The Astros gained some talented arms in the first two rounds of the 2017 MLB Draft.
With the focus on developing arms in the minor league system, the Houston Astros used two of their first four picks on pitchers. Round 1 selection J.B. Bukauskas and Round 2 selection Corbin Martin are the two newest right-handers in the Astros minor league system. Both pitchers have one thing in common though. Both are coming out of their junior year of college.
As the 15th overall pick of the draft, Bukauskas has had a lot of success in his three seasons at the University of North Carolina. He had a 3.17 ERA with a 1.19 WHIP in 42 career starts for the Tar Heels. The stat that should have Astros fans excited for Bukauskas’s potential is his strikeout numbers. With a mid-nineties fastball and what many consider as a great slider, he has averaged 10.84 strikeouts per nine innings in his career at UNC, striking out 116 batters in 92.2 innings of work last season. However, one thing he may need to work on is his control. He walked an average of 3.54 batters per nine innings in his college career.
For the 56th overall pick of the draft, the Astros went with a hometown boy.
Going to high school at Cypress Ranch High School, about 30 miles outside of downtown Houston, Corbin Martin has had a solid college career. Going to the College World Series with Texas A&M this season, Martin has a career 3.71 ERA with a 1.50 WHIP in 53 career appearances including 15 starts. This past season, Martin went 7-3 with a 3.35 ERA and a 1.41 WHIP in 23 appearances, including 12 starts for the Aggies, striking out 94 batters in 86 innings of work. Like Bukauskas, Martin has struggled with command over his college career. In his first 44.2 college innings, he walked 33 batters. Since then, he has gotten remarkably better, walking only 37 batters in 86 innings.
With the picks of both Bukauskas and Martin, the Astros can hopefully improve on their early round drafting of college pitchers in the past.
Since 2010, the Astros have drafted three college pitchers in the first two rounds, Mark Appel out of Stanford, Andrew Thurman out of UC Irvine and Tom Eshelman out of Cal State Fullerton. All three of these pitchers were dealt to other teams, Appel and Eshelman to the Philadelphia Phillies in the deal for Ken Giles and Thurman to the Atlanta Braves in the Evan Gattis trade. Out of those three pitchers, Eshelman has been the only one with moderate success, posting a 3.44 ERA with a 1.22 WHIP and a .262 batting average against in 40 career starts. As for Appel and Thurman, both pitchers have an ERA over 5.00 with the same WHIP at 1.49.
As Jake Kaplan and Brian McTaggart tweeted out after both Bukauskas and Martin were drafted, both pitchers, according to the Astros, will be developed as starters. It will be interesting to see how each of these pitchers develops in the years to come.
***Stats provided by The Baseball Cube and MiLB.com***