2017 MLB Draft Preview

The 2017 MLB Draft begins Monday! While Kevin Smith and Brian Shaffer are the Terps’ biggest name draft prospects, several other Maryland players have a chance to hear their names called throughout the three-day draft. Here’s a look at each player, one by one, and where their draft stock sits after the 2017 campaign, as well as an interview about the draft with D1 Baseball’s Frankie Piliere.

Hannah Evans/Maryland Baseball Network

Kevin Smith | SS

Class: Junior

Hometown: East Greenbush, N.Y.

Bats/Throws: R/R

Height/Weight: 6’0″/188 lbs.

2017 Stats: .268/.323/.552, 13 HR, 48 RBIs

Hannah Evans/Maryland Baseball Network

Brian Shaffer | RHP

Class: Junior

Hometown: Pylesville, Md.

Bats/Throws: R/R

Height/Weight: 6’5″/200 lbs.

2017 Stats: 7-4, 2.66 ERA, 109 K, 108.1 IP

Hannah Evans/Maryland Baseball Network

Ryan Selmer | RHP

Class: Junior

Hometown: Beltsville, Md.

Bats/Throws: R/R

Height/Weight: 6’8″/220 lbs.

2017 Stats: 2-2, 3.05 ERA, 26 K, 41.1 IP

Hannah Evans/Maryland Baseball Network

Marty Costes | OF

Class: Sophomore

Hometown: Baltimore, Md.

Bats/Throws: R/R

Height/Weight: 5’9″/200 lbs.

2017 Stats: .322/.429/.548, 13 HR, 46 RBIs

Hannah Evans/Maryland Baseball Network

Class: Senior

Hometown: Monmouth, Beach, N.J.

Bats/Throws: R/R

Height/Weight: 6’1″/230 lbs.

2017 Stats: 2-1, 5.40 ERA, 18 K, 16.2 IP

Hannah Evans/Maryland Baseball Network

Jamal Wade | RHP

Class: Junior

Hometown: Owings Mills, Md.

Bats/Throws: R/R

Height/Weight: 6’0″/205 lbs.

2017 Stats: 1-0, 5.03 ERA, 33 K, 19.2 IP

Hannah Evans/Maryland Baseball Network

Zach Jancarski | CF

Class: Junior

Hometown: East Norriton, Pa.

Bats/Throws: R/R

Height/Weight: 6’0″/185 lbs.

2017 Stats: .325/.434/.453, 17 2B, 20 SB

Hannah Evans/Maryland Baseball Network

Jared Price | RHP

Class: Redshirt Senior

Hometown: Mohnton, Pa.

Bats/Throws: R/R

Height/Weight: 6’3″/240 lbs.

2017 Stats: 1-0, 3.04 ERA, 27 K, 23.2 IP

Hannah Evans/Maryland Baseball Network

Taylor Bloom | RHP

Class: Junior

Hometown: Severna Park, Md.

Bats/Throws: R/R

Height/Weight: 6’0″/195 lbs.

2017 Stats: 7-2, 3.83 ERA, 53 K, 89.1 IP

Hannah Evans/Maryland Baseball Network

Nick Cieri | C

Class: Senior

Hometown: Hainesport, N.J.

Bats/Throws: L/R

Height/Weight: 6’3″/250 lbs.

2017 Stats: .216/.395/.330, 2 HR, 17 RBI

Hannah Evans/Maryland Baseball Network

Justin Morris | C

Class: Junior

Hometown: Edgewater, Md.

Bats/Throws: L/R

Height/Weight: 6’2″/215 lbs.

2017 Stats: .211/.290/.389, 5 HR, 13 RBI

Hannah Evans/Maryland Baseball Network

Madison Nickens | OF

Class: Senior

Hometown: Gonzales, La.

Bats/Throws: L/L

Height/Weight: 6’2″/210 lbs.

2017 Stats: .222/.218/.380, 5 HR, 32 RBI

Hannah Evans/Maryland Baseball Network

Brandon Gum | INF

Class: Redshirt Senior

Hometown: Woodbridge, Va.

Bats/Throws: R/R

Height/Weight: 6’2″/185 lbs.

