AJ Lee drafted by Astros in 34th round

OSU7.jpgThe Houston Astros drafted Maryland shortstop A.J. Lee in the 34th round on Wednesday. Lee is the second player drafted in the 2019 MLB Draft, after the Mets took Hunter Parsons in the 19th round.

A three-year starting infielder for the Terps, Lee’s final season at Maryland marked a comeback after a lackluster junior campaign. The Millersville, Maryland, native joined the Terps after receiving numerous accolades for his performance at St. John’s College High School in Washington, D.C., including being named the Washington D.C. Gatorade Player of the Year both his junior and senior seasons

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File photo by Paige Leckie

Though Lee played shortstop in high school, both positions on the left side of the Terps’ infield were filled by older, more experienced players during Lee’s freshman season. Lee only got 29 at-bats that year, as the infielder bided his time waiting for a spot to open.

After Lee’s freshman season, a spot opened up at third base and he made the transition to the hot corner, as former Terps Kevin Smith still occupied shortstop. As a sophomore Lee slashed .307/.389/.474 and found unexpected power, finishing with eight home runs, the third most on the team.  In addition to his strength in the box, Lee provided the Terps with speed on the base paths and stole 15 bases in his 59 games played.

When the Toronto Blue Jays drafted Smith in 2017, it enabled Lee to finish his tenure at Maryland back in his high school position. Though Lee hit a slump after his breakout sophomore campaign and struggled at the plate during his junior season, the shortstop stayed consistent with his ability to get on  base, working a .375 OBP and stealing 12 bases. As a junior Lee batted only .232 with one home run, but notched 47 hits in his 54 starts.

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File photo by Paige Leckie

Lee proved his junior year slump was a fluke with what became an outstanding senior campaign. Though the shortstop struggled at the start of the 2019 season, batting only .148 in eight games before an ankle injury benched Lee for seven games, the senior bounced back and finished the season with a team-high .317 batting average and .443 OBP.

Lee capped his final regular season as a Terp with Maryland’s first walk-off win of the year, when the senior sent a two-run bomb to left field for the Terps’ 8-6 win over the Iowa Hawkeyes on May 16. His walk-off homer set the tone for the rest of the series, Maryland’s first sweep against a Big Ten opponent on the year, and helped propel the Terps to their No. 6 seeding in the conference tournament.

After that weekend, the Big Ten named Lee Player of the Week, his first time receiving the honor.

With his comeback senior year, Lee showed the TEAM that he has the power at the plate, speed on the base paths and agility on defense to make a worthwhile draft pick.

Hunter Parsons drafted by New York Mets in 19th round

The New York Mets selected Maryland starting right-hander Hunter Parsons in the 19th round (568th overall) of the MLB Draft on Wednesday. The junior is the first Terrapin taken in this year’s draft..

Parsons, who threw a pair of no-hitters before his Maryland career, was drafted in the 40th round by the Cleveland Indians out of Parkside High School (MD) in 2015. Four years later, the Fruitland native was worthy of a second selection after starting in 37 career games in college.

The right-hander showed signs of a bright future during his freshman campaign, holding hitters to a .201 batting average in 36 innings. He made 15 appearances, five of which were starts, and earned one Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors after a seven-inning, two-hit midweek start. He threw on big stages early in his career, pitching against the SEC’s Alabama and against Iowa in the Big Ten Tournament semifinal.

Parsons pitched for the Baltimore Redbirds the following summer in the Cal Ripken Baseball League, creating even more excitement for his development. He was named the league’s pitcher of the year, leading all pitchers in wins (6) and strikeouts (44). He finished the summer with a slim 1.40 ERA in 38.1 innings.

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Pitcher Hunter Parsons on the mound. Photo by Amanda Broderick/Maryland Baseball Network

As a sophomore, though, Parsons’ trajectory took a negative turn, setting up what would eventually be an incredible comeback story. He stumbled throughout the year, yielding a 12.05 ERA in 21.2 innings while letting up 29 earned runs 41hits. Parsons was expected to be the primary midweek starter, but struggled with confidence.

After allowing eight runs in his first start of 2018 against Tennessee, Parsons was the most confident and consistent starting pitcher for the remainder of the season. He began the year as the Sunday stater, but eventually took advantage of opportunities to end the season pitching on Fridays. The righty threw two complete games, including a two-hit shutout against Stetson, which helped earn Big Ten co-Pitcher of the Week honors.

