Player: Jacob Bukauskas
Drafted by: Arizona Diamondbacks
DOB: 10/11/1996 (Age: 17)
Height/Weight: 5'11", 180 lbs
School: Stone Bridge (Va.) HS
College Commitment: North Carolina
One of the most exciting—and youngest—arms in the 2014 draft, Jake Bukauskas can reach back and throw a fastball with anyone. He's got work to do on his other pitches, but the North Carolina commit knows he's got old No. 1 in the back pocket.
Because of Bukauskas' ability to throw hard, he has a chance to be the highest high school player drafted from the state of Virginia since Justin Upton went first overall to Arizona in 2005. That's a testament to the helium the young right-hander built up this spring.
Also working in Bukauskas' favor is his age. At 17 years old, he has more time than a typical high school draftee to develop his secondary stuff and turn into a starting pitcher down the road.
Full Scouting Report
Note: Numerical scores are on the conventional 80-point scouting scale, with the current score first and projected score second.
In addition to lacking secondary stuff, Bukauskas also has to overcome the stigma attached to right-handed pitchers under 6'0"; listed at 5'11", 180 pounds, lacking the physical projection teams are looking for in an elite pitching prospect.
He's also got a reliever's delivery with a lot of effort and inconsistent command; small frame inhibits ability to drive with the leg, putting more stress on the arm, and lack of finish could cause problems in the future.
Easily Bukauskas' best pitch, the only one that projects to be better than average; big velocity from a small frame, hitting 98-99 mph with regularity and sitting at 93-96 mph; good arm-side movement on the pitch, giving him the ability to break a lot of right-handed bats; commanding the pitch is still a problem, but there is some control there to get hitters out; lack of size prevents plane on the pitch, meaning he will live up in the zone too often.
As a high school pitcher, getting outs with a mid-90s fastball is routine, so the off-speed stuff isn't required as much; best off-speed offering right now is a mid-80s slider that lacks consistency but has shown flashes of being an average pitch; getting on the side of it will be key, as he tends to stay on top of the ball, preventing it from getting any kind of shape.
The biggest improvement since last year's Perfect Game Junior National event has been with the changeup; still doesn't use it as often as he will need to in pro ball, but it shows good downward action; has enough separation from the fastball to be effective right now, though he needs to work on developing a feel for it and avoid slowing his arm down.
Inconsistent strike-thrower at present. Bukauskas doesn't have refinement when he pitches, being every bit a thrower instead of a true pitcher; needs to work on throwing strikes more, especially with the off-speed stuff; fastball can miss bats if it's around the zone because of the velocity and movement, but the slider and changeup aren't going to scare professional hitters if they aren't around the zone.
The main obstacle working against Bukauskas being a starter, other than lack of plane of the fastball; doesn't have refinement as a pitcher, which isn't unexpected since he's just 17 years old; big effort in the delivery will always limit the command upside, but there are flashes that he can at least be average placing the ball where he needs to against advanced hitters.
MLB Player Comparison: Greg Holland
Greg Holland was drafted out of Western Carolina University in 2007, so the parallels aren't one-to-one, but examining how far Kansas City's closer has come since being a 10th-round pick could be a good sign for Bukauskas.
Bukauskas has the big fastball and quality breaking ball to develop into an elite closer. Throwing strikes is something that Holland does well after struggling early in his minor league career, and Bukauskas will have to learn the same thing.
Projection: High-leverage reliever/closer for first-division team
MLB ETA: 2017
Chances of Signing: 55%
According to Kiley McDaniel of Scout.com (subscription required), Bukauskas escalated his timetable to graduate high school in an effort to pitch for North Carolina in 2015, and "it was understood that he didn't want to sign for the money that would be offered."
It's not a bad strategy to take, since Bukauskas could elevate his stock in 2017 by showing better command and proving that he can pitch well living up in the zone. If he doesn't get taken where he wants, meaning the money offered is not worth forgoing the college experience, a trip to the Tar Heel state seems very much in play.
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