Former Terp Brandon Lowe set to make MLB debut

Former Maryland infielder Brandon Lowe is set to make his Major League Baseball debut for the Tampa Bay Rays Sunday afternoon. He received his first call up to the majors on Saturday after playing in 46 games this season for the Durham Bulls (AAA).

Lowe is the third Terrapin on an active MLB roster in 2018. He joins left-handed pitcher Adam Kolarek on the Rays, who are one game above .500 and less than 10 games out of the second wild card. Brett Cecil is currently on the 10-Day Disabled List for the St. Louis Cardinals.

In two seasons with Maryland, Lowe helped the Terps toward the first two NCAA Super Regionals appearances in program history. He slashed .338/.448/.509 over his two-year college career, as Maryland made the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1971 in his first season on the field in 2014.

Tampa drafted Lowe in the third round (87th overall) in the 2015 MLB Draft. It took less than three years for him to work his way through the Rays’ minor-league system to get his first MLB opportunity. He began his ascension in 2016 with the Class-A Bowling Green Hot Rods.

Lowe played on two levels in 2017, the Class-A Advanced Charlotte Stone Crabs and the Class-AA Montgomery Biscuits. He hit .298 with 11 home runs and 58 RBIs combined between the two clubs. He started this year with Montgomery, but moved up to Durham after 54 games. In 46 games in AAA with the Bulls, Lowe hit .304 with 14 homers and 35 RBIs.

Second baseman Daniel Robertson, who Lowe replaced on the Rays roster, is reportedly out for the season with a thumb injury according to MLB.com. Lowe will start in left field — a position he learned in the minors — and bat seventh against the Chicago White Sox at 1:10 p.m. ET on Sunday.

Former catcher Justin Morris to sign contract with Pittsburgh Pirates

Former Maryland baseball catcher Justin Morris confirmed that he’ll sign a minor league contract Tuesday with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He’ll fly to Florida on Monday before making it official at the team’s Spring Training facility in Bradenton.

The Edgewater native made an announcement Friday morning via Twitter.

Morris will be the third undrafted Terp this offseason to ink a professional deal. Kevin Biondic signed a contract with Red Sox last month and has pitched in six games since for the Lowell Spinners. Taylor Bloom has thrown in four games this summer for the Washington Wild Things, a team in the Independent Frontier League.

Juniors Marty Costes and Nick Dunn both were drafted in early June, signing contracts with the Houston Astros and St. Louis Cardinals, respectively.

The catcher was drafted in the 35th round by the Arizona Diamondbacks out of DeMatha Catholic High School in 2014, but opted to come to College Park instead. He played in 129 games for the Terps, but wasn’t drafted again after his junior or seniors campaigns.

Morris’ bat got hot in time for Maryland’s 2017 postseason run, finishing with a career-high five home runs. Maryland played in the Winston-Salem Regional, earning one win against in-state foe UMBC. In the 16-2 victory, Morris went 1-for-4 with two runs, two RBIs and a homer.

During his senior year, Morris hit .208 with only one homer and 14 RBIs. Defensively, though, he was very solid and threw out a team-high nine runners on the bases. He’ll now be the fifth Terp from the 2018 roster to begin a professional career this summer.

Taylor Bloom signs pro contract, makes 1st start for Washington Wild Things

The Washington Wild Things — an organization in the Independent Frontier League — announced the signing of former Maryland pitcher Taylor Bloom Saturday afternoon. The right-hander went on to make his first start hours later.

The Severna Park native went unselected in the 2018 MLB Draft, but became the fourth Terp this year to sign a professional contract. Nick Dunn and Marty Costes inked deals with the St. Louis Cardinals and the Houston Astros, respectively, before Kevin Biondic signed a minor league contract with the Boston Red Sox.

Bloom made his first start for the Wild Things the same day the team announced his signing. He allowed four runs on six hits in five innings, but didn’t walk a batter and struck out four against the Schaumburg Boomers. The Wild Things are based out of Washington, Pennsylvania and currently sit in first place in the league with a 26-18 record.

“Taylor was another one of our tryout participants that we saw potential in,” Washington assistant general manager of baseball operations Tony Buccili said in a press release. “We look to have our catchers assist with getting Taylor acclimated to our level of professional baseball and aid in the process of replicating his college production.”

Only one player threw more innings in the Maryland uniform than Taylor Bloom.  The right-hander became the second Terp to eclipse 300-career innings in his last start of the spring against Indiana, joining Mike Shawaryn as the only other pitcher do to so.

