Pro Terps Update: 4/5/18

While Maryland baseball’s season is in full swing, pro baseball is just getting started. Major League Baseball season is a week old, and the Minor League season begins Thursday afternoon. Let’s take a look at where the former Terrapins stand as baseball season fully gets underway.

LHP Brett Cecil, St. Louis Cardinals (MLB)

In the past few years, Cecil has been the only former Terp to be a mainstay in the majors. After spending the first eight years of his career in the American League East with the Toronto Blue Jays, he is now in his second season with the St. Louis Cardinals. Cecil has made only one appearance so far in 2018, facing two batters and allowing one hit. He was put on the 10-day DL with a shoulder strain shortly thereafter.

Cecil’s 2017 campaign was filled with ups and downs, but his end of the year stats were solid. He finished with a 3.88 ERA in 67.1 innings over 73 appearances. And while his earned run average may appear high, his FIP of 3.26 suggests he pitched better than the numbers indicate.

LHP Adam Kolarek, Durham Bulls (Tampa Bay Rays, AAA)

Originally drafted by the New York Mets, Kolarek spent six years in their farm system before spending the last two seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays system. He spent the majority of that time with the Bulls, but 2017 saw Kolarek make his major league debut over the summer. He was invited to MLB spring training, but was assigned to the minor league camp in mid-March.

Kolarek was lethal in AAA last season. In 43.2 innings, he pitched to an astounding 1.65 ERA and a 9.48 K/9 ratio. And while that success allowed him to be brought up in June, it didn’t translate well. In 12 appearances (8.1 IP) with the Rays, Kolarek got knocked around a little bit and ending up with a 6.48 ERA. He was then designated for assignment by the Rays, but ultimately came back to the organization for the 2018 season.

Not only did the left-hander strike out more than a batter per inning last season, but he was an absolute ground ball machine.

OF Lamonte Wade, Chattanooga Lookouts (Minnesota Twins, AA)

Listed as the No. 13 prospect in the Twins organization by MLB.com, Wade has been very impressive in his time in the minor leagues. A ninth-round draft pick out of Maryland in 2015, it seems as though Minnesota may have gotten a steal with the outfielder. He spent 2015 and 2016 in varying classes of A-ball, and was promoted to Double-A for 2017 and saw great success there. That’s where he’ll be to start this season, although if he continues his level of production another promotion could be in store.

The biggest skill Wade has demonstrated so far in his pro career has been his plate discipline. In almost three years with the organization, he’s walked more often than striking out, while posting a career OBP over .400. Last year, in 519 plate appearances, Wade hit for a .292 average and maintained a very high .397 OBP. And despite a total of just seven homers, he managed to knock in 67 runs and score 74.

2B Brandon Lowe, Montgomery Biscuits (Tampa Bay Rays, AA)

Like Kolarek, Lowe has found a home in the Tampa Bay Rays organization. Drafted in the third round of the 2015 draft, Lowe was promoted to Double-A midway through the 2017 season after dominating High-A ball with the Charlotte Stone Crabs. With Charlotte, Lowe hit .311 with a .927 OPS and 34 doubles en route to Florida State League MVP honors. Lowe’s performance after his promotion was more pedestrian (.253 batting average, .270 OBP, 8 XBH in 24 games), but the infielder still earned playing time in big league camp this spring, where he launched a home run.

Lowe will start 2018 with the Biscuits and look to continue to move on up in the organization. He is currently the Rays’ No. 15 prospect.

RHP Jake Stinnett, Tennessee Smokies (Chicago Cubs, AA)

Now entering his fifth season of professional baseball, Stinnett missed most of the 2017 season, but impressed when he was on the field. In 14.2 innings with the Smokies at the Double-A level Stinnett dominated, pitching to a 0.61 ERA, allowing just 6 hits and striking out 14 batters. In 22.2 total innings across three levels last year, the 25-year-old right-hander posted a 1.19 ERA.

RHP Mike Shawaryn, Portland Sea Dogs (Boston Red Sox, AA)

The No. 9 prospect in the Red Sox organization has received an offseason promotion. After throwing 53.1 innings with the Greenville Drive (A) and 81.1 with the Salem Red Sox, Shawaryn will begin the 2018 season as a starter in Portland’s rotation. His ERA was a little lofty last year (3.88 with Greenville, 3.76 in Salem), but he impressed with high strikeout rates, whiffing 169 hitters in 134.2 innings of work. The Terps’ all-time leader in wins and strikeouts has done nothing but shine in a year and a half so far as a pro, and expect Shawaryn to continue his fast rise through the Red Sox system.

