Astros: Bukauskas having one impressive Spring Training!
By Brian Murray
J. B. Bukauskas may be the Astros’ fifth-ranked pitching prospect, but he’s doing everything necessary this Spring to climb the rankings ladder.
Astros’ top prospects Forrest Whitley and Josh James may be getting most of the attention from the press, but Bukauskas is proving that he belongs right up there with them. He is quietly having what may be the best showing from a pitcher this Spring, prospect or veteran.
The 22-year-old pitcher from Virginia was originally drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks straight out of high school in the 20th round of the 2014 draft. Bukauskas decided to delay his professional career to play college ball at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. We are thankful for that decision because it allowed Houston to draft him in 2017 in the first round.
Bukauskas has appeared in six games this Spring for a total of 12 innings pitched. He has surrendered only one earned run and is sporting an impressive 0.75 ERA as a result. He has kept his opponents batting average down to .143 by allowing just six hits. Bukauskas has compiled 18 strikeouts for a 13.5 SO9/IP ratio.
Lance McCullers and Gerrit Cole have taken Bukauskas under their wings, seeing a little bit of themselves in him. They have helped him with everything from his grip to getting a little more elevation with his fastball, and as you can see from his Spring Training, it’s paying off. There is no doubt the mentoring by his veteran peers is very much appreciated.
"“You slowly realize the clubhouse is full of normal people just like us,” Bukauskas said. “Gerrit and Lance have both went out of their way and made me a lot more comfortable talking to the older guys, which I appreciate a lot. I probably wouldn’t have gotten there without them.”"
His potential has already been on display in the two years he’s spent in the minors. Bukauskas has a 2.22 ERA over that span along with a respectable 1.13 WHIP. He has a record of 6-3 in 17 starts. His SO/9IP ratio is still up there at 10.4 striking out 80 batters in 69 innings pitched.
Bukauskas was reassigned to the minors last week but has still come over from the minor league side to make a couple more appearances with the big league club. Until this Spring, he has never pitched above the AA level and will definitely benefit from a little more experience with the AAA affiliate. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see him pitching at Minute Maid park sooner or later this season, and sooner rather than later.