2017 Stats: .338/.451/.468, 5 HR, 37 RBI

MLB Draft Preview: INF Brandon Gum

Brandon Gum – 1B/3B/SS

Ht: 6’2″        Wt: 185       Year: R-Sr.        Bats/Throws: R/R

Hometown (HS): Woodbridge, Va. (George Mason)

2017 Stats: 

G: 53     PA: 230    Slash Line: .338/.451/.468     HR: 5       RBI: 37     K-rate: 16.5 %      BB-rate: 13.7 %

A shortstop and third baseman for much of his career, Brandon Gum transitioned to first base as a fifth year senior with the Terps. (Hannah Evans/Maryland Baseball Network)

Background: Brandon Gum came to Maryland this season as a graduate transfer after spending four seasons across the Potomac River at George Mason. The infielder posted a .298 career batting average in 615 at-bats with the Patriots, including a breakout junior season in 2015, when he hit .338 with 12 doubles and 32 RBIs. After starting his senior year hot, hitting .304 with four extra-base hits in 11 games, his season abruptly ended with a rotator cuff injury, and Gum’s George Mason career was over. The Woodbridge, Virginia, native received a medical redshirt and an extra year of eligibility, and came to Maryland this season to play that fifth and final year of college ball.

A shortstop and third baseman for most of his career at George Mason, Gum transitioned across the diamond this season, becoming the Terps’ every day first baseman and solidifying himself in the middle of the order. Starting in 54 of the team’s 61 contests, he tied his career high with a .338 average, while setting new career marks in homers (5), RBIs (37) and stolen bases (13).

While consistently hitting over .300 for most of the 2017 campaign, Gum came on especially strong in the postseason, reaching base in all eight games across the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments, and collecting multiple hits in five of them. In his final ten games, he went 19-for-39 (.487), with two homers and 10 RBIs.

Outlook: With a .308 career average across parts of five collegiate seasons and a .338 mark with Maryland in 2017, Gum is one of the better pure hitters that the Terps have had in recent years. While he is not immune to the strikeout, he works the count and sees a lot of pitches, leading Maryland in walks and OBP this season. Solely a contact hitter prior to this season (just two homers in 615 AB at George Mason), he improved his power stroke as a Terp, breaking out for five home runs and a .468 slugging percentage, both of which ranked in the top five on the team. Gum is versatile defensively too, as he spent most of this season at first base but throughout his career has played solid defense all around the infield.

Despite a proven track record at the plate, Gum does carry some red flags into the draft. He missed most of last season with a torn rotator cuff, and it is not known if he still has the same arm strength to throw across the diamond from third or short. Additionally, as a fifth year senior, he is much older than many of his college contemporaries that may possess the same offensive skills without the shaky injury history.

Red shirt senior Brandon Gum watches a pitch go by for a ball. (Hannah Evans/Maryland Baseball Network)

At 23, Gum is the same age as major league players such as Trea Turner and Andrew Benintendi, and he will only be taken if scouts feel that he could quickly rise through the minor league ranks. However, there is no question that he can hit, and given his consistency at the plate over the years, a team may like his bat later in the draft and take a flier on him.

MLB Draft Preview: OF Madison Nickens

Madison Nickens – OF

Ht: 6’2″        Wt: 210       Year: Sr.        Bats/Throws: Left/Left

Hometown (HS): Gonzales, La. (LSU-Eunice)

2017 Stats: 

G: 57     PA: 197    Slash Line: .222/.318/.380     HR: 5       RBI: 32     K-rate: 26.6 %      BB-rate: 11.8 %

Madison Nickens doubles against Michigan State. (Hannah Evans/Maryland Baseball Network)

Background: Madison Nickens transferred to Maryland before his junior season in 2016, after playing his first two seasons of college ball at LSU-Eunice. As a freshman for the Bengals in 2014, he hit .318 in 35 contests and showed impressive speed on the basepaths, going 15-for-16 in stolen base attempts. The Louisiana native found his power stroke in his sophomore season, hitting six homers and nine doubles while batting .289 and stealing 38 bases for a Bengals team that won the Division II National Championship. After two season, Nickens left LSU-Eunice and came to Maryland with a career .301/.411/.463 slash line.

A speedy outfielder with good on-base skills, Nickens joined the Terps and spent most of the season atop the Maryland order. He started the season hot, launching a two-run homer, his first at the Division I level, in Maryland’s second game of the season against Alabama, and reaching base safely in his first 13 contests. He saw time at all three outfield positions, as well as at DH, and tied with Marty Costes for the team lead with four outfield assists. He finished the season with a .260 average and a team-best eight steals and 40 runs scored, while ranking second with eight homers and a .423 slugging percentage.

With Marty Costes’ transition to right field, Nickens opened the 2017 season as the Terps’ starting left fielder. After a strong 2016, he struggled to find consistency at the plate, hitting in the lower part of the order for much of the season. He walked 24 times, but increased his swing-and-miss tendencies, whiffing 54 times in 57 games, and hitting just .222. He showed power and speed, hitting five homers and a team-high three triples, while ranking third on the team with 14 stolen bases. Perhaps his best contribution, across his inconsistency at the plate, was his stellar defense, as he turned in numerous highlight reel plays, especially down the stretch and in the Big Ten Tournament.