Bloom was an impact player all four seasons he was with the Terps. He appeared in 15 games as a freshman, including a start in the Big Ten championship and a memorable 6.1-inning appearance against UCLA in the 2015 NCAA Regionals. He later became a consistent weekend starter for his remaining time in College Park.

In 102.1 innings as a sophomore, his 2.46 ERA was fourth-best in the Big Ten, and he issued just nine walks the entire year. He went 7-2 with a 3.83 ERA as a junior before having an up-and-down senior campaign. Bloom was never the hardest thrower, but the Wild Things gained a pitcher that showed in his four years with Maryland the ability to throw strikes and keep hitters off-balance with slow off-speed pitches.

Kevin Biondic signs contract with Red Sox

Former utility player Kevin Biondic signed a minor league contract with the Boston Red Sox, Maryland baseball announced Friday afternoon on Twitter. Biondic is the third Terp this year to sign a professional contract, joining fifth-round draft selection Nick Dunn (St. Louis) and 22nd-rounder Marty Costes (Houston).

The Illinois native earned Big Ten second team honors this season as a utility player after transforming into a two-way player in the offseason. Biondic hit six homers with 24 RBIs as a first baseman, but also had a 2.59 ERA in 24.1 innings on the mound.

He made the first relief appearance before any other pitcher on the roster in 2018, pitching a scoreless eighth inning in Maryland’s season-opening win on the road against Tennessee. He went on to pitch in the third-most games out of the bullpen, as he held hitters to a slim .198 batting average.

Along with his solid ERA, Biondic struck out more than one batter per inning and allowed just 6.3 hits per nine innings. He also finished second on the team this season with two saves, trailing only John Murphy who had four.

Biondic missed a Friday night game this season against Nebraska — the only game he didn’t play in all season — to take the Chicago Police Academy entrance exam. Becoming a police officer has been a career goal, but now he’ll have the opportunity to extend his athletic career in Boston’s minor league system first.

Feature photo courtesy of UM Terps.

Two current Terps, two signees selected in 2018 MLB Draft

Juniors Nick Dunn and Marty Costes were the only two current Maryland players selected in the 2018 MLB Draft this week, the fewest since 2011 when left-hander Adam Kolarek — now with the Tampa Bay Rays — was the lone Terp taken.

Two Maryland commits — Nick Decker and Jack Herman — were also selected, and will now have until July 6 to decide whether or not to sign with their respective teams. If they choose to come to College Park, they won’t be eligible for the draft again until after their junior year or until they turn 21 years old.

Decker was taken in the 2nd round, 64th overall by the Boston Red Sox, making him the highest Maryland commit selected since Troy Strokes was drafted in the 4th round in 2014. After his selection, Strokes elected to go immediately into the Milwaukee Brewers’ system. Decker would have a large signing bonus if he chooses to go that route, with his pick being valued at over $1 million.  The outfielder from Seneca High School (NJ) helped comprise Maryland’s 23rd-ranked recruiting class in the country. The last eight Maryland commits drafted since Strokes came to College Park, but the highest selection among those was current left-hander Tyler Blohm’s 17th-round pick in 2016.

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Nick Dunn was drafted in the 5th round by the St. Louis Cardinals. (Hannah Evans/Maryland Baseball Network)

Dunn, the 16th All-American in program history, was taken in the 5th round, 153rd overall by the St. Louis Cardinals. The infielder earned All-Big Ten first team honors this season, hitting a team-high .330 with 10 homers, 39 RBIs, 32 walks and just 19 strikeouts. A native of Sunbury, Pennsylvania, Dunn is the 10th Maryland player selected within the first 10 rounds in the last six years. He’s also the first drafted by St. Louis since left-hander Jimmy Reed’s 6th-round selection in 2013.

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For the second straight year, Marty Costes is drafted by the Houston Astros. (Hannah Evans/Maryland Baseball Network)

Costes became the sixth Terrapin since 2000 to be picked in consecutive MLB drafts. The Houston Astros selected Costes for the second straight year, this time three rounds earlier. After a 25th-round selection in 2017, Costes was nabbed in the 22nd round, 672nd overall. The junior had a poor season compared to his first two, but Houston showed loyalty to their former selection. Currently, Costes has the seventh-most walks in program history with 96, and his 28 homers are tied for eighth.

Herman, an outfielder from Eastern High School (NJ), was taken by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 30th round, 894th overall. He was committed to Maryland before he even played a game in high school, where he hit a career .473 with 16 home runs and 105 RBIs. He hit .556 in his senior season with five homers and 41 RBIs. He, too, will soon have to decide where his future lies.

