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.

Pro Terps Update: 7/3/18

Two 2018 Terps were selected in the 2018 MLB and two more have since signed professional baseball contracts, as the number of Maryland baseball players in the pros continues to grow. Here’s a look at how all of those guys are performing during the 2018 season.

LHP Brett Cecil, St. Louis Cardinals (MLB)

While more Terps should make it to the show soon, Cecil is still the only former Terrapin in Major League Baseball. Cecil, who turned 32 on July 2, is in his 10th big league season, and his second with the Cardinals.

He missed a chunk of the 2018 season with an injury, but has been solid since returning to the mound, posting a 4.00 ERA with 11 strikeouts over 18 innings of work. However, Cecil’s walk rate is currently the highest of his career, and because of that has not been used in many high-leverage situations.

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

After seven seasons in the minors, Adam Kolarek made his major league debut last June, and worked in 12 games for the Rays in 2017. This season, Kolarek has not yet gotten the call-up, but has been absolutely filthy in Durham.

The lefty has posted a 1.09 ERA over 41.1 innings this season, and his 10.89 K/9 is the best mark of his career since he got to the Triple-A level. With only nine walks and five earned runs allowed in the entire season, it shouldn’t be long before Kolarek gets another chance with the big club.

2B/OF Brandon Lowe, Durham Bulls (Tampa Bay Rays, AAA)

After again dominating at the Double-A level this season, Brandon Lowe finally got the call-up to Durham on June 7. Since then, Lowe has been on fire. He is hitting .341 with a 1.147 OPS at the Triple-A level and has eight home runs.

Those eight long balls came in a 10-game span from June 21 to June 29 and led Lowe to be named Minor League Player of the Week on June 25. Lowe’s ridiculous stats in June have but him on the major league radar.

OF LaMonte Wade, Rochester Red Wings (Minnesota Twins, AAA)

LaMonte Wade, like Lowe, was again tearing it up at Double-A this season, and just two days after Lowe got his call-up to Triple-A, Wade got his as well. The bat hasn’t been quite as hot for Wade, but he has continued to do what he has done at every level — get on base.

Through 22 games with Rochester, Wade is hitting .250, but is sporting a .397 on-base percentage as he has drawn 17 walks and struck out only 11 times. The power is also starting to come along for Wade, who has already matched a minor league career-high with nine overall home runs in 2018.

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

In his first year at the Double-A level, Mike Shawaryn may be putting together his best minor league season. Through 15 starts this season, Shawaryn has posted a 3.55 ERA with 77 strikeouts and only 22 walks in 88.2 innings of work.

While his strikeouts are down from last season at Single-A, his walks, home runs, and batting average against are down, as well, as Shawaryn continues to find ways to get guys out. As the Red Sox No. 9 overall prospect according to MLB.com, The Unicorn could be on his way to the big leagues, or possibly the centerpiece of a deal at the trade deadline.

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

After fighting his way back from injury in 2017, Jake Stinnett is in his first full Double-A season with the Smokies this year. Stinett has made a full-time transition to the bullpen since the injury, and has found success there this season. In 32 innings of work, he has pitched to a 4.78 ERA with 38 strikeouts and just 14 walks.

In this new role, Stinnett has the best strikeout rate of his career, and has recently been moved into the closer role for the Smokies. Since then, he has converted four saves in a row, and has struck out four batters without allowing a baserunner in those four innings since June 26.

SS/3B Kevin Smith, Dunedin Blue Jays (Toronto Blue Jays, High-A)

Kevin Smith starting the season in Single-A Lansing, but quickly proved that his bat was due for a promotion. After hitting .355 in 46 games for the Lugnuts, Smith was promoted to High-A Dunedin on May 28. Since then he has continued to swing a hot bat, batting .301 with six home runs in 29 games at the High-A level.

After another strong week for Smith in Dunedin in which he batted .414, he was named the Florida State League Player of the Week on July 1. Now the No. 18-ranked prospect in the Blue Jays system according to MLB.com, Smith could earn himself another promotion soon.

