MLB Draft Preview: C Nick Cieri

Nick Cieri – C

Ht: 6’3”           Wt: 250           Year:  Sr.           Bats/Throws:  L/R

Hometown (HS): Hainesport, N.J. (Rancocas Valley Regional)

2017 Stats

G: 38 (24 GS)    AB: 88     Slash Line: .216/.395/.330     HR: 2     RBI: 17        K-Rate: 15.3%        BB-Rate: 20.5%

Previously Drafted: 2013 – 32nd Round, 972 Overall – San Francisco Giants

Background: Originally drafted out of high school by the San Francisco Giants, Nick Cieri instead decided to play college ball for Maryland. As a freshman in 2014, he split time between catcher and designated hitter, batting .248 with eight doubles in 48 games. The lefty-swinging backstop took a big step forward his sophomore year, he hit .299 with five doubles and three homers despite missing 27 games with a broken hamate bone. He again saw most of his action at DH, with Kevin Martir in front of him on the depth chart at catcher.

Senior Nick Cieri gets a hit. (Hannah Evans/Maryland Baseball Network)

After a strong summer in the Cape Cod League (.319 in 30 games) and with Martir gone, Cieri was primed to be a central piece in the Maryland lineup in 2016. He made 53 starts between catcher and DH, but despite setting career highs with nine doubles and 29 RBIs, saw his average dip to .256. His struggles continued in 2017, his senior campaign, as he hit .216 with two homers and four doubles in 38 games as part of a three-man catching rotation. Cieri did maintain his patient eye at the plate, getting on-base at a .395 clip, good for fourth on the Terps, despite a .216 average that ranked tenth on the team.

While Cieri has had an up-and-down career at the plate with the Terps, he has continually excelled in wood-bat summer leagues. In 82 career games between the Cape Cod and Ripken leagues, he owns a .316 career average.

Outlook: After back-to-back strong summers, Cieri had the opportunity to bounce back from a disappointing junior season and end his collegiate career on a high note. Instead, he struggled at the plate and eventually lost playing time to Justin Morris and Danny Maynard, who both came on strong offensively at different points in the season. His poor average is compounded by the fact that he doesn’t run well, and for someone who profiles more as a designated hitter, has little pop (67.3 AB/HR for his career). The New Jersey native is a question mark defensively as well, as he has never proved to be a strong catcher behind the plate, and has struggled throughout his career to throw runners out.

While Cieri has struggled over the past couple seasons, one thing that should not be overlooked is his patience at the plate. He has walked (81) more times in his collegiate career than he has struck out (77), and has the ability to work deep counts and see a lot of pitches. He may not be the most consistent offensive force, but a team that likes his patience and believes he can develop more power may take a flier on the left-handed hitting catcher in the later rounds.

Pro Terps Update: 6/1/17

The Maryland Terrapins are headed to the NCAA Tournament, and open the Winston-Salem regional Friday at 2 p.m. against West Virginia. While the Terps are looking to keep their season going, many former Terps are hitting their strides as the MLB and MiLB seasons head into the summer months.

LHP Brett Cecil, the only Terp currently int he majors, has had an up-and-down year since leaving Toronto to sign a four year $30.5 million contract with the St. Louis Cardinals over the winter. The middle reliever experienced a rough stretch during which he let up an earned run in four straight appearances from May 7 to May 12. He’s settled down since then, and has not allowed an earned run in any of his last six outings. He is 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 26 appearances.

RHP Mike Shawaryn continues to impress for the Class-A Greenville Drive (Boston Red Sox). In his last five starts, he has struck out 48 batters in 30 innings, posting a solid 3.30 ERA in that span. Overall, the former Maryland ace is 3-2 with a 3.88 ERA and 78 strikeouts (most in the South Atlantic League) to just 13 walks. Opponents are hitting just .222 against him so far this season.

LHP Adam Kolarek has also been turning heads, but in a relief role. The Baltimore native is 1-2 on the season with an outstanding 1.11 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 24.1 innings pitched for the Triple-A Durham Bulls (Tampa Bay Rays). He has let up just one earned run since April 22.

2B Brandon Lowe continues to rake in what has been a breakout year in the Class-A Advanced Florida State League. The Charlotte Stone Crabs (Tampa Bay Rays) infielder has hit 4 homers in his last 7 games. He leads the Florida State League in slugging percentage (.610), on-base percentage (.437) and ranks third in average (.333). He is the only qualified hitter in the league with an OPS (1.047) north of 1.000. His 17 doubles and seven homers this season have already surpassed last season’s totals of 15 and five, respectively, which took him more than twice as many games as he has played this year.

