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Virginia baseball commit Nick Bitsko drafted by Tampa Bay No. 24 overall

Bitsko, who signed with the Cavaliers in February, is considered one of the top pitching prospects.

2020 Major League Baseball Draft Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Virginia Baseball coaches and fans will have to hold their breath and hope for the best as one of the top commits in the 2020 class heard his named called in the first round of the MLB Draft. Nick Bitsko, a right-handed pitcher out of Central Bucks East High School in Doylestown, PA, was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays with the No. 24 overall pick on Wednesday night.

At 6-4, 225 pounds, the 17-year-old pitcher was regarded as something of a mystery for the draft. Bitsko reclassified to join the 2020 class, making him eligible for this year’s draft. His entire high school season was canceled this spring as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, meaning MLB scouts hadn’t see him play since 2019. According to ESPN, Bitsko has shot up draft boards because he, “...impressed in Zoom interviews and has been posting videos on social media that show big league-caliber stuff coming out of the hand of a 17-year-old.”

Bitsko has been training in a Pennsylvania warehouse, and hit 98.5 MPH on the speed gun in late May. This is impressive:

Bitsko was named the Pennsylvania Gatorade Player of the Year for 2020, and all the data available on his fastball indicate he has the elite skills that indicate big league success. From ESPN:

The data reveals that Bitsko’s fastball is already truly elite, comparable with some of the best fastballs in the big leagues. He averages 99.6% spin efficiency on his fastball, which means he is achieving almost perfect backspin on a four-seamer. Bitsko’s raw spin rate is slightly above MLB average, and that enables all of the spin on the ball to go toward “lift” or the vertical movement, hitting the mitt inches above where the eye would expect it to go.

Unfortunately for Virginia fans, this likely indicates he will never play an inning for the Cavaliers. The signing deadline is August 1, and the slot value of the 24th pick in this year’s draft is $2,831,300. With the ongoing pandemic affecting the season and financials of teams, it’s possible some high school players drafted go to college instead of signing. But in Bitsko’s case, the right-handed slinger is looked at as a player to build on for Tampa Bay.

“Have all the confidence in the world in the work that we’ve done,” Rays general manager Erik Neander told media via Zoom after the pick. “Everyone comes with different unknowns and different risks. Felt very, very comfortable with the talent and the person that we’re getting here.”

Bitsko hasn’t regretted his decision to reclassify or graduate early. “The whole reclassification thing, it was more from a development standpoint, it wasn’t just to get drafted or anything like that or go to school, it was more to further my career,” Bitsko said after being drafted. “Obviously, I thought I was ready after this last summer, doing the whole summer circuit and everything. I think I made the right decision overall to advance my career, I guess, and get to the next level and get to play against better competition wherever I go. Best decision I’ve made.”

The MLB Draft continues tonight (June 11) as Virginia pitcher Andrew Abbott hopes to hear his name called.