LHP Alex Robinson, Fort Myers Miracle (Minnesota Twins, High-A)

Robinson possesses the skillset needed to be a high-quality pitcher. The lefty dazzled in 28 appearances last year for the Class-A Cedar Rapids Kernels with a 2.84 ERA and an impressive 12.08 K/9 ratio. His control wasn’t great, as evidenced by his 15 walks in 38.0 innings, but Robinson did a great job of limiting the potential damage extra baserunners could do.

After his promotion to High-A, Robinson struggled with his control, posting a 6.75 BB/9 ratio in his 17.1 innings of work, which led to a higher 4.67 ERA. He still had his electric “stuff” though, whiffing 27 batters for the Miracle, where he will start the 2018 season.

RHP Brian Shaffer, Kane County Cougars (Arizona Diamondbacks, A)

Now the No. 24 prospect in the Diamondbacks organization, Shaffer had a terrific debut season in rookie ball and Low-A. Although he only threw 24 innings between the two levels, he pitched to a 3.38 ERA while averaging over a strikeout an inning. Arizona must have liked what they saw, because Shaffer will open the season with the Kane County Cougars, their Class-A affiliate. 2018 will be his first full season in the pros, after tossing 108 innings for the Terps last spring.

SS Kevin Smith, Lansing Lugnuts (Toronto Blue Jays, A)

After hitting well in rookie ball with a .271 average, 25 doubles and 43 RBI in just 283 plate appearances, Smith will start the 2018 season in A-ball. Last year’s fourth-round pick showed 20-20 potential with his eight homers and nine stolen bases in the short season, and thanks to his power potential and solid defense he enters this season as the Blue Jays’ No. 19 prospect.

 

RHP Ryan Selmer, New York Mets organization

Drafted in the 31st round last June, Selmer impressed at the rookie level for the Kingsport Mets. In his 21 professional innings thus far, he was able to post a 2.14 ERA, albeit with a lofty 1.52 WHIP. He walked 11 batters and hit three more, but thanks to a 57.6 ground ball rate he stranded over 80 percent of baserunners. The Mets have yet to release where the right-hander will be this season, but all signs point to him joining the Short-Season A Brooklyn Cyclones.

RHP Jamal Wade, Seattle Mariners organization

Wade came out firing in his first pro season, posting a 1.83 ERA in 19.2 innings in the Arizona League. With a 12.36 K/9 rate and a 3.20 BB/9, he showcased his skill for the Mariners front office to see. Like Selmer, Wade did a fantastic job of stranding baserunners, as evidenced by his 79.0 left on base percentage. This summer, the right-hander is likely headed to the Everett AquaSox, the Mariners’ Short-Season A affiliate.

RHP Jose Cuas and LHP Jake Drossner, Milwaukee Brewers organization

After struggling at the plate in his three years of pro ball, Cuas’s career is taking a sharp turn. The former corner infielder hit just .187 across two levels of A-Ball last year, and in the offseason it was announced that Cuas is transitioning to the mound. His destination is yet to be released. Drossner is also in the Brewers’ system but will be sidelined this year due to injury.

Maryland’s weekend pitching exceeding expectations in early-season slate

Despite returning senior Taylor Bloom and sophomore Tyler Blohm to the weekend rotation, the Maryland pitching staff’s outlook was questionable when the season started nearly six weeks ago in Knoxville, Tennessee.

The Terps lost key arms after last year, creating a sense of uncertainty when the players added in the offseason formed a young pitching staff. And while Maryland hired an energetic and passionate pitching coach in Corey Muscara—who helped lead a St. John’s team that ranked in the top-10 in the nation in ERA a season ago—he was still the Terps’ third pitching coach in the last three seasons.

Between the shakeup in coaching across several positions and a relatively short-staffed and inexperienced pitching arsenal, a veteran Maryland offense was presumed to be the strength that led the Terps to whatever success it achieved during head coach Rob Vaughn’s first season at the helm.

That hasn’t exactly been the case, though.

Behind strong pitching, Maryland boosted its RPI from 106 to 49 after winning two games against Stetson last weekend, a series in which its starting pitchers turned in lengthy outings and its bullpen was only utilized for 3.1 innings.

Although last weekend was just a small portion of a 25-game stretch before Big Ten play, the series highlighted how the pitching staff continues to exceed expectations early in the year. Of course there’s been struggles, but many times already, Muscara has received positive results that weren’t necessarily anticipated.

Junior Hunter Parsons has been one of these cases, but it didn’t happen right away. Coming off a struggling sophomore season, the right-handed Sunday starter allowed eight earned runs in his first appearance of the season on Feb. 18 against Tennessee. Afterwards, Muscara told Parsons that he was “lollygagging” and looked “lackadaisical.”

Parsons then worked on speeding up his pace and, using the confidence Muscara instilled in him, has gotten better every start since. He threw a two-hit complete game shutout Sunday, striking out a career-high nine batters in what Vaughn called his best collegiate start.