All it took was a new grip on his two-seam fastball and confidence for Parsons to turn into a pitcher that led all of Maryland’s primary starters in wins (5), innings (89), strikeouts (62) and batting average against (.225). The junior thrived under first-year Maryland pitching coach Corey Muscara, getting better as the season progressed.

Parsons continued his dominance on the mound his senior season as he became the Terps’ ace and threw a team-high 104.1 innings. The right-hander continued to lead Maryland’s main starters in wins (10), strikeouts (78) and batting average against (.232). Parsons’ 10 wins are the third most in team history, just behind former Terp Mike Shawaryn, who holds the second (11) and third (13) most wins for Maryland.

 

Pro Terps Update: Red Sox call up former Terp Mike Shawaryn

The Boston Red Sox called up right-hander Mike Shawaryn on Thursday, according to the team. With the promotion, Shawaryn joins three other former Terps in the majors: Brandon Lowe and Adam Kolarek in Tampa and Brett Cecil in St. Louis.

After three dominant years at Maryland, where Shawaryn won 30 games overall and struck out 307 total batters, the Red Sox drafted Shawaryn in the fifth round of the 2016 draft. Then, the starter quickly rose through Boston’s minor league system. Shawaryn entered the minors with the short A Lowell Spinners in 2016 and spent time in low-A and high-A in 2017, before he started the 2018 season with the AA Portland Sea Dogs.

In Portland, the righty started 19 games, working to a 3.28 ERA in 112.2 innings pitched, while holding opposing batters to a .238 average. Shawaryn struck out 99 batters with the Sea Dogs before he was assigned to the AAA Pawtucket Red Sox, where he finished out the 2018 season. There, Shawaryn went 3-2 in six starts and one relief appearance, struck out 33 in his 36.2 innings of work and threw a 3.93 ERA.

Boston invited Shawaryn to their official spring training at the start of 2019, before the right-hander started the season back in Pawtucket. Before his call-up on Thursday, Shawaryn went 1-2 with a 3.72 ERA in 55.2 innings of work. The right-hander also struck out 28 in those 10 starts, while he held opposing batters to a .230 average.

Shawaryn joins the 29-27 Red Sox as they take on the Yankees in New York for a four-game set that starts Thursday. The date of his debut is TBD.

Pro Terps Update: 4/16/19

Three former Terps started the 2019 season in the majors, and it’s likely more will reach the big leagues for the first time in their careers by the end of the year.

Here’s a look at those pro Terps whose seasons have already started:

LHP Brett Cecil, St. Louis Cardinals (MLB)

While Cecil spent part of 2018 as the only Terp in the pros, both Adam Kolarek and Brandon Lowe joined him as major-leaguers by the end of the season. Cecil is still struggling with an injury, however, and is currently on the 60-day injured list.

LHP Adam Kolarek, Tampa Bay Rays (MLB)

After making his major-league debut in 2017, Kolarek put up stints in the majors in 2017 and 2018, before making the opening day roster for Tampa Bay this season. The lefty started last season in Durham with the Bulls, but got the call up to Tampa after only 31 appearances in the Rays’ AAA-affiliate, during which he boasted a 1.61 ERA.

Kolarek has made nine appearances in 2019 after throwing 34.1 innings for Tampa in 2018. This season, Kolarek holds a 0.00 ERA in 5.2 innings pitched, which include four strikeouts.

2B/OF Brandon Lowe, Tampa Bay Rays (MLB)

Since his major-league debut last August, Lowe proved himself worthy of a full-time spot on the Rays’ roster, signing a six-year contract extension in March.

In his 15 games with Tampa this season, Lowe has stayed hot, batting .302 and slugging .585 with four home runs, including a two-homer game on April 12.  After signing his contract extension, the second baseman has showed Tampa he was worth the cash.

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

Wade made the move up to AAA partway through 2018 after hitting close to .300 with the Twins’ Chattanooga Lookouts. Since the move, the outfielder hit .229 in his 74 games with Rochester in 2018, including 11 home runs.

Now, Wade remains in Rochester, batting .219 in his first 10 appearances, though he has a .375 OBP after working eight walks and putting up seven hits.

RHP Mike Shawaryn, Pawtucket Red Sox (Boston Red Sox, AAA)

Shawaryn quickly ascended the Red Sox’s minor-league system after being drafted in the fourth round in 2016. Last season, Shawaryn started out with the Portland Sea Dogs in AA before making the move to AAA. In Pawtucket, Shawaryn threw a 3.93 ERA in seven appearances, six of which were starts. He went 36.2 innings, striking out 33 and allowing only 16 runs.

