With the 15th overall pick, the Astros have selected shortstop J.B. Bukauskas out of the University of North Carolina. In mock drafts, MLB.com had Thompson to be selected with the 11rd pick, Baseball America had him going with the 15th pick, and ESPN.com had him going 11th.
Bukauskas put together a dominant junior season as the ace of the Diamond Heels, going 9-1 with a 2.53 ERA in 15 starts. He struck out 116 batters in 92.2 innings en route to winning the ACC Pitcher of the Year honors.
While slightly undersized at 6-foot, 195-pounds, the right-hander throws hard with a mid-90’s fastball that has good sinking action that enables him to induce ground balls, and throw it by hitters. Bukauskas also has a mid-80’s tilting slider that he uses as his go-to strikeout pitch. Bukauskas has also focused on the development of his changeup, and it has shown the potential of becoming at least an average pitch, giving him an impressive three-pitch repertoire.
There is no clear consensus as to whether Bukauskas will be a starter or a reliever in the big leagues. Scouts who like him as a starter have compared him to Sonny Gray of the Athletics, and others have compared him to reliever Carson Fulmer with better command, who was drafted by the White Sox two years ago. If he ends up in the bullpen, many believe he can become a closer at the big league level.
For now, Bukauskas is one of the most dominant college pitchers in this year’s draft, and he has been rewarded for it by being selected in the first round. See for yourself:
For more on Bukauskas, check out Chris Cotillo’s Q&A with him here.