Buy ‘Em or Deny ‘Em: Will 2019 Be The Breakout Year For Dylan Bundy or Kevin Gausman?

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Once upon a time it looked like the Baltimore Orioles had two potential superstars primed to step up and lead their rotation.  Heading into 2019 the narrative is significantly different, as there are questions about Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman was jettisoned to Atlanta.  Is there hope that eithercan figure it out and emerge in 2019 or are they a lost cause?  Let’s break it down:

Dylan Bundy – Baltimore Orioles
What his issue has been over the past three years is no secret, just look at his HR/9:

  • 2016 – 1.48
  • 2017 – 1.38
  • 2018 – 2.15

Last year’s mark is extreme, but there are three key factors that make it impossible to ignore.

1) He lacks the ability to generate groundballs.  Over 452.2 innings of Major league work he’s posted a 34.0% groundball rate.  No matter where you pitch it’s going to be difficult to keep the ball in the ballpark with that type of mark.

2) He calls Baltimore home.  Last season his HR/9 at home was 2.05 (it was actually worse on the road, at 2.28) and for his career he’s at 1.61.  Known as a hitter’s haven, it’s impossible to expect a significant improvement without a change in approach.

3) He pitches in the AL East.  How many times can you pitch against the Red Sox and Yankees and not give up a significant number of home runs?

Any other “skills” wouldn’t matter, and he has shown solid control (2.83 BB/9 in ’18) and more strikeout potential (9.65 K/9 in ’18).  Even if he has more luck (69.3% strand rate, .316 BABIP), will he ever be able to reduce the home run rate enough to be relevant?  It’s not something that anyone should expect.

Verdict – Bust

Kevin Gausman – Atlanta Braves
Getting sent out of Baltimore could be the best thing that happened to Gausman, and his ERA supported that:

  • Baltimore (124.0 IP) – 4.43
  • Atlanta (59.2 IP) – 2.87

Before we jump to any conclusions keep in mind that there was a change in luck (his BABIP went from .317 to .260) and his strikeout rate fell (his K/9 went from 7.55 to 6.64).  The latter seems like an aberration, with the move to the NL and a SwStr% that stayed consistent (11.4% to 11.2%), and he does feature solid control (career 2.71 BB/9).

Home runs are also going to be an issue, despite the drop to 0.75 HR/9 after the trade.  With a career 43.8% groundball rate he does have more upside than Bundy, and moving from the AL East to the NL East increases that likelihood.  Think of him more in the 1.15-1.25 HR/9 range, which isn’t good but also isn’t a huge blemish.

Value him as a 4.00ish ERA pitcher with a solid WHIP and enough strikeouts.  That’s not a top of the rotation guy, but a borderline Top 40 and someone worth utilizing to fill out your fantasy rotation.

Verdict – Viable (but not a breakout)

Source – Fangraphs

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