The MLB trade deadline is not exactly something we usually would have to breathlessly report here at Tar Heel Blog. However, it’s not every day that a former UNC player becomes a major part of the biggest deal of the day.
Minutes after the deadline had officially expired, word came down that the Houston Astros and the Arizona Diamondbacks swung a last minute trade to send pitcher Zack Greinke to Houston. The Astros sent a number of prospects to Arizona in return, including former Tar Heel J.B. Bukauskas.
Bukauskas is now in his third season in the professional ranks after going 15th overall in the 2017 MLB Draft. According to MLB.com, the pitcher was the 97th best prospect in baseball coming into the 2019 season. His early pro career has been marred by injuries, including one caused by a car accident. He’s spent his 2019 until this point with Houston’s Double-A affiliate, where he’s put up a 5.25 ERA in 85.2 innings. It should be noted that, at 22, he is over two full years younger than the average player at that level.
The Virginia-born Bukauskas had an excellent college career, capped off by his junior season, where he was UNC’s ace. In 92.2 innings across 15 games that season, he put up a 2.53 ERA and amassed a very impressive 116 strikeouts. He was named a finalist for the 2017 Golden Spikes Award, and won ACC Pitcher of the Year.
The trade has reunited Bukauskas with the Diamondbacks, who actually drafted him out of high school. Arizona selected him in the 20th round of the 2014 draft, but the pitcher elected to attend college. His selection that late was more of a case of him telling teams he wasn’t going to sign and attend UNC as opposed to a true valuation of his talent, as is often the case with high school players in the late rounds.
As for what’s next for him, MLB.com ranks him as the Diamondback’s 12th best prospect. If he stays at the double-A level, he’ll shift over to the Southern League to play for Arizona’s affiliate, the Jackson Generals.
It’s not every day that a UNC athlete is involved in the biggest sports story of the day. Good luck to Bukauskas with his new team.