Sometimes I like revisiting the past, and throwing on those hindsight glasses.
Many times, things are clearer with history’s reflection, but not always.
I was thinking about that Sunday night with Trevor Bauer on the mound for the Cleveland Indians against the Orioles.
Th 26-year-old Bauer is having a pretty outstanding second half after a rough start to 2017. As impossible as it seems, Bauer is pitching in his sixth big league season, having made his debut in June 2012, a year after being drafted third overall out of UCLA.
His Bruins’ teammate, Gerrit Cole, was first in that draft, and has established a solid career with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Danny Hultzen, the former University of Virginia star, was taken second by the Seattle Mariners, but his career has been derailed by injuries. He hasn’t made the majors, and left shoulder surgery kept him out of action for the entire 2017 season.
And the fourth pick that year?
It was the first high school pick of the 2011 draft, a right-hand pitcher from Oklahoma named Dylan Bundy. Around here, we all know Bundy’s story. A tremendous prep pitcher and workout-aholic who has been felled by elbow surgery and other injuries, but is now beginning to realize his potential as the Orioles’ most consistent starter in 2017.
There were some other pitchers of note in that first round. Archie Bradley, also an Oklahoma prep star, went seventh to Arizona; Vanderbilt righty Sonny Gray was the 18th pick by the Oakland A’s; Joe Ross was 25th overall by the San Diego Padres and last year’s AL Rookie of the Year, Michael Fulmer, a third Oklahoman, was a supplemental first-rounder (44th overall by the New York Mets).
The best pitcher of the entire group was taken 11th overall by the then-Florida Marlins: Cuban refugee and Tampa resident Jose Fernandez, whose career was a shooting star before his death last year in a boating accident at age 24.
Yeah, that’s a pretty good pitching class. Really, it was a pretty good first round overall: Others selected in the first round in 2011 included Anthony Rendon (sixth overall), Francisco Lindor (eighth), Javy Baez (ninth), George Springer (11th) and Jackie Bradley Jr. (40th), among others.
But let’s dismiss the offensive players and concentrate on the pitching from that first round.
If you could start now, would Bundy be your pick over the others going forward? Think future, and not necessarily past.
Gray and Cole began this season about neck-and-neck when it comes to career WAR, with Bauer and Fulmer making up the second tier and Bundy, Ross and Bradley bunched up in a third tier.
This year, though, the WAR standings for 2011 pitching first-rounders are: Bradley (as a shutdown reliever), Cole, Fulmer, Gray, Bundy, Bauer. All six are in the Top 50 in WAR this season.
It’s fairly tight. And all of those guys are older than Bundy, who turns 25 in November, with the exception of Fulmer, who is four months younger. (Ross is also younger, but his 2017 season was marred by season-ending elbow surgery.)
I guess my question is this: Would you trade Bundy, straight-up, for any of the other starting pitchers in that impressive draft, given what you’ve seen this year? Age has to be a factor. I’d imagine injury history is too.
I’m not sure I would. Fulmer might be a yes, but I’m not convinced. Gray? Probably not, because he is three years older than Bundy and has had his own injury issues. The same for Cole, who just turned 27.
I’ll be interested to hear your opinions on this one.