After a highly successful 2021 campaign for multiple former Maryland baseball stars, the 2022 MLB regular season begins today for three former Terps.
Here’s a look at the Maryland baseball alumni who will begin their seasons at the Major League level.
2B Brandon Lowe, Tampa Bay Rays
One of the main contributors to a Rays squad that won 100 games last season, Lowe set multiple career-highs at the plate. Lowe hit a career-high 39 homers along with 99 RBIs en route to a second consecutive top-10 finish in AL MVP voting. Lowe also led the club in Wins Above Replacement.
Getting off to a hot start this year is the key to success for the former First-Team All-American. Lowe began last season with a .198 average through June 22. From then on, he flipped the script, hitting .289 with a 1.013 OPS the rest of the way. He struggled in the postseason, going 0-for-18 with nine strikeouts in a four-game loss to the Red Sox in the American League Division Series.
Shortly after the Rays’ season ended, Lowe met with a handful of members on Tampa Bay’s analytics team to look at what went wrong in the postseason. Earlier this month, Lowe told MLB.com’s Adam Berry he believes he made the necessary adjustments to avoid a repeat of last year’s postseason slump.
During the offseason, Lowe worked out at home in Nashville, Tenn. In 27 Spring Training at-bats, Lowe hit .296 with one homer, a grand slam on March 25. For the second consecutive year, Lowe made MLB Network’s list of top 100 players, coming in at No. 56.
1B/OF LaMonte Wade Jr., San Francisco Giants (10-day IL)
Like Lowe, Wade is coming off a career year at the plate. In his first full MLB season, Wade hit 18 homers with 56 RBI in 109 games for the NL West champion Giants. But he was best known for his late-game heroics. In late-and-close situations, Wade hit .362 in 47 at-bats. Late-and-close situations are defined by plate appearances in the seventh inning or later with the hitting team tied, ahead by one or the tying run at least on deck. He also hit .565 with 12 RBIs in 23 ninth-inning at-bats.
Wade credits Maryland hitting coach Matt Swope for last year’s success. Swope helped fix Wade’s stance and plate approach during the 2020-21 offseason. The Baltimore native met Swope three to four times a week before Maryland baseball’s practices to work on his swing and plan of attack. The pair also worked together in College Park during the 2021-22 offseason.
Wade hit one home run in 11 plate appearances this spring before being sidelined with a bone bruise in his left knee. Wade will begin the season on the 10-day injured list before making his return to the 28-man roster.
INF Kevin Smith, Oakland Athletics
Smith is making the first Opening Day roster of his young career. A versatile infielder who is expected to see time at shortstop and third base, Smith played his way onto the roster following an excellent spring. In 16 games, Oakland’s No. 16 prospect hit .325 with 3 home runs and 11 RBIs.
The A’s acquired Smith from the Blue Jays in last month’s deal that sent Matt Chapman to Toronto. The former First Team Freshman All-American made his MLB debut with the Blue Jays last season. In 32 at-bats, Smith tallied three hits, including his first big league homer on August 29.