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

Alex Robinson battled injuries early in the 2018 season, but has finally made it back to the mound consistently here lately. In 17.2 innings at Fort Myers this season, Robinson has a 3.57 ERA and has struck out 20 batters compared to just 10 walks.

Opponents are batting only .206 against the power lefty this season, and Robinson’s last appearance may have been his best of the year. He worked 2.1 scoreless frames while striking out three batters.

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

Brian Shaffer’s first season at full-season Single-A has been a dominant one. Over 15 starts this season, Shaffer has worked 84.2 innings and has posted a 2.98 ERA.

And the righty has continued to do exactly what he did in College Park — throw strikes. Shaffer has 86 strikeouts on the year and has walked on 18 batters. In his last four starts dating back to June 12, he has 28 strikeouts and has not walked a batter over 25 innings.

OF Marty Costes, Quad Cities River Bandits (Houston Astros, A)

After being drafted by the Houston Astros for the second straight year, this time in the 22nd round, Marty Costes decided to sign his first pro contract. He started the season in short-season Single-A, where his first professional hit was a triple, but played only four games there before getting the call-up to full season ball on June 24.

Since the promotion, Costes is hitting .235 with an RBI and is currently on a three-game hitting streak.

RHP Jose Cuas, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, (Milwaukee Brewers, A)

Jose Cuas spent his entire college career and his first three minor league seasons as an infielders, but he decided to transfer to the rubber in 2018. His first 12 appearances on the mound have been rough this year, however. He has a 9.92 ERA in 16.1 innings, but has recorded 16 strikeouts in that time.

2B Nick Dunn, State College Spikes (St. Louis Cardinals, Short-Season A)

After an incredible junior season at Maryland, Nick Dunn was drafted by the Cardinals in the fifth round of the 2018 MLB Draft and signed with St. Louis. Dunn has started his career at the short-season Single-A level, and has continued to hit the baseball.

Through 15 games, Dunn is hitting .302 with eight RBI and has more walks (9) than strikeouts (8). And he had an incredible start to July, going 5-for-9 in his first two games of the month.

RHP Jamal Wade, Everett AquaSox (Seattle Mariners, Short-Season A)

After spending all of 2017 in rookie ball, Jamal Wade started 2018 on the disabled list, but he returned on June 14 and was promoted to short-season Single-A. Wade has appeared six times out of the bullpen this season for the AquaSox and has a 1.82 ERA. In 10 innings of work he has allowed just two earned runs on five hits while striking out nine batters and walking only two.

In his most recent appearance on July 2, Wade recorded his first save of the season, working a rare three-pitch inning to shut the door.

RHP Kevin Biondic, Lowell Spinners (Boston Red Sox, Short-Season A)

Kevin Biondic was not selected in this year’s draft after his final season at Maryland, but on June 21, the Boston Red Sox took a chance on Biondic, signing him as a pitcher. Biondic made his pro debut on July 1, allowing just one run on one hit and recording a strikeout in two innings of relief.

RHP Ryan Selmer, Brooklyn Cyclones (New York Mets, Short-Season A)

In second pro season, Ryan Selmer started the year at High-A with the St. Lucie Mets, but was sent to Brooklyn after just two appearances. Selmer has appeared seven times at short-season Single-A this season and has an 8.38 ERA with one save.

LHP Jake Drossner, Milwaukee Brewers Organization

Jake Drossner has struggled with injury over the past two years, and will most likely miss the entire 2018 season. He last pitched for Single-A Wisconsin last season, making one start and going four innings after pitching 94 innings there in 2016.

RHP Taylor Bloom, Washington Wild Things (Frontier League, Independent)

After an incredible four-year career at Maryland, Taylor Bloom was not selected in the MLB Draft, but he will get a chance at a pro career. On June 30 Bloom signed a contract with the Washington Wild Things, and independent team in Washington, Pennsylvania that plays in the Frontier League.

Bloom started for the Wild Things on the same night he was signed, and allowed four runs on six hits and struck out four over five innings.

*All stats are updated through games played on July 2, 2018*

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.