Outlook: In 2016, Nickens showed his potential in many different aspects of the game: power, speed, defense, among others. Should he have improved on his junior season and turned in the same power with a higher average this year, Nickens would be an intriguing prospect with a good shot to hear his name called in the draft. However, one of his biggest assets – his left-handed uppercut swing that produces extra base hits – also was one of his biggest drawbacks this season, as it led to a high strikeout rate and a much lower average.

When he was hot, Nickens was one of the most dynamic players on the field, and some teams in the later rounds could like his combination of speed and power and take a chance on the “Cajun Sensation.” However, his disappointing senior season limits him from being a sure-fire draft prospects, and keeps him on the fringe of those that would be taken late if they’re taken at all.

MLB Draft Preview: C Justin Morris

Justin Morris – C

Ht: 6’2″        Wt: 215        Year: Jr.        Bats/Throws: L/R

Hometown (HS): Edgewater, Md. (DeMatha Catholic HS)

2017 Stats

G: 38 (31 GS)    AB: 90     Slash Line: .211/.290/.389     HR: 5     RBI: 13        K-Rate: 26.9%        BB-Rate: 9.6 %

Previously Drafted: 2015 – 35th Round, 1050th Overall – Arizona Diamondbacks

Background: Entering his freshman season with the Terps in 2015, Justin Morris was ranked the third best player in Maryland by Perfect Game USA. The Edgewater, Maryland, native started 27 games his freshman year between first base, catcher and DH, but struggled to hit, batting just .133. With the departure of Kevin Martir after the 2015 season, Morris secured his spot as a mainstay in the catching rotation as a sophomore, starting 34 games and throwing out 38 percent of runners from behind the plate. He improved his average to .194, but still struggled at the plate.

Junior catcher Justin Morris prepares to catch a pitch. (Hannah Evans/Maryland Baseball Network)

The following summer, in 2016, Morris demonstrated his offensive potential with the Ripken League’s Bethesda Big Train. In 35 games, he hit .287 with 10 doubles, 25 RBIs and a league-leading four triples. Coming off a breakout summer season, Morris started the 2017 season as part of a three-man catching rotation with Danny Maynard and Nick Cieri. He again struggled to hit early in the season, earning much of his playing time due to the fact he was the best defensive catcher of the three. Late in the season, however, he solidified himself as the starting catcher, and with every day playing time, his bat came around. In 14 games after he was named starting catcher, he hit .267 with three homers and nine RBIs, including a .353 mark in five Big Ten Tournament contests.

After the 2017 regular season, Maryland hitting coach Rob Vaughn praised Morris’s drive to compete and develop as a player.

“Justin has been unbelievable. He had a tough start to the year… but he kept working and when his number is called he’s been unbelievable.”

Outlook: Throughout his time in College Park, Morris established himself as a premier defensive catcher, both in his ability to limit the running game and block behind the plate, but for the most part could not find a consistent rhythm at the plate.

Junior Justin Morris watches the ball go out of the park for a home run. (Hannah Evans/Maryland Baseball Network)

He seemed to figure things out at the dish late in his junior season though. The lefty-swinging Morris has always been pull happy, which can limit him, especially when he hits the ball on the ground, and his high strikeout rate can be worrisome. However, if he cuts down on the whiffs and hits the ball in the air more, as he did throughout postseason play, he can provide solid offensive punch.

For now, Morris’s value relies more on his defense, but his timely hitting and power should not go unnoticed. His combination of solid blocking behind the plate, his ability to throw out base runners and his power from the left side is something that scouts will like to see from the catcher position. If teams look at the offensive spark he provided as an every day player late in the season, Morris will be a solid middle to late round pick in the upcoming draft.

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.

MLB Draft Preview: RHP Taylor Bloom

Taylor Bloom – RHP

Ht: 6’0”        Wt: 195       Year: Jr.       Bats/Throws: R/R

Hometown (HS): Severna Park, Md. (Riverdale Baptist High School)

2017 Stats:

G: 18 (17 GS)  IP: 89.1   ERA: 3.83    K/9: 5.34      BB/9: 2.52    H/9: 10.18

Arsenal: Fastball (86-88), Changeup, Curveball

Junior Taylor Bloom pitches. (Hannah Evans/Maryland Baseball Network)

Background: Taylor Bloom made the short trip over to College Park from nearby Severna Park, making 15 appearances and five starts his freshman year in 2015. He had his highest K/9 of any year at Maryland, at 7.41, but posted a 4.04 ERA and 1.54 WHIP in 33.2 innings. He established himself as a big game starter in the Los Angeles Regional of the NCAA Tournament, when he allowed one run over six innings in the clinching game over UCLA. 