“Hunter needs somebody to believe in him and he’s got that in [Muscara],” Vaughn said. “We sure as heck believe in him. Shoot, that guy doesn’t need to prove anything else to me.”

Since his first start, Parsons is 3-1 with a 1.46 ERA, allowing just six earned runs in 38 innings.

“I’ve just gone out there saying ‘Hey, here’s my stuff’ and trust the defense behind me,” Parsons said. “I’m not trying to nibble, make the perfect pitches. I’m just throwing it and if something bad happens, give up a double it’s next pitch. The next guy’s not going to beat me.”

While Muscara helped Parsons with pace and confidence, changes in one of Blohm’s midweek bullpen sessions inspired his best start of the season on Saturday. Blohm, who struggled with his off-speed pitches on March 17 against East Carolina, used a looser grip on his curveball to record a career-high 12 strikeouts in eight innings against the Hatters.

The southpaw’s biggest crux last season was an inability to consistently pitch deep into ballgames because of high pitch counts but, this season, Blohm has pitched at least six innings in four of his six starts, including a career-best eight innings Saturday.

“He’s been able to compete going fastball-changeup, but he hasn’t had the consistency of that breaking ball until [Saturday],” Vaughn said. “You see when he does and he starts mixing three of them, he gets pretty tough.”

Muscara’s confidence in his starting pitchers extends as far as telling them they’re going to throw 105 pitches, no matter the result. This mindset has benefited the longevity of Blohm, Parsons and Friday starter Taylor Bloom’s starts this season, allowing six-plus inning starts to alleviate effects of a small pitching arsenal. Resting relievers has been easy on Friday nights with Bloom, who averages seven innings per start.

While the bullpen has struggled at times, especially in midweek contests, several trustworthy relievers have emerged. Junior closer John Murphy has two saves this season, allowing just four earned runs and striking out 20 hitters in 11.1 innings, while redshirt freshman Mike Vasturia has a 1.54 ERA in his 11.2 innings after not pitching all of last season.

But most unpredictably, senior first baseman Kevin Biondic has arguably been Maryland’s most consistent relief pitcher this season. Transitioning into a two-way player in the offseason, the right-hander has allowed one earned run in 11 innings — a 0.82 ERA — while holding opponents to a .105 average.

“If he came in last year I would’ve had zero confidence in [Biondic]. But this year he’s been lights out,” Blohm said Saturday. “He’s been one those guys we can go in the later innings and big situations and since he’s an experienced guy—not on the mound but just playing college baseball for so long—he’s one of our guys that we can trust.”

So while the Terps have a 12-13 record heading into conference play Friday night against Northwestern, strong weekend pitching has led to five wins against quality competition such as Stetson, Coastal Carolina and Tennessee. Once the offense, which is averaging under five runs per game, heats up, Vaughn believes the Terps can be a dangerous Big Ten team behind their strong weekend arms.

“There’s no doubt. Our program is just maturing right now,” he said. “Even though we have some older players, every team is a new team, man. They’re growing up a little bit. They’ve kind of walked through fire for about the first half of this season.”

Hunter Parsons named Big Ten Co-Pitcher of the Week

Maryland right-hander Hunter Parsons earned Big Ten Co-Pitcher of the Week honors after a tossing a complete game shutout Sunday against Stetson. The junior needed just 101 pitches to go the distance, striking out nine Hatters and allowing just three baserunners – a pair of singles and a hit by pitch. His effort on the mound guided the Terps to a 2-0 victory in the rubber match of the home series against Stetson as they climbed back to .500 (12-12) on the season.

Hunter Parsons – seen here pitching against Army on Feb. 25 – earned Big Ten Co-Pitcher of the Week honors after a complete game shutout against Stetson on Sunday. Photo by Amanda Broderick/Maryland Baseball Network

The Fruitland, Maryland, native is the second Terp named Pitcher of the Week this season, after senior right-hander Taylor Bloom earned the honor Feb. 19 for his seven-inning shutout performance in the season opener at Tennessee. Parsons shares the award this week with Iowa right-hander Brady Schanuel who tossed seven one-hit shutout innings in the Hawkeyes’ win over No. 11 Indiana.

This is Parsons’ first Pitcher of the Week honor. He was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week in April 2016 after allowing two hits and one run in seven innings against James Madison.

Sunday was the second complete game of the season for Parsons, who allowed three runs (two earned) in a nine-inning victory over Bryant March 11 in College Park. After a rough start to the season, Parsons has gone at least seven innings in four straight starts, pitching to a 0.84 ERA and 0.78 WHIP over that stretch while striking out 23 batters in 32 innings. He now leads Maryland starters with a 3.23 ERA and ranks second in innings pitched (39) behind Bloom.

