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Astros' Bukauskas displays dominant stuff in AFL

MLB.com

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Forrest Whitley, baseball's best pitching prospect, has been the talk of the Arizona Fall League in the early season. But he's not the only Astros first-rounder who looks ready to make an impact at the big league level in the near future.

Fellow right-hander J.B. Bukauskas, the 15th overall pick in 2017 out of North Carolina, also has dominant stuff. He put it on display Thursday afternoon, throwing four shutout innings to lead the Scottsdale Scorpions to an 8-0 victory over the Peoria Javelinas.

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Forrest Whitley, baseball's best pitching prospect, has been the talk of the Arizona Fall League in the early season. But he's not the only Astros first-rounder who looks ready to make an impact at the big league level in the near future.

Fellow right-hander J.B. Bukauskas, the 15th overall pick in 2017 out of North Carolina, also has dominant stuff. He put it on display Thursday afternoon, throwing four shutout innings to lead the Scottsdale Scorpions to an 8-0 victory over the Peoria Javelinas.

Gameday

Bukauskas, the Astros' No. 8 prospect allowed only two hits (one a double lost in the sun) and one walk while striking out four. He was efficient, throwing 36 of 58 pitches for strikes. In two AFL outings, he has permitted just one run while fanning nine in seven innings.

Against the Javelinas, Bukauskas worked at 94-96 mph and hit 98 mph with his fastball. His mid-80s slider lived up to its reputation as a wipeout pitch, and he also mixed in a few promising changeups with depth and a couple of cutters.

"I think the slider was probably my best pitch today," Bukauskas said. "The other night I really didn't have it with me. The changeup, I threw a couple good ones. I'm still working on developing that. I threw a couple of good cutter reps too that I was really happy with ...

"The slider is kind of my go-to. I think it has been for a while. If I have a good feel for it on the day, I'm going to lean pretty heavily on it."

Bukauskas also dominated during his first full pro season, posting a 2.14 ERA with 71 strikeouts and a .199 opponent average in 59 innings. But it didn't unfold as planned, because he got in an automobile accident during Spring Training that left him with a slipped disc in his back and limited him to three appearances in the first three months of the season. He wound up pitching at five different levels and said he jumped at the chance to get more work in during the Fall League.

"It was pretty frustrating but once I got going in the second half, I was pretty happy with the way things were going," Bukauskas said. "It limited me a lot. Getting to come out here and face this great competition has been awesome. I'm really fortunate I got the opportunity and just want to make the most of it right now."

The Scorpions took control of the game with six runs in the second inning, stringing together five singles, a walk and a hit batter against right-hander Jeremy Walker (Braves). Desmond Lindsay (Mets), Alfredo Rodriguez (Reds) and Darick Hall (Phillies) all contributed singles during the frame en route to two-hit days. Hall drove in three runs, two on an RBI single in the second and another on a sacrifice fly in the eighth.

Lucius Fox (Rays) collected two of the Javelinas' seven hits, dropping his batting average slightly to .407. Fox ranks first in the league in runs (eight), second in hits (11), third in steals (five) and fifth in batting.

Scottsdale improved to 5-3, tied with the Mesa Solar Sox atop the East Division. Peoria dropped to 5-3, sharing the best record in the Fall League with those two clubs and holding a one-game lead over the Surprise Saguaros in the West.

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

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