The 2017 MLB Draft is underway and the University of North Carolina saw their first player go when right-handed pitcher J.B. Bukauskas was taken 15th overall overall by the Houston Astros. As ACC Pitcher of the Year, Bukauskas was the team’s ace and expected to go high in the first round but fatigue at the end of the season may have caused his value to drop.
The 20-year-old junior from Ashburn, Virginia held a 2.53 ERA over 92.2 innings this season. He averaged an impressive 11.27 strikeouts per nine innings, which helped set off a 3.59 walks per nine innings that Houston will want to straighten out. Despite the success he had this year, things fell apart in the end when a disastrous start against Davidson in the Chapel Hill Regional of the NCAA College World Series ultimately doomed the Tar Heels.
In high school, Bukauskas reclassified to be eligible for the draft a year earlier. He was taken in the 20th round by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2014, but ultimately chose to enroll at UNC. Three years later, it seems his decision to come to Chapel Hill worked out for him big time. He entered the draft as Baseball America’s no. 6 draft prospect on their top 500 list, which is a pretty impressive feat. After going 15th overall, the slot value for the picks is $3,588,200. Not bad at all.
The Astros, meanwhile, have spent the better half of the last decade tanking in order to position themselves to where they are now. After collecting multiple top draft picks, Houston has developed the likes of Dallas Keuchel, Carlos Correa, George Spring, Lance McCullers Jr., and Alex Bregman, helping them into contention and propelling them to the top of their division. They have baseball’s third-best farm system and Bukauskas will give them a strong pitching prospects who can move through the system quicker than a high school arm. Since he’s a year younger than most in his position, he also comes with a little extra upside