Astros sign first-rounder Bukauskas

No. 15 overall pick gets just over slot value at $3.6 million

Astros sign first-rounder Bukauskas

HOUSTON -- J.B. Bukauskas, the No. 15 overall pick in the 2017 Draft, signed a $3.6 million deal with the Astros, according to MLBPipeline.com's Jim Callis. The slot value for the 15th pick was $3,588,200.

"It's been so surreal," Bukauskas said Friday from Minute Maid Park. "That was a really special moment for me and my family. I'm really happy. Getting to go around the stadium, it's been great. Showing my parents Houston has been awesome. Still, just doesn't feel real. It's everybody's dream to play professional baseball, and I'm really excited to get going here."

Houston has signed 36 of its 42 Draft selections -- including all 12 picks made within the first 10 rounds. The top of that haul is Bukauskas, the club's top pick whose future is bound for the big leagues in an Astros uniform, said assistant general manager and director of scouting Mike Elias.

Bukauskas on being drafted

"This organization is incredible," Bukauskas said. "I'm so happy to get drafted by them."

"This is somebody that we've been watching for a number of years," Elias said. "He's somebody that we viewed as one of the elite talents in this year's Draft. We're absolutely elated to add this level of talent to our organization, [and] to what is already one of the best farm systems in baseball, and one with a lot of power arms. This is one more."

Bukauskas will fly to the Astros' West Palm Beach, Fla., complex on Saturday, where he'll join the Gulf Coast League Astros to rebuild arm stamina since ending his junior season at the University of North Carolina in early June.

"He's had a bit of a layoff after a very long season where he threw almost 100 innings," Elias said. "So we're going to build him towards game competition, speed as safely as possible. That'll be step one. I do imagine he'll see some pro action this summer, and don't expect it to be a very heavy innings load this summer. That's kind of the plan."

In 15 starts as a junior at UNC, Bukauskas -- a fastball-dominant right-hander with a polished slider -- was named the the ACC's Pitcher of the Year at 9-1 with a 2.53 ERA, 116 strikeouts and a .188 opponents' batting average.

Leiter on Bukauskas

By way of those two dominant pitches, Bukauskas' 11.27 strikeouts per nine innings was third best in the nation. Even as a 6-foot right-hander, Bukauskas has a repertoire of professional-grade stuff, Elias said.

"A fastball that gets up to 98 [mph] and sits in the 94-95 range for most of the game," Elias said of Bukauskas' pitches. "He's got an above-average slider. It's a plus slider that we view as almost a Major League-ready weapon. He's got a changeup that our scouts like quite a bit. He's used it some in college, but it's something he's going to use more often, especially against left-handed hitters. He's got it.

"We see three pitches. We see a body of work, a track record and a durability that points to a future starting pitcher in the big leagues -- which is the goal."

On Friday, the deadline day to sign players from the 2017 Draft, Houston officially announced eight other signings: catcher Michael Papierski (ninth round), right-handed pitcher Kyle Serrano (10th round), right-handed pitcher Brandon Bielak (11th round), right fielder Jonathan Lacroix (12th round), center fielder Jacob Meyers (13th round), right fielder Patrick Mathis (22nd round), second baseman Josh Rojas (26th round) and center fielder Andres Santana (29th round).

Christian Boutwell is a reporter for MLB.com based in Houston. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.