Season Preview: Outfield

Maryland baseball commences its 2018 season under first-year head coach Rob Vaughn in just two days on the road against Tennessee. Maryland Baseball Network has already broken down the Terps starting pitchers, relievers and infielders, but now it’s time to wrap up our positional previews with the outfield.

The Terrapins will only have to replace Madison Nickens, who played in nearly every game since his arrival from LSU-Eunice after his sophomore season. The Louisiana native started in 104 games over two years, committing just one error during his senior season. The Terps will miss Nickens for his consistency in the outfield and speed at the bottom of the lineup, but especially for his unforgettable walk-up song, “Callin’ Baton Rouge,” which often provided an instant energy boost at Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium.


LF Marty Costes

Left Field – Marty Costes

Marty Costes was drafted in the 25th round by the Houston Astros over the summer, but decided to return for his junior season with the Terps. He’s hit a team-leading 22 home runs in the last two seasons, helping earn a Big Ten All-Freshman team selection in 2016 and a first team All-Big Ten selection last year. After batting .263 as a freshman, Costes emerged as a player who could hit for both average and power in 2017. He led the Terps with 13 home runs and 77 hits, and ranked second in slugging (.548) and third in batting average (.322) while starting all 61 games.

An infielder in high school, Costes’ arm in the outfield has become one of the strongest in the conference, and he was named as having the “best outfield arm” last week in Baseball America’s Big Ten preseason coverage. People might know Costes in the outfield for his arm, but anyone who closely followed the Cape Cod Baseball League over the summer will remember his range while chasing down a game-saving catch for the Brewster Whitecaps. The Whitecaps went on to win their first Cape title in 17 years, as Costes slashed .293/.427/.511 for the summer.

Costes has been used primarily in the middle of the Terps batting order in the last two years, but there’s been serious conversation about having him lead off this season.

“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,” Vaughn said at spring sports media day last week.


CF Zach Jancarski

Center Field – Zach Jancarski

With a senior behind the plate in Justin Morris and at first base with Kevin Biondic, Jancarski will continue to bring a veteran presence to the outfield in 2018. He’s played in 132 games over the last three seasons, more than anyone on the current Terps roster. His 20 stolen bases and 17 doubles last year led the team, while his .325 batting average and .434 on base percentage last year both ranked second. His patience at the plate makes him a good fit near the top of the order, as he walked (33) as many times as he struck out in 2017. Despite being among the best leadoff hitters in the Big Ten last season, Jancarski would hit second in the order if Vaughn does decide to lead off with Costes.

The East Norriton, Pennsylvania, native followed up his breakout spring with a big summer in the Cal Ripken League, where he led the Bethesda Big Train with a .347 batting average and .462 on-base percentage.

Centerfielder Zach Jancarski led the team with 17 doubles last year, and his 76 hits ranked second on the Terps. Hannah Evans/Maryland Baseball Network 5/13/2017

Jancarski, not known particularly for his power, hit three home runs last season after hitting just one in his first two years, but none bigger than the one he hit on a Friday night against Penn State in April. Maryland trailed the Nittany Lions 1-0 and had collected just one hit, a Brandon Gum single in the first inning. Jancarski’s one-out, game-tying home run in the bottom of the ninth preceded Gum’s walk-off home run on the very next pitch. You can listen to the home run calls here:


OF Randy Bednar

Right Field – Randy Bednar, Richie Schiekofer

A pair of freshmen, Randy Bednar and Richie Schiekofer, will vie for the majority of playing time in the unfilled outfield spot this season. A decision hasn’t been made on who the official “starter” is, but both have opportunities to prove themselves in the first week of the season.

“Randy and 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 drafted in the 27th round of last year’s MLB Draft by Atlanta Braves and comes into this season as the 39th-best freshman in the country, according to Baseball America. He verbally committed to the Terps after his freshman year of high school, the first player to do so in the 2017 recruiting class. Before starting his college career, Bednar starred for the Baltimore Redbirds of the Cal Ripken League last summer. He led the team with six homers and a .574 slugging percentage while hitting .327 in 31 contests.

OF Richie Schiekofer

While Bednar is a right-handed hitter who throws lefty, Schiekofer is the exact opposite, which is likely why Vaughn said matchups could be a way to determine who plays on certain days. Schiekofer was fantastic in high school, hitting over .500 his senior year and ended his Millburn High School career with a home run. Over the summer with the Ripken League’s Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts, he hit .306 with five doubles in 20 games. If he succeeds in his early-season chances, he could split a lot of time with Bednar in the outfield this season.