A pair of Minnesota Twins farmhands have excelled to this point in the season. LHP Alex Robinson capped off a fantastic month of May Wednesday night with a scoreless inning during which he struck out two batters. Overall in May, Robinson went 0-1 with a 1.35 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 13.1 innings pitched. The Class-A Cedar Rapids Kernels (Minnesota Twins) southpaw is 1-2 with 31 strikeouts and a 2.86 ERA in 22 innings this season.

Terps’ reliever Jamal Wade’s brother and former Maryland OF LaMonte Wade continues to put up impressive numbers for the Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts (Minnesota Twins). Despite the fact that he has hit just .208 in his last 13 contests, Wade is still putting up a slash line of .294/.420/.418 with 4 homers, 5 stolen bases, 28 runs scored, 22 RBIs, and an .838 OPS. He’s been especially patient this season at the plate, as his on-base percentage ranks third in the Southern League, and his 34 walks rank second.

While Wade has enjoyed success at the plate, former teammate 3B Jose Cuas has had a difficult time putting the bat on the ball with the Class-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Milwaukee Brewers) all season. He owns a .202/.322/.380 slash line with 3 homers, 10 RBIs, 18 runs scored, and 5 stolen bases.

Class-A Lakewood Blue Claws (Philadelphia Phillies) LHP Zach Morris has hit a rough patch in his 2017 campaign. He has allowed seven earned runs over his last four appearances, raising his season ERA to a robust 6.23. The Class-A reliever is 2-2 with a troubling 0.93 strikeout to walk ratio (14 Ks to 15 BBs). Opponents are batting .311 against him.

LHP Jake Drossner of the Rookie League Helena Brewers (Milwaukee Brewers) made just one appearance this season, with the Class-A Timber Rattlers, before hitting the disabled list. RHP Jake Stinnett of the Double-A Tennessee Smokies (Chicago Cubs) has not pitched yet this season due to injuries. LHP Jimmy Reed had an 8.10 ERA in three games before being placed on the DL on April 17. He was released by the Springfield Cardinals (Double-A) on May 12.

Pro Terps Update: 5/9/17

With over a month of the Major and Minor League seasons complete, let’s check out how Maryland alumni have faired in the professional ranks so far this season.

LHP Brett Cecil struggled out the gate in his first season with the St. Louis Cardinals letting up a total of five earned runs in his first four appearances. Since then the Cardinals’ setup man has rebounded nicely. Despite blowing a save against the Braves on Sunday, Cecil has let up just one run in his last 13 outings. He currently has a 4.38 ERA and has struck out 16 batters in 12 1/3 innings.

While Cecil is the only Terp that is currently in the majors, LHP Adam Kolarek has been making a case to be in the big leagues as well. The Baltimore native has posted a 1.35 ERA in 12 appearances for the Triple-A Durham Bulls (Tampa Bay Rays). He has struck out 14 batters with just three walks in 13.1 innings. He has not given up a run since April 16.

RHP Mike Shawaryn dazzled on Saturday for the Class-A Greenville Drive (Boston Red Sox). He pitched six innings of one run ball, walking one and striking out 12 batters. The No. 14 prospect in the Red Sox system has been fantastic since he let up nine runs in his first start of the season. In his last five starts, Shawaryn is 2-0 with 42 strikeouts and a 1.33 ERA.

LHP Zach Morris has been solid pitching in relief for the Class-A Lakewood BlueClaws (Philadelphia Phillies). In 12.2 innings the southpaw has struck out ten batters, walked nine, and let up five earned runs on 14 hits. He is 2-1 with a 3.55 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP and one save in two chances.

LHP Alex Robinson has rebounded well after letting up five earned runs in his first three appearances of 2017. He has not given up an earned run in any of his last five appearances. The Class-A Cedar Rapids Kernels’ (Minnesota Twins) reliever is 1-1 with a 3.97 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 11.1 innings pitched.

Chattanooga Lookouts (Minnesota Twins) outfielder LaMonte Wade, brother of current Terp Jamal Wade, has kicked it up a notch in Double-A. Wade is hitting .536 in his last 10 games, giving his batting average a 75 point boost and giving Wade a spot on MLB Pipeline’s Prospect Team of the Week. He currently owns a  .321/.468/.494 slash line to go with three homers, five doubles, three stolen bases, 11 RBIs and 21 runs scored.

Third baseman Jose Cuas has struggled lately for the Class-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Milwaukee Brewers), hitting .167 in his last 10 games. He is batting .209 with a .321 OBP, two homers and a .753 OPS.

Second baseman Brandon Lowe has gotten off to a nice start this season for the Class A Charlotte Stone Crabs (Tampa Bay Rays). In 28 games Lowe is slashing .340/.431/.570 with three homers, and ranks in the top five in the Florida State League in doubles (10), runs scored (23) as well as OBP and slugging.

