Pitching 3D: Casting Call

Pitching 3D: Casting Call

This article is part of our Pitching 3D series.

With the trade deadline in the rearview mirror, fantasy managers are left to scour the waiver wire for additions to their pitching corps. The pickings are slim this time of year, but there are a handful of young players who have recently been given expanded opportunities to make a difference at the highest level, some of whom just might be available in your league. The cast of pitchers in fantasy is an ever-changing group of risers and fallers, and though it is common for some to fall off the map this time of year, with every lost job comes an opportunity for a pitcher at the highest level. Let's check out a few of the new faces on the landscape of fantasy pitching.

Dylan Bundy
Baltimore Orioles, RHP
Age: 23

Bundy took awhile to recover from his 2013 Tommy John surgery, missing a full two seasons and enduring a very slow acclimation to life at the highest level. The Orioles certainly anticipated more from the no. 4 overall pick of the 2011 draft, but the former high school phenom still doesn't turn 24 until after the season, and he has started to turn the corner. He pitched just 41.1 combined innings in 2014 and then suffered another setback last season, as shoulder issues limited him to just 22.0 innings in the minors. After making his big-league debut at the age of 19, it's been a slow climb back to relevance for Bundy, and his ugly performance out of the Orioles'

With the trade deadline in the rearview mirror, fantasy managers are left to scour the waiver wire for additions to their pitching corps. The pickings are slim this time of year, but there are a handful of young players who have recently been given expanded opportunities to make a difference at the highest level, some of whom just might be available in your league. The cast of pitchers in fantasy is an ever-changing group of risers and fallers, and though it is common for some to fall off the map this time of year, with every lost job comes an opportunity for a pitcher at the highest level. Let's check out a few of the new faces on the landscape of fantasy pitching.

Dylan Bundy
Baltimore Orioles, RHP
Age: 23

Bundy took awhile to recover from his 2013 Tommy John surgery, missing a full two seasons and enduring a very slow acclimation to life at the highest level. The Orioles certainly anticipated more from the no. 4 overall pick of the 2011 draft, but the former high school phenom still doesn't turn 24 until after the season, and he has started to turn the corner. He pitched just 41.1 combined innings in 2014 and then suffered another setback last season, as shoulder issues limited him to just 22.0 innings in the minors. After making his big-league debut at the age of 19, it's been a slow climb back to relevance for Bundy, and his ugly performance out of the Orioles' bullpen for the first half of the year was hardly inspiring, but the right-hander has reminded us over the past few weeks why he was so highly regarded in the first place.

Bundy pitched out of the bullpen for the entire first half of the season, but coming out of the All-Star break the Orioles shifted Bundy to the starting rotation. Bundy had been used for longer stretches of relief, often going 50-plus pitches in an outing, so it didn't take long for him to get stretched out into a starter's workload. By his second start, the right-hander was already up to 87 pitches and his pitch count has remained in the 87-92 pitch range in his last four starts. Bundy has been incredibly efficient over that stretch despite the limited pitch counts, tossing two consecutive quality starts and coming within one out of a third, totaling a 24:3 K:BB over 18.2 innings during that stretch.

His fastball still hums, averaging 95.5 mph on the four-seamer since his bump to the rotation, according to the invaluable resource at Brooks Baseball. He uses a three-pitch combination of fastball-curveball-changeup, and though he drifts toward the common trend to throw more breaking balls to same-side hitters and extra cambios when he has the platoon disadvantage, he has maintained at least a 13-percent usage pattern on each pitch type against hitters from both sides, putting both secondaries in the back of all hitters' minds. But the fastball is his weapon of choice, regardless of count, and since he entered the rotation Bundy's heater has finished off 19 of his 33 strikeouts. Bundy also has a decent delivery that appears statuesque, as the right-hander strikes a pose after release point with his back leg up in the air, and the stoic appearance to his follow-through might have triggered some of the fawning over his mechanics when he was an amateur. That said, his delivery is not quite as pristine as his reputation would suggest, as the vogue-like aftermath of his delivery has distracted folks from what he is doing mechanically from first forward movement into release point.

Joe Musgrove
Houston Astros, RHP
Age: 23

Musgrave is a big pitcher, listed at 6-foot-5 and tipping the scales at 265 pounds. He was taken in the supplemental round of the 2011 draft - the same draft that saw Bundy go fourth overall - but Musgrove has received far less fanfare through his minor-league career. He has typically overlooked on the prospect lists of the major publications, being named only in Baseball America as the no. 83 prospect prior to this season, but maybe he should have been given more love considering a track record of performance that is rather remarkable.