Reserves — Will Watson, Michael Pineiro

OF Will Watson

Will Watson started 55 games last season as a junior after transferring from LSU-Eunice, seeing time in the outfield and at first, but primarily appearing as the designated hitter. He hit five home runs and stole 14 bases in 15 attempts in his first season in College Park. An all-or-nothing guy at the plate, he led the team with 56 strikeouts, but ranked second in walks and posted a lofty .384 on-base-percentage. With two promising freshman who are likely to follow in the outfield footsteps of Jancarski and Costes when their careers are over, Watson could spend more of his time during his season as a designated hitter while Bednar and Schiekofer gain college experience.

1B/OF Michael Pineiro

Pineiro, a freshman, is listed on the Maryland roster as both an infielder and outfielder. A native of Rancho Cucamonga, California, he is the first Terp from the Golden State since former Maryland right-hander Jake Stinnett, who was selected in the second round of the 2014 MLB Draft by the Chicago Cubs.

Season Preview: Infield

With the 2018 season just days away, Maryland Baseball Network continues its preview of what to expect from the Terps this season. After breaking down the pitching staff, both starters and relievers, it’s time to take a look at Maryland’s infield.

The Terps will be without shortstop Kevin Smith, who led the team in RBIs (48) and slugging (.552) a year ago, and tied for the team lead in home runs (13) before being drafted by Toronto in the 4th round of the 2017 MLB Draft. Nevertheless, the Maryland infield is in good shape, with three returning starters from last season, albeit one – AJ Lee – at a different position. Here’s how the infield shapes up for the opening series against Tennessee.


C Justin Morris

Catcher – Justin Morris

A mainstay behind the plate during the Terps’ postseason run in 2017, senior backstop Justin Morris will maintain his role as starting catcher this spring. Throughout most of his time in College Park, Morris has been best known for his defensive abilities, both in blocking pitches in the dirt and throwing out runners. But last year, the Edgewater, Maryland, native showed some thunder with the bat after taking over as the full-time starting catcher in early May. In the final 14 games of the season, he hit .267 with three homers and nine RBIs, including a two-run shot against UMBC in the NCAA Regionals.

Morris stayed hot for the summer, slashing .308/.418/.508 in 20 regular season games for the Cal Ripken League’s Bethesda Big Train. He came up clutch in the playoffs as well, earning League Championship Series MVP honors after going 6-for-12 with four RBIs and five runs scored during Big Train’s title run.

Entering this season, the Terps don’t quite know what they’ll get out of Morris offensively. He has some of the best power potential on the team as well as a patient eye, and if he hits consistently, as he did down the stretch last season, then the lefty-swinging backstop will be a valuable asset that strengthens the bottom of the order. At the very least however, he will provide strong defense behind the plate with the ability to come up with a big hit from time to time.


1B Kevin Biondic

First Base – Kevin Biondic

Like Morris, senior Kevin Biondic has had an up-and-down career with the Terps. After struggling as a freshman, the Oak Lawn, Illinois, native had a breakout sophomore campaign. He appeared in all 57 games, slashing .278/.377/.407 with five homers. He couldn’t replicate his success last year though, hitting .161 with no extra-base hits in 72 plate appearances and losing the starting first-base job to graduate transfer Brandon Gum.

A summer in the Northwoods League rejuvenated Biondic, however, as he found a groove in more ways than one. In 49 games with the Thunder Bay Border Cats, he hit .254 with a .745 OPS, five homers and 26 RBIs, very similar numbers to the ones he posted in the spring of his sophomore year. He also experimented on the mound, tossing 16.2 innings with 11 strikeouts and a 1.62 ERA, good enough to garner him consideration for a bullpen role with the Terps this season.

Biondic continued to impress this fall as well, going 7-for-9 in the Fall World Series, which, coupled with his strong summer, earned him a spot back in the starting lineup.

“[Biondic] went to work this summer and came back a different guy,” Terps Head Coach Rob Vaughn said at spring sports media day. “I think there’s something to be said for having talented seniors and he is a tough, talented senior. We’ll look to hit him in the middle of the order, as well, and let him do what he does.”


2B Nick Dunn

Second Base – Nick Dunn

Nick Dunn is reliable. In two seasons at Maryland, he has started every game: 57 as a freshman in 2016, and 61 last year as a sophomore. The second baseman is undoubtedly the rock of a Terps infield that will see new starters at three positions this season.

2B Nick Dunn has not missed a game in two seasons at Maryland, and figures to be a key contributor yet again for the Terps this spring. Hannah Evans/Maryland Baseball Network 5/14/2017

Recently named a Preseason Third-Team All-American by Baseball America and Perfect Game, Dunn figures to be a mainstay in the upper part of Maryland’s lineup this spring. In 118 games as a Terp, the junior owns a .280/.363/.388 slash line. The Sunbury, Pennsylvania, native had a down year average-wise in 2017, hitting just .261, but found a power stroke, hitting five of his six career long balls.

