Houston Astros @astros
With the 15th pick in the 2017 #MLBDraft, the Astros select RHP J.B. Bukauskas from the University of North Carolina.2017-6-13 00:41:37
Bukauskas is one of the most electric pitchers in college baseball, and he took his performance to another level in 2017.
Social media was very pleased with the Astros' addition of Bukauskas:
Michael Lananna @mlananna
I've seen J.B. Bukauskas a TON. Great talent, great makeup. Mid-90s velo and the best slider in the class: https://t.co/tdXy2YcWN92017-6-13 00:41:10
Christopher Crawford @Crawford_MILB
Bukauskas is a steal. Great pick.2017-6-13 00:40:22
JB Bukauskas is a six foot RHP who'll show a plus fastball and slider with feel for a changeup (he needs to... https://t.co/jEqBpDFRMb2017-6-13 00:41:08
MLB Network @MLBNetwork
“He reminds me a little bit of a Sonny Gray/Lance McCullers Jr.” - @Al_Leiter22 on @DiamondHeels' J.B. Bukauskas #MLBDraft https://t.co/KJ2jKaRTbO2017-6-10 21:28:01
After posting a 7-2 record with a 3.10 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 111 strikeouts in 78.1 innings pitched last season, the Ashburn, Virginia, native improved to the tune of a 2.53 ERA with 116 strikeouts in 92.2 innings in 2017.
Carolina Baseball tweeted the following video of one of Bukauskas' best 2017 outings when he struck out 11 batters against Radford:
Carolina Baseball @DiamondHeels
Another dominating start for @JBukauskas22, who struck out 11 (yes, 11) in 7 solid innings of work https://t.co/ykTCyE5tKF2017-2-24 23:21:01
Bukauskas was originally selected in the 20th round of the 2014 MLB draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks, but he opted to play for the Tar Heels instead, and the decision has paid big dividends.
There is a lot to like about Bukauskas, but one potential area of concern is his height.
At just 6'0", Bukauskas is small for a pitcher, and that could create myriad issues for him as he progresses toward the MLB.
As seen in this video courtesy of ESPNU, ESPN MLB draft guru Keith Law suggested Bukauskas may have to battle against having a flat and hittable fastball due to his height:
J.B. Bukauskas is 6-0 with a 1.40 ERA... But @keithlaw explains why the @DiamondHeels righthander has a tough road to the major leagues https://t.co/1lkVTC4G9E2017-4-19 00:00:06
Working to Bukauskas' advantage is the fact he has a dynamic slider that figures to operate as his main out pitch moving forward.
There are no guarantees for Bukauskas regarding whether his future is as a starter or reliever, but MLB.com's Jim Callis believes he could make an immediate impact out of the bullpen:
Jim Callis @jimcallisMLB
College bats wise, no. Brendan McKay would move fast as LHP, J.B. Bukauskas could pitch in a big lg pen this summer. https://t.co/rpGGP2PLzx2017-4-27 23:47:23
The 20-year-old righty has improved with each passing year, which is a positive sign as he embarks on a professional career.
Selecting a pitcher early comes with inherent risk because of the frequency of arm injuries in baseball, but Bukauskas is a potential ace in the making, and his stuff rivals almost any pitching prospect's in the world.
The Astros are in the midst of a season for the ages, owning MLB's best record with a 44-20 record. Their lineup and pitching rotation are already littered with exciting young talents such as Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman and Lance McCullers Jr.
Bukauskas will be the next electric arm to join their mix of pitching prospects. He's got a dazzling breaking ball and the potential to develop into a top-tier starter if his lack of size doesn't impact his fastball at the professional level.