Let's start with the walks. Musgrove has given away just 41 free passes in 3,37.1 minor-league innings, for a microscopic walk rate of just 1.1 BB/9, and he has maintained that level of control over the strike zone as he has climbed the minor-league ladder. Pitchers with walk rates that low are exceptionally rare, but rarer still is the walk-limiting pitcher who can also rack up the Ks, yet Musgrove has maintained a solid K rate of 8.5 K/9 in the minors, including more than a strikeout-per-inning across two stops in the minors this season. To complete the trifecta of true outcome dominance, Musgrove has also been very stingy with the long ball in the minors, posting a rate of just 0.6 HR/9. Considering the first-round pedigree, the statistical accolades and his quick acclimation to the highest level, one can't help but wonder if the evaluators who make prospect rankings all missed something with Musgrove.

He has topped out at 100.2 innings in a year and has already reached 96.2 total frames this season between the majors and minors, so he likely has a limited stay of execution. The 14 strikeouts and one walk allowed in his first 11.1 innings of big-league play might be setting the bar of expectations a bit high, but this is a pitcher who posted a nearly 8:1 K/BB ratio and 2.83 ERA in the minors, so a speed bump in his ascent to successful major league pitcher would be his first. His fastball is merely middle-of-the-road, with a 92.6-mph average on his four-seam fastball that is right in line with modern-day norms of pitch speed, and his lack of eye-popping numbers on the radar gun might explain some of the lukewarm rankings of Musgrove as a prospect. He has rarely thrown a change or curve in the majors, with more than 91 percent of his offerings fitting the profile of a fastball or slider, but opposing batters have struggled to pick up those pitches and are a combined 5-for-33 (.152) with zero extra-base hits in at-bats that end with either the four-seamer or the slide.

Alex Reyes
St. Louis Cardinals, RHP
Age: 21

Reyes was the top prospect on this list heading into the 2016 season, and he was called up to the majors by the Cardinals to make his debut at the highest level. He turns 22 at the end of the month, but Reyes took a somewhat unusual path for a top-end prospect, as the New Jersey native moved to the Dominican Republic in late 2011 (where he lived with his grandmother) so that he could establish residency there, allowing him to forego the draft process in 2012 and instead sign as an amateur free agent, which he did with the Cardinals.

Prior to this season, Reyes was ranked as a top 10 prospect by both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus, a ranking that has been driven by the combination of stuff, performance and the expectation that he will continue to grow into his frame and add strength as he physically matures. He has struck out an incredible 11.9 batters per nine innings in the minors, a rate that has not dissipated one bit as he has climbed the ladder, including a rate of 12.8 K/9 in 65.1 innings in the Pacific Coast League this season. He got a late start to the season due to a suspension for marijuana, and it's possible that Reyes has had to shake off some rust this season in the minors, considering his bloated 4.96 ERA and ugly rate of 4.4 BB/9 that soiled his overall stat line. He has an electric fastball, sitting mid-90s and touching triple digits to earn an elite grade of 90 on the 20-80 scouting scale according to some evaluators. The top-end pitch-speed was on display in his big-league debut, averaging more than 99 mph on the nine fastballs he threw and maxing out at a ridiculous 101.9 mph on the PITCHf/x radar gun. He offsets the heat with a 12-to-6 curve that has incredible depth when the pitch is on, and Reyes has been effective at burying the pitch when he find an ideal release point.

The timing of Reyes' recall is interesting, as it comes on the heels of an injury to Michael Wacha that sent the right-hander to the disabled list. Ostensibly, Reyes could step right into Wacha's spot in the rotation to fill a need, but the club used the young right-hander out of the bullpen in his first appearance and has not yet announced any plans to slot him into the rotation. He has pitched over 100 frames in each of the last two seasons and is currently sitting at just 66.1 due to the suspension, so there is little to no worry about his exceeding innings limits this season. The team might just not be ready to trust Reyes with the key to the rotation, given that a playoff spot is on the line and he has yet to establish a level of pitch command that would suggest that he is ready for such a responsibility.

Reyes has the highest upside and is currently the most highly-regarded pitcher on this list, but he is the least likely to make a fantasy impact in 2016. The Cardinals appear set to use him out of the bullpen, and though the back-end of their 'pen has been in flux this season due to the continued struggles of Trevor Rosenthal (who is currently on the DL), Reyes is unlikely to supplant the relievers who are currently aligned to pitch the highest-leverage innings. Enjoy the show, but we probably only get to see the pilot, with promises of a full season of Alex Reyes episodes in 2017.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Doug Thorburn
Doug started writing for RotoWire in April of 2015. His work can be found elsewhere at Baseball Prospectus and RotoGrinders, and as the co-host of the Baseballholics Anonymous podcast. Thorburn's expertise lies on the mound, where he tackles the world of pitching with an emphasis on mechanical evaluation. He spent five years at the National Pitching Association working under pitching coach Tom House, where Thorburn ran the hi-speed motion analysis program in addition to serving as an instructor. Thorburn and House wrote the 2009 book, “Arm Action, Arm Path, and the Perfect Pitch: Building a Million Dollar Arm,” using data from hi-speed motion analysis to tackle conventional wisdom in baseball. His DraftKings ID is “Raising Aces”.
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