Unlike some of his teammates, Dunn isn’t subject to swing-and-miss tendencies, either. Last spring, he walked 28 times and struck out just 23, making him the only Maryland starter with a strikeout-to-walk ratio under one. In his career as a Terp, he has struck out in just 8.81 percent of his at-bats, easily the best mark on the team in that span. While not the fastest Terp, Dunn can provide a spark on the basepaths, and is a smart base runner, going a perfect 11-for-11 in steal attempts in his career.

His offensive performance in College Park, while impressive, doesn’t compare the Cape, where Dunn shines the brightest. In two summers with the Cape Cod League’s Brewster Whitecaps, Dunn hit .321 with an .809 OPS. He garnered national attention last summer when he earned Cape Cod LCS Co-MVP honors after leading the Brewster Whitecaps to their first Cape title in 17 years. Like the previous Cape playoff MVP, Smith, Dunn will look to translate his summer accolades to spring success at Maryland. A strong showing at the plate from Dunn will not only help the Terps this spring, but will boost his stock heading into June’s MLB Draft.


SS AJ Lee

Shortstop – AJ Lee

A year after a breakout season as Maryland’s third baseman, AJ Lee will slide over to his natural position for his junior campaign. A local product out of St. John’s College High School in Washington, D.C., Lee burst on the scene as a sophomore after limited contributions as a freshman. He started 55 of Maryland’s 61 games last spring, slashing .307/.389/.474. Viewed mostly as a speedster (his 15 stolen bases ranked second on the team last year), he showed impressive pop as well, trailing only Smith and Marty Costes in slugging and home runs (8).

With Smith’s departure, Lee can switch back to his natural position. Lee played stellar defense at the hot corner for most of last spring, and played short over the summer for the Cal Ripken League’s Baltimore Redbirds, so the defensive switch should be easy for him. Despite taking a step back at the plate over the summer (.262/.381/.352, 7 XBH in 147 PA), Lee figures to be a key component in the Terps’ lineup this season.


3B Taylor Wright

Third Base – Taylor Wright

Joining the four returning upperclassmen in the infield is Taylor Wright, who comes to Maryland after two strong seasons at Colorado Northwestern Community College. As a freshman in 2016, he slashed .328/.407/.423 in 48 games, with 27 RBI and 31 runs scored. He followed that up with a sophomore campaign in which he led the team in batting average (.333), on-base percentage (.453), slugging (.544), home runs (5), doubles (17) and stolen bases (23), while playing in 52 of the team’s 53 games. He boasts patience at the plate, as he walked (56) more times than he struck out (40) in his two years at Colorado Northwestern. 

Wright is coming off a strong summer with the Kelowna Falcons of the West Coast League, as he led the league with 54 RBIs in 53 contests, while smacking 12 homers and hitting a stellar .337. The Vancouver, British Columbia, native will take over as the starting third baseman this spring, and Vaughn said that he thinks Wright will be an impact bat in the heart of the Terps’ order.


Reserves

Other infielders on the roster include freshmen Bubba Alleyne, Michael Pineiro and Tommy Gardiner, sophomore Barrett Smith, and junior college transfer Brad Barnett. Behind the plate, Morris will be backed up by redshirt freshman Ty Friedrich and freshman Justin Vought.

Season Preview: Relief Pitchers

With four days until the Terrapins open the 2018 season at Tennessee, Maryland Baseball Network continues to preview Maryland’s roster. Today, we look at the bullpen.

After a strong 2017 season, Maryland’s relief corps has a whole new look this spring. Gone are Ryan Selmer and Jamal Wade, two of former Head Coach John Szefc’s favorite arms last season who are now playing pro ball. In fact, of the eight pitchers with double-digit relief appearances a year ago, only John Murphy and Ryan Hill return this season. 


RHP John Murphy

Closer – John Murphy

After struggling early in his collegiate career, right-hander John Murphy solidified his role out of the Terps bullpen with a terrific stretch last spring. The then-sophomore led Maryland with a sparkling 1.71 ERA in 31.2 innings of work, striking out 27 and holding opponents to a .183 average. In 42.2 collegiate innings, he has surrendered just two homers – both his freshman year in 2016 – and owns a 1.10 career WHIP.

Murphy was especially impressive in the postseason, whiffing 12 hitters in nine innings. Twice, he struck out the side with the bases loaded – once in the Big Ten Tournament against Purdue, and once in the NCAA Regionals against West Virginia.

Now, with Selmer’s departure to the New York Mets’ organization, Murphy inherits the closer role for the Terps this year. After his dazzling spring and a strong summer with the Cal Ripken League’s Bethesda Big Train (24 IP, 29 K, 3.38 ERA), the Merchantville, New Jersey, native is primed to succeed in the role, despite just one prior save in his career.


