Maryland held it’s spring sports media day on Tuesday, which gave Terps Head Coach Rob Vaughn his first chance to meet with the media before the start of the 2018 season.
Vaughn revealed a lot about his roster and his plans for the year, and we’ve narrowed it down to the six most important things we learned about the Terps on media day.
1. Hunter Parsons will start the season as the Sunday starter
Hunter Parsons posted a 3.50 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in a freshman season that included five starts and 10 relief appearances. However, last season the success just wasn’t there. Parsons started the year as the Terps midweek starter, but quickly lost that role after three consecutive rough outings. The righty finished the year with a 12.05 ERA and 2.31 WHIP in 21 2/3 innings.
Despite a tough 2017, Coach Vaughn is sticking with Parsons, and said Tuesday that he will start on the first Sunday of the season against Tennessee.
“We’re moving forward today like it’s Hunter Parsons,” Vaughn said. “Hunter is back to form. He’s been very, very good. Barring any change there, he’ll go Sunday down at Tennessee.”
“He’s been back to what we were hoping he would be. A lot of power stuff, he’s developed a good secondary pitch with a slider and his changeup’s been good his whole career. Again, the mental side of it, staring adversity in the face last year, and back up to what he’s doing now has been a huge piece for me.”
Parson’s 2017 numbers may have looked bad on the surface, but a deeper dive shows that he may have actually improved in some areas. His walk rate went virtually unchanged from 2016 to 2017, and his K/9 actually improved significantly from 7.00 to 9.97.
2. The left side of the infield is set for now
The loss of Kevin Smith in the MLB Draft left a gaping hole at shortstop for the Terps. However, the easy move was to move AJ Lee over from third base. Lee hit .307 with an .863 OPS last season and will be moving back to his natural position in 2018.
“It’s been an easy transition for [AJ],” Vaughn said. “He’s been super comfortable over there. We’ve had them (AJ and Dunn) working together a ton … AJ’s a natural shortstop, anyways. That’s where he played in high school at St. John’s College right down there road. Him and Dunn working together all fall has been really smooth.”
The Terps had a few options at third base, including junior college transfer Brad Barnett and senior Kevin Biondic, but Vaughn ultimately chose Taylor Wright, the junior transfer from Colorado Northwestern Community College. “[Taylor’s] going to be a middle-of-the-order impact bat for us,” Vaughn said.
3. Jancarski and Costes will be at the top of the order
Zach Jancarski was arguably the Big Ten’s best leadoff hitter last season. As a junior, Jancarski played in all but three games out of the top spot in the order, slashing .325/.424/.887 with 22 extra-base hits and the same amount of walks (33) as strikeouts. However, the now-senior may not be back in that lineup spot to start the season.
On the January 27th edition of the Maryland Baseball Network Podcast, Chris Webb of 10innings.com told us that Marty Costes would be hitting leadoff for the Terps. On Tuesday, Coach Vaughn would not specifically who would dig in to start the game against Tennessee on Feb. 16, but he did say that Costes and Jancarski would be the first two batters in the order.
“We’re going to hit them 1-2,” Vaughn said. “I’ve been thinking about leading Marty off, that’s honestly a conversation we’ve had and something we haven’t necessarily set in stone yet.”
“One of our huge things we’ve talked about is that I want every pitch of the game to matter. I don’t want the pitcher to ever throw one pitch he’s not scared it’s going to be hit in the gap. With Marty’s reputation with what he’s done for himself, if I’m a pitcher, I’m not supper comfortable [throwing] a fastball to start the game if I know he’s walking to the plate.”
Costes actually had a better on-base percentage (.429) than Jancarski last season and led the team in home runs with 13.
4. John Murphy is Maryland’s closer
Maryland had steered away from naming an actual closer over the past two seasons, but Coach Vaughn did just that on Tuesday.
One of the big [relievers] is John Murphy. Murph is going to close for us this year,” Vaughn said. “He’ll be in that role. He’s been very good.”
Murphy pitched to a 1.27 ERA and struck out 27 batters while walking just eight in 31 2/3 innings for the Terps last season. However, he really showed his worth in the postseason, when he struck out 12 batters in nine innings and worked out of two almost-impossible jams.
Despite all the success, Murphy did have only one save last season, so this will be a brand new role for the junior right-hander.
5. Richie Schiekofer and Randy Bednar will split time in right field
While Costes and Jancarski have left and center field locked down, the third outfield spot may still be up for grabs in College Park. It looks like the Terps’ top two options right now are freshman — Randy Bednar and Richie Schiekofer.
“Randy are Richie are both going to play out there a lot,” Vaughn said. “They will both play out there Week 1. We’ll figure out if that becomes a matchup thing or whether it becomes a ‘hey he’s on a hot streak’ kind of thing. But they’re both going to get a ton of at-bats and be right in the middle of what we’re doing all year.”
Bednar was the No. 5-ranked player in Maryland in the class of 2017, according to Perfect Game. The right-handed hitter batted .327 with six home runs for the Baltimore Redbirds in the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League this summer.
Schiekofer was the No. 7-ranked outfielder in New Jersey coming out of high school, according to Perfect Game. He hit .306 from the left side for the Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts of the CRCBL this summer.
6. If there’s a set midweek starter, it could be Mark DiLuia
The Terps used six different midweek starters in 2017, never really committing to one midweek option, and it looks like Maryland could do the same thing this season.
Coach Vaughn said he doesn’t want to get bogged down with pitchers’ roles, and instead just wants to focus on how he can win games and move on to the next.
However, if there is a midweek starter at the moment, it’s freshman right-hander Mark DiLuia, according to Vaughn. We could see DiLuia get the start on Feb. 21 at William & Mary — Maryland’s first midweek game of the season. DiLuia was the No. 38-ranked player in Illinois in the class of 2017, according to Perfect Game, and was taken in the 38th round of the 2017 MLB Draft by the Texas Rangers.