LA Angels: Why Dylan Bundy deserves the Opening Day nod

Dylan Bundy, Los Angeles Angels (Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images)
Dylan Bundy, Los Angeles Angels (Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images) /

When the Orioles selected Dylan Bundy with the fourth overall pick in 2011, the front office had high hopes the right-hander would be the Opening Day starter for years to come. After four years in Baltimore, Bundy failed to show the promise he carried as a prospect. The Orioles shipped Bundy to the Angels in exchange for four pitching prospects prior to the 2020 season, and he has thrived in Anaheim.

In 2016, Bundy got his first real taste of MLB action. Bundy pitched in 36 games while making 14 starts, winning ten games with a 4.02 ERA and a 1.0 WAR. The former first-rounder showed growth in 2017 and looked to be progressing as the ace the Orioles hoped he’d become, throwing 169.2 innings in 28 starts while winning 13 games to the tune of a 4.24 ERA.

However, Bundy regressed in 2018, losing 16 games over 31 starts, with his ERA ballooning to 5.45. He was plagued by the home-run ball allowing 2.15 home runs per nine innings, a huge increase over the 1.38 average in the previous season. Bundy’s 2019 campaign turned out to be more of the same, losing 14 games over 30 starts, posting a 4.79 ERA and  averaging 3.23 walks per nine innings.

The flier the Angels took on Bundy turned into a huge reward, as he blossomed into a formidable top of the rotation starter in 2020. The 28-year-old won six games in 11 starts, posting a 3.29 ERA while lowering his walks per nine innings rate (2.33), home runs per nine innings (0.69), and raising his strikeout rate (9.87). Bundy also offered quality, reliable innings to an Angels staff that finished bottom-ten in the league in innings pitched and starting staff ERA during the 2018 and 2019 seasons.

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On March 15, Angels manager Joe Maddon announced that Bundy will get his first Opening Day start for the Angels on April 1 against the Chicago White Sox.

Despite the excitement and reliability that Bundy has brought to the Angels rotation, he doesn’t exactly represent the typical ace or Opening Day starter fan bases across baseball expect to see. Of the 30 teams in both leagues, the case can be made that Bundy would compete for the Opening Day nod on maybe seven teams (LAA, TEX, BAL, DET, KC, PIT, & SF).

According to Fangraph’s ZiPS projections of all starting pitchers projected for 2021, Bundy is tied 47th in WAR, projected at 2.3. Despite the underwhelming facts, Bundy has proven that he is a valid reason for the Angels to be excited about his presence atop their rotation.

Many analysts around baseball, and maybe most importantly the fan base of the Angels, are wondering if Bundy can repeat the kind of success he had in the shortened 2020 season in his final year while under contract with the Angels.

Can Dylan Bundy take the next steps in his career as the Angels ace?

Off to a good start in spring training, Bundy has yet to allow a run in 6.2 innings pitched, giving up only two hits and three walks while punching out three batters. Bundy features an effective four-pitch arsenal, mixing in sliders and curveballs to go with his low-to-mid 90s fastball and devastating changeup.

In his most recent spring training start, Bundy put his changeup on full display, making Anthony Rizzo look foolish as he punched him out on back-to-back changeups. Rizzo has long been known as one of the games top first baseman and steady contact hitters.

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Although the sample size is small, there is no reason to think that Dylan Bundy cannot continue the success that he has seen in 2020 and 2021 spring training in an Angels uniform.