The 6-foot, 195-pound right-hander’s role expanded greatly in a breakout 2016, as he became a mainstay in the Terps’ rotation as the Saturday starter. He posted a 2.46 ERA, fourth-best in the Big Ten, while pitching 102.1 innings and walking just nine hitters. Not a strikeout pitcher, Bloom whiffed just sixty hitters, instead relying on pinpoint control to induce ground balls and work efficiently. This approach paid off, as he tossed five complete games, including one shutout. The then-sophomore threw 7.1 innings in the Big Ten Tournament against Michigan State, allowing just two runs.

After a brilliant 2016, Bloom regressed some as a junior in 2017. Shuttling back and forth between the Saturday and Sunday roles, he pitched to a 3.83 ERA, and posted good, but not great walk numbers (25 in 89.1 innings). He came up big in the postseason as usual, however, tossing five innings of two-run ball against Purdue in the Big Ten Tournament and eight strong innings against UMBC in the NCAA Tournament.

Outlook: Expectations were high for the righty coming into his junior season, and while he was still a solid performer, he fell short of his stats from a year ago. However, he has proven to be a consistent starter over past two-plus seasons, tossing a combined 191.2 frames with a 3.10 ERA and 1.23 WHIP across his sophomore and junior seasons. Additionally, he has come up big numerous times in important games for the Terps.

Over the past two seasons, Taylor Bloom has pitched 191.2 innings with a 3.11 ERA. (Hannah Evans/Maryland Baseball Network)

Bloom doesn’t blow anyone away, as his fastball sits in the mid- to upper-80s, and his 5.64 career K/9 is not the shining rate that many teams look for in early rounds. When he is on, though, his pinpoint control allows him to pitch to contact and work deep into games. If he doesn’t locate, however, the right-hander can be hit hard, evidenced by a .289 opponents’ average and 11 homers this season. The key to his draft stock lies in teams’ confidence that he will be able to consistently control his pitches and get ahead of hitters.

If teams read more into his strong 2016 and his flashes of brilliance this season, including his postseason performances, then he could make for an intriguing selection in the mid to late rounds of the upcoming draft.

MLB Draft Preview: RHP Jared Price

Jared Price – RHP

Ht: 6’3″        Wt: 240        Year: R Sr.       Bats/Throws: R/R

Hometown (HS): Mohnton, Pa. (Twin Valley HS)

2017 Stats

G: 16  IP: 23.2    ERA: 3.04     K/9: 10.27       BB/9: 3.42     H/9: 8.75

Arsenal: Fastball (93-96), curveball, changeup, slider

Previously Drafted: 2012 – 33rd Round, 1010th Overall – New York Mets

Senior Jared Price pitches in relief. Hannah Evans/Maryland Baseball Network. 3/8/2017

Background: The longest-tenured Terp player, Jared Price has been on the Maryland roster since 2013. He pitched in 23 games his freshman season, the second most on the team. The big right-hander struggled at times, with an ERA near six and a WHIP over 1.60, but did whiff over 12 batters per nine innings. As a sophomore in 2014, Price made 19 appearances, but struggled to limit damage, with an ERA of 6.80 and a WHIP approaching two.  

He saw limited action in his junior season, making just 11 appearances spanning eight innings, and then saw his senior season in 2016 cut short by an injury after making just two appearances. The Pennsylvania native received a medical redshirt and was eligible to return for a fifth year in 2017.

Price made the most of that extra year of eligibility, and turned in his best collegiate season as a redshirt senior. He made 16 appearances, turning in a 3.04 ERA while striking out 27 batters in 23.2 frames.

Outlook: As a hard-throwing righty that was drafted out of high school, Price had high expectations coming into his time at Maryland. Injuries and ineffectiveness masked his potential for most of his college career, but after a strong 2017 campaign he put himself back on the map. Perhaps his biggest game as a Terp came in this year’s Big Ten Tournament against top-seeded Nebraska. In an elimination game, Price came in and tossed 4.2 innings, with five strikeouts and just one earned run, earning the win and keeping Maryland’s season alive.

Price has a heavy fastball that can reach the mid-to-upper 90’s. That, paired with his power curveball, is enough to attract teams, especially after he proved that he can mix his pitches effectively this season.

While he has the potential from a big right-hander that teams are looking for in the draft, some red flags hurt his stock. At 23, he is older than most of his contemporaries, and considering his injury history, some teams may shy away from him given the high risk. However, he is still likely to go in the middle to late rounds in the draft, given his “stuff” and his performance late in this season.