By Jake Eisenberg
With just nine days to go until the Terrapins open their season in Alabama, we take a look at the Terps 2016 starting pitching. RHP Mike Shawaryn was among the best in the country last year, and LHP Tayler Stiles added a potent one-two punch. But, after Stiles was injured against Cal St. Fullerton and lost for the season, the rotation struggled to find consistency, as eight different Terps (other than Shawaryn and Stiles) made starts.
This year, with Shawaryn poised for another stellar year, Tayler Stiles back from injury, and returning sophomores RHP Brian Shaffer, RHP Taylor Bloom and RHP Ryan Selmer emerging, Maryland fixes to have a solid foundation. Mix in freshman RHP John Murphy, RHP Cameron Enck and RHP Hunter Parsons, and head coach John Szefc and pitching coach Jimmy Belanger have exciting depth.
The Weekend Rotation:
As expected, preseason first-team all-American RHP Mike Shawaryn will sit atop the the weekend rotation. Shawaryn, a junior, had the best pitching season in Terps history in 2015, totaling 13 wins and racking up 138 strikeouts, both school single-season records. In the process, he also set the school record for career wins (24). The right-hander recorded a 1.71 ERA in 116.0 IP, good for 17th in the country and 2nd in the Big Ten, trailing only Illinois closer Tyler Jay (1.08 ERA, 66.2 IP).
Shawaryn is projected to be picked in the first round of the 2016 MLB Draft. Baseball America lists him as the 15th-best college prospect, giving him the chance to be Maryland’s highest-ever draft pick, a honor currently held by former Minnesota Twins LHP Eric Milton (1996 MLB Draft, 20th overall).
The Saturday slot in the rotation is expected to be manned by sophomore RHP Taylor Bloom. On paper, Bloom struggled last season, posting a 2-3 record in five starts to go along with a 4.01 ERA. But, the right-hander showed his potential in the postseason, tossing six innings of one-run ball against top-ranked UCLA in the Regional Final to help the Terps win 2-1.
Over the summer, Bloom played for the Gaithersburg Giants of the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League and saw tremendous success, including being named to the CRCBL All-Star team. The sophomore went 3-0 with a 1.76 ERA, with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 38:2. That ratio was helped by a 16 strikeout performance against the Alexandria Aces. With a fastball in the upper-80s, he won’t beat hitters with speed. Instead, Bloom mixes speeds to keep hitters off-balance and uses a lethal change-up to miss bats.
Rounding out the weekend rotation is RHP Brian Shaffer. The sophomore was the only Terps pitcher besides Shawaryn to make more than 10 starts in 2015. Shaffer went 5-1 in 11 starts with a 4.57 ERA. His repertoire includes a low-90s fastball and a slider with a strong late break.
Shaffer doesn’t rely on strikeouts to get through innings, but pitches to contact by maintaining excellent control. The right-hander only gave out only nine free passes to go along with 52 strikeouts.
Like Bloom, Shaffer emerged in the postseason. He held the Illinois Fighting Illini, then winners of 27 straight games, to one run over seven innings, striking out seven in his best performance of the season. He was on his way to another solid start against UCLA (2.0 IP, 1 ER, 1 K) before exiting due to injury.
In the Mix:
While the weekend rotation is set for now, the Terps have plenty of mid-week games, presenting starting opportunities for other hurlers. Most notably absent from the 2016 weekend rotation is junior LHP Tayler Stiles.
While the southpaw started six games for the Terps before his injury, securing the Saturday slot, Stiles will start the 2016 season in a new role. With all-time saves leader Kevin Mooney (drafted in the 15th round by the Washington Nationals), and bullpen arms Zach Morris (drafted in the 24th by the Philadelphia Phillies) and Alex Robinson (drafted in the 5th round by the Minnesota Twins) gone, Stiles has been named the team’s new closer, anchoring the bullpen with his strong left arm and veteran presence (more on this in our relief pitching preview tomorrow).
RHP Ryan Selmer is another returning pitcher to watch. The sophomore was one of the Terps best options out of the bullpen last year leading the team with 31 appearances, posting a 2.18 ERA in 53.2 IP. However, four of the 6’8″ right-hander’s appearances were starts, where he went 3-1. Selmer may start the year as the go-to arm in the bullpen, but could very well be a consistent mid-week starter by the end of the season.
Some freshman arms could make an impact early in the season as well. RHP Cameron Enck, RHP John Murphy and RHP Hunter Parsons could all vie for a mid-week slot.
Enck went 2-3 his senior year of high school (Lampeter-Strasburg) posting a 2.97 ERA in 37 IP, striking out 45. The right-hander was named first-team all-league and also earned a 2015 Perfect Game All-American honorable mention.
Murphy is cut from a similar cloth to Shawaryn, both having attended Gloucester Catholic High School. But, the similarities don’t end there. While Shawaryn holds the Terps career wins record, Murphy established the careers wins record at Gloucester Catholic, notching 28 over his four years, finishing his senior year 5-2 with 70 strikeouts.
Parsons is one of the two players—along with Andrew Miller—in the Terps’ incoming class to be drafted out of high school. Parsons was selected by the Cleveland Indians in the 40th round. The right-hander tallied 67 strikeouts in just 40 IP his senior year at Parkside High School en route to being named the Bayside South Pitcher of the Year.