Last week, we took a look at two of the top college pitchers in this year’s draft. Florida’s Alex Faedo and Vanderbilt’s Kyle Wright are near the top for all of the draft sources we looked at for our 2017 draft preview two weeks ago. While we give the college hits some time to accumulate at-bats, and the high school players a chance to get their seasons started, we take a closer look at two other highly rated college pitchers this week. We also have updates at the bottom of this article for the first two players we covered.
Just a reminder that the draft begins on June 12th and the Pittsburgh Pirates have four picks that first day, including the 12th overall pick. They also have five of the top 88 picks, so this gives them a large bonus pool and a chance to add plenty of upside talent to the system. It’s still early in the process with exactly 100 days until the draft begins, but this article just gives you two more names to follow. Once we start getting some mock drafts and updated rankings from top sources, then we will get a better idea of who to focus on for our coverage.
J.B. Bukauskas is a right-handed pitcher from North Carolina. While Alex Faedo and Kyle Wright have good size for pitchers, Bukauskas stands in at 6’0″ and 195 pounds. He’s young for his draft class, which comes from reclassifying as a high school senior in 2014, so he could go to North Carolina a year earlier. He has one of the best fastballs in this class, sitting 94-97 MPH with sinking action, while touching 100 MPH in the past. Bukauskas also throws a slider that is considered a plus pitch. His changeup is at least average, though some early reports this season had the pitch as below average. His delivery has some effort and due to his smaller size, some see him as a future reliever with closer upside. If the Pirates draft him 12th overall, it will be because they see him as a future starter.
Bukauskas pitched well in his team’s loss to Long Beach State on Friday night. He allowed one earned run on six hits and a walk in seven innings. He picked up nine strikeouts and threw 72 of his 105 pitches for strikes. His fastball was 94-96 MPH. The earned run was the first he has allowed in 20 innings of work this season. Bukauskas has a .174 BAA, with a 30:3 SO/BB ratio.
Here is video of his start against Kentucky on February 17th courtesy of Baseball America:
Tanner Houck from Missouri is a 6’5″, 220 pound right-hander. He gets high marks for his fastball, usually sitting in the 92-96 MPH range, with a ton of movement and the ability to throw it for strikes consistently. MLB Pipeline mentions that Houck is definitely a wildcard this high because the fastball is easily his best asset. His slider and changeup both need some work, while scouts are concerned about his delivery, which you can see in the video below. If he shows improvements with his secondary pitches in his junior year, then he will hold the high rankings from early on (Pipeline has him eighth in the draft class, while Baseball America has him eighth for college players).
Houck allowed just one unearned run over six innings against Illinois-Chicago on Friday night. He gave up four hits, no walks and struck out seven batters, while throwing 90 pitches. Houck did not get off to a strong start this season. In his debut, he allowed four earned runs on eight hits in 5.2 innings against Eastern Michigan. In his outing last week, he allowed four earned runs in 4.1 innings against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. That game included 93 pitches in his abbreviated outing. So last night was a nice step in the right direction. Early season results won’t hurt pitchers too much if the stuff (mostly velocity) looks good and I didn’t see any red flags while looking over reports of his first two games.
Here is video of him from late last year courtesy of Prospect Pipeline:
**Alex Faedo had a strong showing against Columbia on Friday night. He threw seven scoreless innings, allowing two hits and two walks, while striking out nine batters. He threw just 79 pitches, which was a good sign after a 119-pitch outing last week.
**Kyle Wright got hit around a little at home by Cal St Northridge. He gave up five runs (three earned) on six hits and two walks in five innings. Wright had eight strikeouts and threw 106 pitches. Last week, Wright allowed one run over six innings to the same Illinois-Chicago team that Houck faced last night.