RHP Ryan Hill

Middle Relief

With Murphy taking over as closer, senior right-hander Ryan Hill remains the only veteran in a group of young middle relievers. A Frisco, Texas, native, Hill pitched two seasons at Grayson College before transferring to Maryland a year ago. In 2017, his first season as a Terp, he made a team-high 29 appearances, including 27 in relief. His 46.2 innings pitched were the most of any Terps pitcher outside of the three weekend starters, and his 10.61 strikeouts per nine innings ranked second on the team behind only Jamal Wade.

RHP Ryan Hill led Maryland relievers in innings pitched in 2017. Hannah Evans/Maryland Baseball Network 5/13/2017

Last season, Hill quickly evolved into a jack of all trades on the Maryland pitching staff, serving as a long man and spot starter at various points, as well as joining Selmer and Murphy as a go-to guy that could get crucial outs in tight spots. One of his finest moments of the 2017 season came April 8 at Nebraska, in an 8-5 Terps’ win over the Cornhuskers. With Maryland down 3-0 early, Hill came on in relief of starter Taylor Bloom in just the second inning. He dominated, tossing 4.2 innings of one-run ball with five strikeouts, allowing the Terps to get back in the game and bridging the gap to the back end of the bullpen. Hill had other similar shutdown performances last year, so look for him to be a crucial part of the Maryland pen this season that can be inserted in any situation.

RHP Alec Tuohy

The only other veteran in the Terps bullpen is redshirt senior Alec Tuohy, who transferred to Maryland from Buffalo after the Bulls cut their baseball program last summer. Tuohy served as a starter for the last two seasons, but will likely join Hill as a key component out of the pen. The Gahanna, Ohio, native owns a 4.57 ERA in 191 innings across parts of four seasons, and struggled in 2017, with an 8.76 ERA in seven starts. He will look to return to his 2016 form, when he served as Buffalo’s ace, pitching to a 2.98 ERA in 14 starts (93.2 innings) with 69 strikeouts and a 1.24 WHIP.

“The guy was an impact guy at Buffalo,” Head Coach Rob Vaughn said of Tuohy. “What I love about this team is there are a lot of guys who have played on big stages – a lot of college at-bats, a lot of college innings under their belt, and that’s stuff that’s hard to replace. That’s something a guy like Tuohy can bring in and is gonna be huge for us.”

RHP Mike Vasturia
RHP Elliot Zoellner

Alongside Hill and Tuohy are a handful of young arms that will factor into the bullpen’s workload, including redshirt freshman Mike Vasturia. The right-hander was rated as the No. 8 pitcher in New Jersey coming out of high school in 2016, but missed all of the 2017 season. Vasturia had inconsistent summer in the Ripken League with the Baltimore Redbirds (18.1 innings, 19 K, 5.40 ERA) but followed that up with a strong performance in Maryland’s Fall World Series. In Game 1, he came in with the bases loaded and nobody out and turned in a Murphy-esque performance, striking out the side in order to end the game. Like Vasturia, right-hander Elliot Zoellner saw limited action as a freshman in 2017 (one appearance, 3 ER vs. LSU), but could play a role out of the bullpen this season after seeing action in the Fall World Series.

LHP Grant Burleson
LHP Sean Fisher

A pair of freshmen from Salisbury, Maryland’s Parkside High School – Sean Fisher and Grant Burleson – will also see time out of the bullpen this spring, according to Vaughn. The two southpaws join fellow Parkside grad Hunter Parsons on staff, and will look to duplicate the success that he had as a freshman two years ago.

LHP Billy Phillips

At the spring sports media day, Vaughn also mentioned left-hander Billy Phillips, who returns to the Maryland pitching staff after winning his battle with cancer. “[Phillips] is gonna be a guy that’s not just a feel good story, but a guy that’s gonna throw some innings for us that matter, and hopefully develop into a good guy out of the ‘pen for us,” Vaughn said.

1B/RHP Kevin Biondic

Another arm to throw into the mix – perhaps surprisingly – is veteran infielder Kevin Biondic. The senior, who has played first and third base throughout his Maryland career, enjoyed a successful summer as a two-way player in the Northwoods League. He hit .254 with five homers while posting a 1.62 ERA in 16.2 innings, pitching for the first time since he started college. The Oak Lawn, Illinois, native pitched in the Fall World Series as well, and while he figures to be the primary first baseman this spring, expect the right-hander to see some action out of the bullpen as well.

Season Preview: Starting Pitchers

Maryland baseball is back in just five days, and MBN is breaking down the Terps’ roster position-by-position. First up: Maryland’s starting rotation. 

The 2017 season was a big one for Terps’ starters, especially their Friday night ace, Brian Shaffer, who cracked the top five in Maryland’s all-time innings pitched and wins marks, and, before postseason struggles, flirted with single-season program records. 

