Bundy thus far. They hit .239/.315/.472 against him last season. Now, let’s look at his approach vs. lefties.

Bundy’s throwing more sliders to lefties too, but he’s also bumped up his changeup usage. Last year, lefties hit .274/.329/.452 vs. Bundy. This year, it’s .227/.292/.455.

Ultimately, it looks like the slider-heavy approach to righties is paying off dividends. He’s still searching for some more success against lefties, but perhaps that’ll require him to move further away from his fastball. In any event, Bundy’s looking a lot better this year. Judging him on five starts is a little risky, but we do have something we can pinpoint his success to.

Injury History

There’s no shortage of trouble here:

  • 2013: Tommy John Surgery
  • 2014: Lat Strain
  • 2015: Shoulder Strain
  • 2018: Ankle sprain
  • 2019: Knee tendinitis

In spite of those injuries, Bundy has basically pitched full seasons at the Major League level annually since 2017. He made 28 starts that year, 31 in 2018, and 30 last year.

Contract

Bundy will be a free agent after the 2021 season. If he keeps up his current performance, he’s certain to get a nice raise over the $5 million he signed for this season (which is now prorated, of course). With one more year of control, adding Bundy to the Yankees’ rotation could help not just this year, but next season too. Remember, Masahiro Tanaka and James Paxton are free agents. JA Happ may be too. Luis Severino will likely be back in mid-2021. Clearly, there’s a need for another starter.

What would a trade look like?

The Angels acquired two years of Bundy for four pitching prospects: Isaac Mattson (Triple-A reliever with high K-rate), Zach Peek (’19 6th rd.), Kyle Bradish (’18 4th rd.), and Kyle Brnovich (’19 8th rd.). Even though the Yankees would acquire one-plus seasons of Bundy, I’d imagine the Angels would expect a better haul now.

The most recent trade of a starter with one and change years of control happened last year when the Reds acquired Trevor Bauer in a three-team deal. They gave up Yasiel Puig and prospects Taylor Trammell and Scott Moss. I don’t think that’s comparable here, however. Cincy gave up a lot and Bauer had a bit more of a track record of success.

A few days before the Bauer deal, the Mets picked up a year-plus of Marcus Stroman for prospects Anthony Kay and Simeon Woods-Richardson. Again, this is a case of a pitcher with a better track record than Bundy being traded for two good pitching prospects. Nonetheless, I’d say this is much closer to a potential Bundy exchange than the Bauer deal is.

Kay, who debuted with Toronto last year, is a starter who had reached Triple-A prior to the trade. He was never a top-100 caliber prospect, but still a promising back-end rotational arm. Woods-Richardson hadn’t hit the top-100 with the Mets, but is now a consensus top-100 arm. He hadn’t surpassed A-ball with the Mets before the swap. Kay needed to be added to the 40-man last year, whereas Woods-Richardson isn’t Rule 5 eligible until December 2022.

So, from the Yankees’ perspective: a near-MLB ready (or ready-ready) arm and a low-A pitching prospect with upside seems like a reasonable ask from Anaheim, especially since they really need pitching help. My trade proposal sucks, but: Nick Nelson and Beck Way?