Pipeline Inbox: What's the word on O's Bundy?
Jim Callis responds to fans' questions about baseball's future stars
Chris Young's heroics in Game One of the World Series reminded me of the first time I saw him pitch (and how old I'm getting). It came 15 years ago, when I was writing a feature on the Cape Cod League for Baseball America.
The Pirates had made Young a third-round pick in 2000, but he also was a basketball star with NBA aspirations at Princeton and wanted to finish his degree. Rather than sign immediately, he opted for the Cape League and helped his cause by ranking second in strikeouts (between one-time megaprospect Bobby Brownlie and current Red Sox farm director Ben Crockett) and fifth in ERA. Pittsburgh gave Young a $1.65 million bonus, then the equivalent of mid-first-round money.
The 2000 version of Young looked a lot like the 2015 version, albeit with less gray hair. He had excellent body control for someone who stands 6-foot-10, and he worked around 90 mph with his fastball. His breaking ball wasn't sharp but had the ability to change batters' eye level, making it difficult to square up.
With Young's size and athleticism, scouts projected that he might throw in the mid-90s once he gained more baseball experience, but that never happened. Nevertheless, he has won 76 big league games, earned All-Star recognition in 2007 and is still going strong at age 36 following surgery to alleviate thoracic outlet syndrome two years ago. He won the biggest game of his life with three near-perfect innings on Tuesday night, enhancing his chances of earning his first World Series ring.
What's the word on Orioles right-hander Dylan Bundy? Will he ever be the same again?
-- Evan G., Owasso, Okla.
Many scouts considered Bundy the most polished prep pitcher they'd ever seen when the Orioles took him No. 4 overall in the loaded 2011 Draft and signed him to a $6,225,000 big league contract. He had a spectacular debut in 2012, breaking into pro ball with a 0.00 ERA and an absurd 40/9 strikeout/baserunner ratio in 30 low Class A innings before finishing the year with two scoreless appearances in Baltimore at age 19.
Bundy seemed like a lock for stardom, but he came down with elbow soreness in Spring Training in 2013 and had Tommy John surgery that June. He didn't pitch at all that season and has totaled just 63 2/3 innings the last two years while dealing with lat and shoulder issues. He hasn't pitched in a game since May 21 in Double-A, though he's scheduled to take the mound for the Arizona Fall League's Peoria Javelinas next week.
Before he got hurt, Bundy hit 100 mph with his four-seam fastball, had two-seam and cut versions that also qualified as plus pitches, and also possessed a nasty curveball at times and a promising changeup. He'll flash that same stuff, but his extraordinary command hasn't returned and there are obvious questions about his durability. He still has a ceiling as a No. 1 starter but comes with a great deal of risk.
Can you rank Starlin Castro, Javier Baez and Gleyber Torres based on perceived trade value? Is it close?
-- Doug T., St. Charles, Ill.
The Cubs have quite the shortstop logjam brewing. Addison Russell is locked in at shortstop, which also happens to be the position at which Castro has made three All-Star teams, Baez is fully capable of playing and Torres has shown one of the more advanced bats in the entire Minors. Castro did shift to second base in the second half of the season, and Baez would be a defensive upgrade at third base over Kris Bryant if Chicago moved Bryant into an increasingly crowded corner-outfield picture. Something obviously is going to have to give, hence Doug's question.
It's close, but Castro has the most trade value because he has proven the most in the Majors and comes with a team-friendly contract that will pay him $37 million over the next four seasons, and either $16 million or a $1 million buyout in 2020. He's still just 25 and is a capable if unspectacular defender at shortstop.
Baez has a higher ceiling, definitely more power and more defensive ability than Castro, but he also has a horrific 119/19 K/BB ratio in the big leagues. Though he made some adjustments to his approach in 2015, he's still extremely aggressive. I'm not sure the Cubs would sell low on Baez, but he'd be the player I'd try to pursue in a deal.
Signed for $1.7 million out of Venezuela in 2013, Torres hit .293/.353/.386 in low Class A at age 18 this season. He may be the best pure hitter of this trio and should grow into at least 12-15 home run power, though he's not as good defensively as Baez or Castro. He'd draw a lot of interest if Chicago put him on the trading block but also is at least a couple of years away from the big leagues.
Where does Giants infield prospect Christian Arroyo play in San Francisco if Matt Duffy isn't a fluke?
-- Patrick M., Windermere, Fla.
The Giants made Arroyo a surprise first-round pick in 2013 and have mostly played him at shortstop ever since. While he has justified San Francisco's faith in his bat by hitting .303/.348/.448, most scouts outside the organization believe Arroyo lacks the speed and quickness to remain at shortstop. With Brandon Crawford on the Giants, it's a moot point anyway.
Arroyo would be a better fit at second base, but Joe Panik is ensconced there in San Francisco. Arroyo has the arm to fit at third base but would have to develop more power to profile there. That's certainly possible and may be more likely than Duffy continuing to exceed expectations to the extent he did in a spectacular rookie season.
Fellow MLBPipeliner Bernie Pleskoff and I actually had this conversation in an AFL pressbox last week, and Bernie believes Arroyo is the Giants' center fielder of the future. I'm not sure Arroyo runs well enough to play center and I'd have to see him out there before I'd believe it, though I do think he'll hit enough to at least be a viable corner outfielder.