While all these former Terps have been doing well on the field, three remain on the shelf. Springfield Cardinals’ (St. Louis Cardinals’ Double-A affiliate) LHP Jimmy Reed was placed on the 7-day disabled list on April 17. He currently owns a 8.10 ERA in three appearances spanning 6.2 innings. The southpaw missed the entire 2016 season due to injury. LHP Jake Drossner made one start with the Class-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Milwaukee Brewers), throwing four innings of one-run ball, before hitting the disabled list April 12. He has since been activated and reassigned to the Rookie affiliate Helena Brewers, but has yet to make an appearance. Tennessee Smokies (Chicago Cubs’ Double-A affiliate) RHP Jake Stinnett has not pitched yet this season due to injuries.

Rankings Update: Week of 4/3/17

The Terps (18-8, 5-1 Big Ten) had themselves another successful week, taking care of business in Piscataway, Nj., sweeping Rutgers (10-17, 0-3 Big Ten) in the three-game series. Maryland has won 17 of its last 20 since their 1-5 start, including six of their last seven. The Terps currently sit tied for second place in the Big Ten behind Minnesota (18-8, 6-0 Big Ten).

Maryland is tied in the Big Ten Standings with the Nebraska Cornhuskers (15-10-1, 2-0-1), the Terps’ opponent this coming weekend out in Lincoln, Neb.

The 3-0 week was enough to put the Terps back into the rankings for the first time since the first week. They currently rank No. 25 in Baseball America’s Top 25 and No. 24 in D1 Baseball’s Top 25. However they remain unranked on Perfect Game.

Of Maryland’s previous opponents, two find themselves in the top five (Louisville, UNC), and LSU checks in at No. 13. Michigan (No. 18) is the only other Big Ten team to be ranked. N.C. State, which was No. 6 in the nation when the Terps beat the Wolfpack in Cary, Nc., is still unranked.

This week, The Terps will play a game against Richmond (11-15) at home on Tuesday and then head to Lincoln Nebraska to take on the Cornhuskers (15-10-1, 2-0-1 Big Ten).

Big Ten: T-2

D1Baseball.com: No. 24

Baseball America: No. 25

Perfect Game: Unranked

RPI: 48

 

 

Smith’s second-straight two-homer day helps propel Terps to first road win

After homering twice in Tuesday’s loss, Kevin Smith went deep twice again Wednesday to lead the Maryland offense in a 10-6 win over UNC Wilmington. The victory secured the Terps (13-7) a split of the tw0-game series and gave them their first road win of the season.

Marty Costes got the Terps on the board early with a two-run homer in the first, and Smith added a third run in the frame with an RBI groundout. After the Seahawks cut the lead to one run with a two-run third, Maryland responded with a four-run fifth inning. Nick Dunn and Costes led off the frame with back-to-back singles, and a walk to Will Watson loaded the bases for Madison Nickens. He hit a sacrifice fly to center to score Dunn, and one batter later, Smith’s fourth homer of the season brought three more home.

The Terps were robbed of a chance to add on further in the seventh, when Seahawks center fielder Robbie Thorburn robbed Watson of a potential two-run homer, and doubled Costes off first to squander Maryland’s scoring opportunity. An inning later, however, Smith hit an 0-2 pitch over the left field fence for his second homer of the afternoon, giving Maryland an 8-3 lead.

“I just think he’s playing with confidence,” Coach John Szefc said. “The more at bats he accrues, the more comfortable he gets, the more productive he gets.”

Over the two games in Wilmington, Smith collected four hits – all home runs – seven RBIs.

“I was seeing pitches a little better this weekend, I worked a little bit with coach Vaughn.” Smith said “The big thing is not trying to hit singles anymore, really trying to get a ball [I] can drive and do some damage in the gaps with.”

The Terps added two more insurance runs in the ninth on throwing errors before sealing the victory in the bottom half of the frame.

Meanwhile, Maryland’s starter struggled early in the game for the second straight day, as left-hander Tayler Stiles failed to complete three innings. He worked out of a jam in the first and cruised through the second before again running into trouble in the third inning. After surrendering two runs on a single and a two-run homer, he loaded the bases on a hit batsman, a single and a walk. Stiles got the second out of the inning on a pop out, but then was pulled in favor of Ryan Hill, who escaped the jam with a strikeout. Hill (2-0) worked 3.1 scoreless innings of relief with six strikeouts to pick up his second win of the season.

“Whatever they want me to come in and do I’ll do it.” Hill said after the game. “I know my job is to get the defense off the field and get their bats going like they did today.” He said his cutter and curveball were “really working well” today and credited those pitches for his success.

Jared Price relieved Hill in the seventh, allowing a run after Casey Golden singled and ultimately came around to score on a double play. He let up another run in the eighth in the form of a Daniel Stack RBI double before Maryland brought in Andrew Miller to end the threat.