Marty Costes drafted by Houston Astros in 22nd round

The Houston Astros selected outfielder Marty Costes in the 22nd round (672nd overall) of the 2018 MLB Draft Wednesday afternoonmaking him the first Maryland player chosen in consecutive drafts since 2013-14. He was selected by the Astros in the 25th round last year.

As a draft-eligible sophomore, Costes was the 751st overall pick in 2017, but returned to Maryland for his junior campaign. He is the second current Terp off the board this year, after Nick Dunn was taken in the fifth round on Tuesday.

Costes is now just the sixth Terp since 2000 to be selected in back-to-back drafts. Most recently, former right-hander Jake Stinnett was drafted in the 29th round (869th overall) in 2013 and then again in the second round (45th overall) in 2014. His teammate, outfielder Charlie White, jumped from the 29th round to the 21st round in the same two-year stretch.

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Costes was an infielder out of Arcbishop Curley (MD) when he arrived at Maryland in 2016, but there were no immediate vacancies for him to start at third base. With the team needing his bat in the lineup, he was asked to transition to left field. In doing so, he ended the season tied with among Maryland’s outfield core with the fewest errors (2) and the most assists (4).

The urgency to get Costes’ bat into the lineup as a freshman paid off, as he lead the team with nine home runs, 21 extra-base hits and a .479 slugging percentage. His nine homers also led all Big Ten freshmen, helping earn a spot on the Big Ten All-Freshman team and a Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American nomination.

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Marty Costes bats for Maryland against Army on 2/25/18. Photo by Amanda Broderick/Maryland Baseball Network

Coming off a first season filled with accolades, Costes continued to emerge during his sophomore campaign. He raised his batting average from .263 to .322, which ranked third on the team. One of two players to start in all 61 games, he led the team in hits (77), home runs (13), RBIs (46) and walks (34). His .322/.429/.548 slash line highlighted his selection as a 2017 All-Big Ten first team recipient and an MLB draft pick.

After playing with Dunn for the Brewster Whitecaps in the Cape Cod Baseball League last summer, Costes struggled a bit in his return to College Park as a junior. He had career-lows in batting average, hits, doubles, home runs, RBI and slugging percentage. However, he swiped double-digit bases for the first time and walked just as often as he struck out. Costes also continued to develop as an outfielder, showing off his strong arm with nine assists.

Despite the drop in numbers, Costes was much more productive during the final month of the season and his potential still warranted a second MLB Draft selection in as many seasons. His 96 career walks are the seventh-most in program history and his 28 homers are tied for eighth.

Nick Dunn drafted by St. Louis Cardinals in 5th round

The St. Louis Cardinals selected infielder Nick Dunn in the 5th round (153rd overall) of the 2018 MLB Draft Tuesday afternoon, making the junior second baseman the first current Terp taken in this year’s draft. Maryland has now had a top-five round pick in each of the last five years.

In just three seasons at Maryland, the Sunbury, Pennsylvania, native started in all 172 games and became the 13th player in program history to reach 200 career hits. Just recently, Dunn was named a Baseball America second team All-American and a first team All-Big Ten recipient.

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Dunn came to College Park in 2016 with an optimistic future for obvious reasons. A Louisville Slugger preseason All-American honorable mention, he finished his senior year of high school with a .477 batting average without a single strikeout. Dunn immediately fit right into the program, hitting .300 during his freshman season. He led the team in hits (68), doubles (16) and on-base percentage (.382). He was later named a freshman All-American.

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Sophomore Nick Dunn throws to first for the out. Hannah Evans/Maryland Baseball Network 5/14/2017

Dunn began to increase his power as a sophomore, jumping his home run total from just one to five the following year. While his batting average decreased, he continued to get on base and put the ball in play. He walked more than he struck out, helping lead Maryland to Big Ten and NCAA Tournament berths in 2017. Dunn was impressive last summer, earning playoff co-MVP honors with the Brewster Whitecaps in the Cape Cod Baseball League. He returned to Maryland with a .333 season average, an All-Star selection and a championship in one of the most prestigious collegiate summer leagues in the country.

Success against the nation’s top talent followed Dunn back to College Park, leading the Terps in nearly every statistical offensive category this past season as a junior. He attained career-bests in hits (70), doubles (17), home runs (10) and RBIs (39) with a .330/.419/.561 slash line. He was the most consistent player for Maryland the entire season as the team’s primary two-hitter.

Dunn has become the toughest out in Maryland’s lineup, walking 85 times with just 67 strikeouts in three years. He developed power while increasing his batting average this past season, hitting more than half of his career homers in 2018. Currently holding a .295 career batting average, Dunn is one of 16 Maryland All-Americans and has the ninth-most doubles (46) in program history.