With the 15th overall selection in the 2017 MLB Draft, the Houston Astros selected right-handed pitcher JB Bukauskas from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The Astros, who have a rich history of strong pitching, selected a right-handed pitcher in the 1st Round for the 25th time in franchise history. Many will remember that the Astros selected Forrest Whitley in the first round last season, along with Mark Appel a couple years before that.
Considered a top pitching prospect out of high school by multiple major league scouts, Bukauskas elected to attend college before going pro, and it seems as if the decision has paid off for him in a big way.
At North Carolina, Bukauskas progressed his way to becoming the ace of his pitching staff, which is no small feat at a powerhouse college baseball program like UNC.
In 2017, Bukauskas posted a strong 9-1 record with a 2.53 ERA and 1.07 WHIP through more than 92 total innings pitched. He recorded 116 strikeouts on the season while walking only 37 opposing hitters, showcasing impressive command of his pitches throughout the season.
Speaking of his pitching arsenal, Bukauskas boasts two "plus-plus", or really good, pitches in his fastball and his slider. The fastball sits anywhere from 94 to 97 MPH and has some late sinking action to it, which makes the pitch lethal for opposing hitters. Bukauskas' slider is absolute filth for someone at his level, as college hitters absolutely could not solve its movement. If Bukauskas can improve the command of his slider, then he will absolutely have a chance to fast track his way through the Astros farm system.
While the young righty also mixes in a changeup, it has much more room for development compared to his other two pitches. This will be the young prospect's biggest project in the minor leagues along with improving his slider to an elite weapon.
One of the main concerns about Bukauskas seems to be that his shorter frame leads to a delivery that requires a lot of effort. This is something that the Astros coaching staff would certainly like to tweak in order to find a more efficient method.
Overall, the Astros are off to a great start in the 2017 MLB Draft as they grabbed what many experts believed to be a Top 8 player from a talent perspective with the 15th overall pick. The club needs to keep the farm system stocked with pitching, and they certainly did that tonight.
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