Miller was shaky in the bottom of the ninth, letting up his first two runs of the season on a Nick Feight home run as the Seahawks cut the Terps’ lead to 10-6. Ryan Selmer came in and picked up two strikeouts to close out Maryland’s first road victory and 12th win in 14 contests.

“I thought it was a good answer from our guys today,” Coach Szefc said of his team that lost 10-7 yesterday. “Today was just a matter of minimizing damage and stranding runners. We didn’t give up a big inning the whole day, that was the difference in the game.”

The team combined for 17 runs in two games, keyed by Smith and Costes, who collected five hits and hit two home runs in the series.

Maryland’s offense will look to stay hot this weekend. They will come home to play their first Big Ten game of the season against no. 18 Michigan on Friday at 6:30 p.m.

Maryland unable to shake off early miscues in loss to UNC Wilmington

After three innings of play, Maryland trailed 8-0. But, despite clawing back to bring the tying run to the plate in the eighth frame, the Terps ultimately fell to UNC-Wilmington 10-7.

Reliever Mike Rescigno’s first career start didn’t go as planned. In the first inning, the Seahawks sent 10 men to the plate—scoring five—on three hits and two Maryland errors, one from Rescigno and one by Nick Dunn at second base.

Casey Golden singled and advanced on a failed pickoff attempt. After Rescigno walked the next batter, Nick Feight hit a chopper that bounced over the head of A.J. Lee at third for an RBI double. Then, Mason Berne then hit a groumaryland at UNCWnd ball that second baseman Nick Dunn was unable to field cleanly, allowing Golden to score. After Rescigno hit the next batter, Daniel Stack singled to center field scoring Feight and Berne. The first out of the inning was a Clark Cota strikeout; however, the Seahawks weren’t done yet as a sacrifice fly brought in the fifth and final run of the inning.

UNC Wilmington starter Zarion Sharpe, who was also making his first career start, was stellar in four innings of work. He struck out five and walked none, allowing just two hits—both to Marty Costes, who hit his third home run of the season in the fourth inning.

 

A Marty Costes solo shot opened scoring for Maryland in the fourth inning.

The Terps continued to battle back, putting up three runs in the top of the fifth thanks to a Kevin Smith solo blast, a passed ball, and a Zach Jancarski RBI double.

During the bottom of the inning, outfielder-turned-pitcher Jamal Wade did something no Maryland pitcher has done since 2014. Wade got the first batter of the inning Kennard McDowell to swing and miss on an 0-2 count. McDowell reached first, however, as the ball got away from catcher Danny Maynard. After balking the runner to second and allowing an RBI single to Casey Golden, Wade struck out the next three batters. This was the first four strikeout inning by a Terp since Jared Price accomplished the feat in April of 2014.

After Maryland got another run on Kevin Smith’s second homer of the game in the top half of the sixth, Wade struck out the side. Wade struck out seven total batters, including the final six he faced.

Another Seahawks run to score in the bottom of the seventh on the Terps’ fourth wild pitch of the game. Maryland scored two in the eighth after Kevin Smith was hit by a pitch, advanced to second on a Nick Cieri walk, advanced to third on a wild pitch, and scored on a passed ball. Cieri then scored on Zach Jancarski’s RBI triple.

Freshman LHP Jon Dignazio made his first appearance of his collegiate career in the bottom of the eighth, setting the Seahawks down in order.

In the top of the ninth, Danny Maynard tripled with one out, however a Madison Nickens strikeout and a Kevin Smith flyout ended the threat and the game for the Terps.

Overall, the Terps used six pitchers and let up a combined ten runs, but only six were earned.

Considering they went down 8-0 in the third inning, the Terps showed resilience and gave an admiral effort in their attempt to come back.

Marty Costes and Kevin Smith led the offense with Costes collecting three hits and Smith homering twice.

With the loss, the Terps fall to 12-7 on the season. It is just their second loss in thirteen games. Maryland will look to split the two game set tomorrow at 3:30 p.m. Neither team has announced a starter for tomorrow’s game yet.

Rankings Update: Week of 3/20/17

The Terps (12-6) have hit their stride. Though they were one hit by #11 North Carolina on Tuesday, Maryland bounced back by sweeping the Princeton Tigers at home this weekend. Having won 11 of their last 12, the Terrapins are about as hot as any team in the NCAA.

This 3-1 week wasn’t enough to put the Terps back into the national rankings, however. Their last appearance on any list was the week of 2/27/17/.

Maryland will head to Wilmington this week for a two game set against the Seahawks (8-9) before coming home to play their first Big Ten series against #18 Michigan (15-4).

Michigan remains the only team in the Big Ten to be ranked nationally.

D1Baseball.com: Unranked

Baseball America: Unranked

Perfect Game: Unranked

NCBWA: Unranked

USA Today’s Coaches’ Poll: Unranked