Unlike the top hitting prospects who can come into the league and make an immediate and sometimes drastic fantasy impact, rookie pitchers rarely are as influential as their hitting counterparts.
The biggest obstacle for rookie pitchers to overcome is typically the limited playing time with which they get to work. Rookies typically don’t play as much as veterans anyway, and the gap is even more extreme with starting pitchers.
The best pitching prospect in all of baseball is Dylan Bundy of the Baltimore Orioles, and despite being just 20-years-old for the entire 2013 season, he should, at some point, find his way to the majors.
First things first—if you have a keeper league, especially one with plenty of keeper spots, plan on drafting Bundy with one of your last few picks. He’s going to be very good and by next year, you’ll have to draft him a lot earlier.
But for this year, it’s a different story. Despite his talent, Bundy doesn’t have a lot of value because we don’t know when he’ll get to the majors. The Orioles success last year hinged on the performance of their starting pitching, yet almost to a man, they all overachieved in 2012, and replicating that success could be difficult this season. The Orioles will need Bundy at some point this season, and he should be among the first players to get the call when reinforcements are needed, but at the moment, there’s no telling when that call will be made.
There are still a lot of unknowns with the Orioles pitching situation. They have at least five potential candidates for the rotation right now, with a few others on the horizon. Jason Hammel, Wei-Yin Chen, Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez and Zach Britton form the projected rotation as it stands now—with Tommy Hunter in the competition as well—but free agent Joe Saunders could still return to the team and Kyle Lohse is still on the market.
Bundy, right now, is better than all but Tillman and Hammel (and Lohse if they sign him), but that probably won’t matter this spring unless manager Buck Showalter gets a say in things. If the Orioles do add additional pitchers, there will be virtually no chance of Bundy making their Opening Day roster.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t draft him.
Even if he makes their Opening Day roster, the Orioles would likely limit Bundy’s innings. Sending him to the minors may actually increase his fantasy value for the second half of the season. If you are in a deep league and can afford to stash him for a few months, Bundy could provide you with some value in the second half.
In general, however, 2013 is probably a year too early to be counting on much from Bundy. Despite his talent, he simply won’t get enough of a chance this season to be an impact fantasy player. If you’re in a keeper league, he’s worth factoring into your long-term plans, but otherwise, don’t spend more than a final round pick on him this year.