We are just one week into the season, and it’s easy to overreact to hot starts and early slumps, we forget this is a long process as we buy the hype way early and want to make big roster moves to help uswin our league. This idea is dangerous and sometimes foolish as paitence is a birtue in fantasy baseball, but there is one player that had a great start and needs to be added in most formats, and that is Orioles starter Dylan Bundy, who is owned in just 57% of Yahoo leagues and 49% of ESPN leagues. This early in the season any add/drops made should be rationally aggressive, with a long term purpose in mind. It’s okay to chase hot starts as long as you understand the risk balance between who you are adding and who you are dropping, and you do some cursory research before making a move. Breakouts and league winners emerge in April, and Dylan Bundy has the makings of one.
Once, Bunday was one of the most heralded prospects in baseball, but then a 2013 Tommy John surgery snowballed into further injuries and took nearly three years away from Dylan Bundy. Bundy returned to the majors last season, and as we saw with both he and Pirates starter Jameson Taillon, who also missed multiple years with injury, talent still exists.
Bundy’s start against a strong Blue Jays lineup was impressive on the surface, he pitched seven innings, allowing one earned run and four hits, and struck out eight. What is most notable about Bundy’s excellent performance is his slider usage. Prior to his last start, Dylan Bundy hadn’t thrown a slider in a major league game since 2012, and he used it approximately 1/3rd of the time in his first start against the Blue Jays. Not only did Bundy incorporate the pitch, the pitch was incredibly effective. He threw it 31 times and batters swung and missed 14 times. Dylan Bundy’s slider was essentially unhittable.
A 45% whiff rate is wholly unsustainable over the course of the season, that is clear, but much of Bundy’s prospect pedigree was because of his slider, it’s the pitch that made him a name to watch out for in the baseball world. The pitch is among the best in baseball, and a 20% whiff rate on the slider, similar to what Chris Archer has done over the last two seasons, seems within the realm of possibility. If Bundy continues to throw his slider 30% of the time or more, we could see a sustained ace level performance. Now I’m aware that It is only one good start for Bundy, and this article isn’t meant to crown Bundy the next Clayton Kershaw, but there is relevant information that points to a potential breakout for Bundy.
The obvious worry with Bundy is his injury history, an increased slider usage and likely innings bump only exacerbate those concerns. Bundy is supposedly not facing an innings limit in 2017, and the reemergence of his slider likely means that the Orioles are trying to unleash Bundy to his full potential. While this may increase his risk of injury, this is an excellent development for fantasy owners. Most projection systems have this injury baked into his final numbers, with Bundy being pegged around 145-150 innings most of the time, and even if projection systems cannot account for the added risk of increased slider usage, 110-130 innings of the Dylan Bundy we saw on April 5th is worth adding right now.
As I outlined in a previous article about Rich Hill, a great performance over a limited number of innings can have a tremendous amount of value, especially in H2H formats and shallow leagues. Using a part-time ace like Hill or (potentially) Bundy and supplementing possible missed time with streamers is more valuable than a mid-range starter. So many “blah” pitchers like Adam Wainwright, Jeff Samardzija, Hisashi Iwakuma, and Ian Kennedy have higher ownership than Bundy, in fact their ownership is 10-30% higher. I would drop any of those aforementioned pitchers for Bundy without hesitation.
Fantasy baseball is tricky this time of year, because owners must be both proactive and reactive at the same time when making moves. We need something to judge a player on, but the sample size is so small that the data seems irrelevant. A lot of fantasy owners say they don’t make any moves early in the season because the sample sizes are too small, but this limits their potential to grab breakouts. Remember, the earlier you add a player, the more benefit that player gives you. A breakout player added in April is significantly more valuable than one added in July. I’m not suggesting a roster overhaul by any means, but weighing the realistic long term upside of players on your roster versus free agents is something every owner needs to do this early in the year. If he’s available in your league, the potential of Dylan Bundy is worth more than the present value of most fourth and fifth fantasy starters.
Please direct all questions, comments, and hate mail to @Elliott_TFR