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Can Kevin Gausman Surpass Dylan Bundy as Baltimore Orioles' Long-Term Ace?

Kevin Gausman wasn’t particularly successful in his Baltimore Orioles debut (via MLB.com), but with electric stuff that rivals Dylan Bundy‘s, it’s worth exploring whether or not he is better suited to serve as the team’s long-term ace.

Eduardo A. Encina of The Baltimore Sun recaps how the 22-year-old performed in his major league debut. Here’s the gist of it:

Whether Gausman‘s first game in an Orioles uniform lived up to the monumental hype—he left after five innings trailing by a run after throwing 89 pitches—can be debated, but there’s no doubt that the Orioles unveiled something special.

The right-hander flaunted a fiery fastball that clocked in at 99 mph several times, contrasting it with a mid-80s changeup helped him pick up five strikeouts over those five innings. Matt Kremnitzer of ESPN.com calls the latter his best pitch and notes that Gausman can throw his slider at two different speeds.

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports tweets that at least one salivating scout was impressed:

According to FanGraphs, Bundy lacked the same velocity when he debuted for the O’s last September. Then again, he’s nearly two full years younger than Gausman, so there’s time for him to develop. Fatigue might have also been a factor, considering Bundy worked more than 100 innings in the minors earlier that summer.

With the exception of R.A. Dickey and a couple other outliers, pitchers who experience sustained success atop a major league rotation possess three above-average weapons. Both of these young men already do.

Entering 2013, Bundy was ranked higher than Gausman on all top prospect lists. Bleacher Report’s resident expert, Mike Rosenbaum, called Bundy “the unanimous top pitching prospect in the game” and praised his maturity and polish. By contrast, Rosenbaum had Gausman at No. 47 on his spring training list, noting that there’s “room to fill out” on his wiry frame and “some effort involved” in his delivery.

But as much potential as Bundy has, he’s useless to Baltimore if he isn’t healthy.

The Orioles shut him down with elbow stiffness last month, and fans held their breath when the 20-year-old made a dreaded visit to orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews. MLB.com’s Brittany Ghiroli reports that Andrews gave him a platelet rich plasma injection (PRP) on April 29 and prescribed six weeks of rest. So Bundy could be back on a mound by mid-June and ready for promotion shortly after the All-Star break.

However, Ghiroli adds that “there are various degrees of success with it and the timetable for recovery is incredible varied.” ESPN.com’s Stephania Bell goes into further detail:

While the PRP injection may be of help to Bundy, it is also possible that his symptoms will persist. The jury is still out on the sum total of the effects of PRP, but it is seen by many as a treatment option with virtually no downside since it involves using the patient’s own blood components—and nothing synthetic—as a means of trying to facilitate healing. There is much more to be learned about what the optimal treatment parameters and ultimate benefits of PRP injections are.

Countless trade suitors have bothered Baltimore with inquiries about Bundy‘s availability over the past year. That will continue until he is established in the big leagues.

Despite the recent setback, Bundy is still viewed as their future ace. But depending on how much he rusts on the sidelines this season and what Gausman does with his MLB opportunities in the interim, that could change.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

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