Bundy a Future Star, but What About Today?
Prospects. It’s pretty amazing and confusing to think that baseball fans are deeply interested in players who have only played a few Major League games, or have yet to play at all. For many teams with bleak present outlooks, prospects are a source of comfort for the fans — providing hope that the future will be better. This is especially true with the advent of the internet and the blogosphere. Prospect research and study is the main thrust of Bullpen Banter as well as sites like Baseball America, FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus. Sites like ESPN also cover prospects in-depth as paid premium coverage and their top prospect evaluator, Keith Law, is active on Twitter @keithlaw in taking questions from fans, while mixing in healthy doses of humour, wit and snark. The MLB Draft is now also televised on MLB’s on television network, aptly named “MLB Network”, in the United States and on Rogers Sportsnet One(again a premium channel) in Canada. Following prospects can be a huge advantage for fantasy players as they can provide unexpected value. Much of my success in a 2007 head-to-head league was directly attributable to my sneaky acquisition of Ryan Braun, plucking him out of free agency the day after he was officially recalled. While my league-mates asked me “who the (heck) is Ryan Braun?”, he went on to post a .324/.370/.634 line with 34 HR, 97 RBI and 15/20 stolen bases.
As far as prospects go, the 2011 MLB Draft goes in to the annals of draft history as one of the most interesting drafts in recent memory. The first four picks were all pitchers — two of which have now reached the Major Leagues — Trevor Bauer (Diamondbacks, #3) and Dylan Bundy (Orioles, #4). If you are in a keeper or dynasty league that allows you to draft prospects, these players are very likely long gone. However, if you are in a re-draft league, or a league that allows you to keep waiver and free agent acquisitions, the fantasy value of Dylan Bundy is a point of great interest as he was recalled earlier this week after a marathon 18-inning battle with the Mariners which, perhaps unsurprisingly if you subscribe to narratives, they won.
Unfortunately for those of you in a re-draft league, the outlook for Bundy in 2012 is likely poor as he will provide negligible value. Bundy made his professional debut in Low-A and carved through the level with the merciless efficiency of a buzz-saw. Over 30 innings, he struck out 12 batters per nine innings pitched, and while walking a mere two batters (0.60 BB/9) over this span. Obviously unchallenged, Bundy was promoted to High-A and pitched well, albeit not freakishly, in 12 starts (57 IP) of 2.84 ERA, 10.42 K/9 ball. However, a problem arose as he started to issue walks. After a promotion to Double-A, his strikeout rate plummeted from over 10 K/9 to just over 7 and he began to walk 4.32 per nine simultaneously, albeit in 16.2 IP sample. He has also been prohibited from using his cutter, which is easily his best pitch; for fear that it results in underdevelopment of arm strength. Taking a young pitcher and sending him to the Major Leagues to work without his best weapon is certainly not the standard recipe for success.
Further complicating matters is Bundy’s proposed usage. According to manager Buck Showalter, he will be used as a long reliever and will not make any starts. He made his debut with a man at second and one out in the eighth inning yesterday with his team trailing by one run and got his first two batters to fly out, ending the threat. However, this type of usage provides no value to 5×5 fantasy owners.
Fantasy players considering Bundy can be grouped into three categories: re-draft leagues, keeper leagues that do not allow keeping acquisitions and finally keeper leagues that allow for keeping of acquisitions. For the re-draft group, Bundy is definitely someone to avoid, as he will garner neither wins, nor saves and the risk of a blow-up damaging your ratios is quite high. In keeper leagues that neither draft prospects nor allow for retention of acquisitions as keeps, the story is essentially no different. The only group where Bundy has any appreciable value is for those in keeper leagues that do not draft prospects and allow for retention of acquisitions. If you are in this type of league and are out of contention, grab Bundy now. He will most likely be keeper eligible at a low enough draft position that even if he doesn’t start the year in the big leagues, it should not hurt you. You should always have a spot on your roster for one of these players. I am tied for first place in my league this year and I deeply regret not grabbing Mike Trout, who went last overall and will be in the possession of the same owner for the duration of his career. Don’t shy away. For those of you in contention, you may need to wait a few days to cut a pitcher who will not make another start, but if you can stash him on your roster, do it. My league has the rule that any FA acquisitions can be kept at one round higher than the Yahoo! ADP on the keeper submission date. Particularly if he doesn’t make the team, I could probably keep Bundy in Round 17 at the highest in a 21-round draft (where he will go in re-draft 5×5 leagues for 2013).
Essentially, this is a principle that applies not only to Bundy, but also Jurickson Profar, Trevor Bauer and others. The point in picking them up with an eye on the current season is non-existent, but if your league allows and you have keeper space, grabbing them now for the future is nothing but shrewd and an option that should be acted upon immediately, delaying only at your own risk.