With Shaffer in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ system after he was drafted in the sixth-round, Maryland will look toward some of its other success stories — namely Tyler Blohm and Taylor Bloom — to pick up the slack.

It will be even more important that Blohm and Bloom continue their success, because first-year head coach Rob Vaughn has an important decision to make regarding midweek starters.


Friday – RHP Taylor Bloom

After a breakout sophomore season in 2016, during which the Severna Park, Maryland, native was fourth in the Big Ten in ERA, Taylor Bloom took a slight step back in 2017. Now a senior, he will look to regain his form for his final season, and for the first time, he will take the hill on Friday.

Senior right-hander Taylor Bloom will take over the Friday night spot in Maryland’s rotation this season. Hannah Evans/Maryland Baseball Network

Bloom has earned the spot. Last year, he posted a 3.83 ERA and had some memorable starts. In an elimination game of the NCAA tournament, he allowed two runs in eight innings against UMBC; he also had a seven inning, four-hit win against Bryant and struck out seven batters against Indiana.

The problem for Bloom is that far too often, he failed to go deep into the game and forced then-head coach John Szefc to go to his bullpen early. He totalled just five innings in his first two starts of 2017, and then had starts of 1.1 innings (Nebraska) and four innings (Rutgers).

Nevertheless, Bloom has proven to be a key factor in Maryland’s rotation. He’s relied on control to find success, walking just 1.84 hitters per nine innings in his three years in College Park, and for his career, the 6-foot right-hander is 15-10 with a 3.24 ERA in 224.2 innings.


Saturday – LHP Tyler Blohm

After a terrific high school career at nearby Archbishop Spalding, Tyler Blohm was drafted by his hometown Baltimore Orioles in the 2017 MLB Draft. The 6-foot-3 lefty turned down the offer to play pro ball, instead electing to head to Maryland, where he had a fantastic freshman year for the Terps. He won a team-high eight games, and ranked second behind Shaffer with a 3.48 ERA.

After a strong freshman campaign, LHP Tyler Blohm will be the Terps’ Saturday starter. Hannah Evans/Maryland Baseball Network 4/23/2017

Blohm earned Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors and was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week in back-to-back weeks after he allowed five hits in 13 shutout innings against Princeton and Bryant. Collegiate Baseball Newspaper named Blohm a Freshman All-American, and Baseball America named him a second-team Freshman All-American. 

Like Bloom, Blohm did struggle to pitch deep into games, however, tossing just 75 innings over 16 starts. The now-sophomore southpaw will seek to improve in 2018 is his control, as last season, he walked a team-high 35 batters and threw six wild pitches, leading to a high-pitch count and early exits. 

When Blohm is on, he is electric, as seen in one of the signature moments of his freshman season. In the Big Ten Tournament, he struck out 10 Nebraska batters in 4.1 innings, leading the Terps to an elimination game victory which was crucial in strengthening their NCAA Tournament resume. 


Sunday – RHP Hunter Parsons

Last season, Szefc had to reach deep into his bag of tricks to find a midweek starter. Although six different pitchers started a midweek game (excluding the usual weekend starters), Hunter Parsons started the most often.

Hunter Parsons will man the Sunday spot in the rotation this season. Hannah Evans/Maryland Baseball Network 3/7/2017

In his four starts last season, Parsons had some major struggles. He failed to reach the third inning in any of his starts, allowing 20 runs (17 earned) in just six innings. However, the right-hander has had success in the past, as he enjoyed a breakout freshman season in 2016. Two seasons ago, Parsons made 15 appearances, including five starts, striking out 28 hitters in 36 innings while pitching to a 3.50 ERA and holding opponents to a .201 average.

Sunday’s starting spot is a huge wild card for this Terps team, and its success could be dependent on the performance of Maryland’s veteran pitcher.


Midweek – RHP Mark DiLuia

Terps freshman Mark DiLuia, pictured here in high school, was ranked as one of the top prep pitchers in Illinois. He was drafted by the Texas Rangers in June, but declined, opting to come to Maryland. Photo courtesy of Mark DiLuia.

Entering the season, freshman right-hander Mark DiLuia has earned his spot as Maryland’s midweek starter. There will be some competition if DiLuia gets off to a slow start, but it seems as if Vaughn is looking forward to seeing the 6-foot-3 Illinois native take the mound.

DiLuia is expected to touch the low-90s on the radar gun (as MBN’s Dylan Sinn noted in his story about DiLuia, “More mass equals more gas”). The 11th-ranked prospect in Illinois’ Class of 2017 enters the 2018 season with the opportunity to secure midweek victories. His first career start could come on Feb. 21, when the Terps travel to William & Mary.