If we could just take a short break from basketball (I know, I know), we can take a moment to acknowledge that the Diamond Heels have one of the best MLB Draft prospects in college baseball. Friday night starter J.B. Bukauskas has been considered an elite talent for awhile now, but Baseball America confirms it by making him the fourth overall pick in their 2017 mock draft.
On Thursday, the website released their mock for the first 10 picks of the 2017 MLB Draft. They have the Minnesota Twins picking high school right-hander Hunter Greene first overall. The Cincinnati Reds choose Louisville first baseman/pitcher Brendan McKay and then the San Diego Padres draft high school shortstop/outfielder Ray Lewis. The Tampa Bay Rays then take Bukauskas with the fourth pick in the draft.
Baseball America’s John Manuel has been impressed by Bukauskas’ strong start to begin the season. He’s showing a plus fastball, a 70-grade slider, and an improved changeup. As one evaluator was quoted as saying, “I’m not worried about the changeup. He had it in high school, we’ve seen it. It’s the command and delivery you want to see, and those are better too.” So far he’s looked better than Vanderbilt’s Kyle Wright and Florida’s Alex Faedo, helping to elevate his draft status.
Bukauskas has averaged a 3.25 ERA over his three college seasons. Over his first four starts, he has a 0.69 ERA with an outstanding 12.81 strikeouts per nine innings and 1.73 walk per nine innings. The drop in walk rate is nice to see, considering he’s average 3.25 over his career. He’s also allowing just 5.19 hits per nine, which is far lower than his career 7.47 and signifies just how unhittable he is becoming.
Keep in mind that it’s still a long time to go before the June draft and many things can change within that time. Baseball America will be releasing more mock drafts after this one with many different configurations of players. During our interview with Michael Lananna from last month, he stated that Bukauskas could end up in the conversation for the first overall pick.
While Baseball America only did the first 10 picks, it doesn’t mean that other Tar Heels won’t get drafted this year. In January, BA also released the top 100 college draftees, and five Diamond Heels made the list. After Bukauskas came junior shortstop Logan Warmoth, junior infielder Zack Gahagan, and former walk-on first baseman/outfielder Brian Miller. Hunter Williams was also included on that list, but he has since left the program. The team has many other juniors and seniors who will be eligible for the draft who could go in the later rounds.