After making the Red Sox’s major-league camp to start spring training, Shawaryn is back in AAA. In his 11.1 innings pitched over two starts he’s struck out 14 and allowed four runs on 10 hits and only two walks.

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

Stinnett is currently on the Smokies’ seven-day injured list, according to thecubreporter.com.

SS/3B Kevin Smith, New Hampshire Fisher Cats (Toronto Blue Jays, AA)

Like many former Terps, Smith moved through the Blue Jays’ minor-league system quickly. After spending time with Toronto’s Low-A and High-A teams in 2018, Smith started this season in AA with the Fisher Cats.

So far he’s batting .268 with one home run and 11 hits in 10 games. The season is still young, however, and if Smith’s 18 homers in 83 games in High-A are any marker, Smith may turn things on soon.

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

After struggling with injury early in 2018, Robinson returned to the mound for 25 games with the Miracles, posting a 4.98 ERA before another brief stint on the injured list in late August.

This season, Robinson has been listed on Fort Myers’ seven-day inured list since April 1.

RHP Brian Shaffer, Charlotte Stone Crabs (Tampa Bay Rays, High-A)

Since his sixth-round draft pick by Arizona in 2017, Shaffer has stayed solid in the minors. This season is the right-hander’s first full season with the Stone Crabs, after Arizona traded him to Tampa Bay in August last year.

Shaffer remains steady on the mound, boasting a 2.57 ERA in seven innings pitched over three relief appearances so far this year. The righty recorded four strikeouts in those three outings, while allowing only two runs on seven hits.

2B Nick Dunn, Palm Beach Cardinals (St. Louis Cardinals, High-A)

Dunn spent time in both short-season A and low-A last season after his fifth-round draft pick from the Cardinals. In his 65 games between the two leagues, Dunn batted .253 with three home runs and 14 doubles (all of which came in Low-A).

This year, Dunn started the season in High-A with Palm Beach. In 44 at-bats over 10 games so far, Dunn is hitting .273 with three RBIs and 12 hits, including one double. Additionally, Dunn has only struck out four times so far this season.

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

After only four games in short-season A, Costes spent the majority of last season with Houston’s Low-A affiliate. Between the two leagues, the outfielder batted .231 with a .345 OBP.

Now, Costes remains with the River Bandits, hitting .300 in eight games. Among his nine hits so far, Costes has one triple and three RBIs, while he struck out only four times.

RHP Jamal Wade, West Virginia Power (Seattle Mariners, Low-A)

In his first season with the Power, Wade is continuing his dominance on the mound. The right-hander struck out 10 batters in his 4.2 innings of relief so far, meaning of those 4.2 innings, only four outs have not been Ks.

Wade boasts a 3.86 ERA in those two outings, having allowed only two runs on four hits and four walks.

Former Terps Kolarek, Lowe make Rays’ Opening Day Roster

Two former Maryland Terrapins, left-hander Adam Kolarek and infielder Brandon Lowe, will begin the 2019 MLB season on the Tampa Bay Rays’ 25-man roster, manager Kevin Cash revealed Tuesday.

Kolarek, who edged out teammate Emilio Pagán for the final roster spot, didn’t have the best spring, pitching 9.2 innings with an 8.38 ERA. However, Kolarek is coming off a quality 2018 season, which is part of the reason that Cash opted to have him on the Opening Day roster.

After spending 31 games last year with the Durham Bulls (AAA), in which the lefty cruised through 44.2 innings to the tune of a 1.61 ERA and a 10.48 strikeouts-per-nine-innings, Kolarek made his next 31 appearances at the major-league level. In 34.1 innings with the Rays, Kolarek became a reliable lefty out of the bullpen, limiting opposing lefty batters to a .208 batting average.

Lowe, who recently signed a six-year deal with Tampa Bay, now appears to be a player that the Rays view as a major contributor for the foreseeable future. He had himself an outstanding Spring Training after finishing his debut season in 2018 with a .774 on-base plus slugging percentage.

In 53 at-bats, Lowe slashed .377/.411/.698 while tying teammate Avisail Garcia for the team’s most Spring Training home runs at three and leading the team in RBI at 17.

Both former Terrapins have made it a long way since being major contributors on some of the better teams Maryland has seen in the past couple of decades. Prior to getting drafted by the New York Mets in 2010, Adam Kolarek pitched two seasons (2008-2009) with the Terps, making 43 total appearances and recording a 4.26 ERA and 4.68 ERA in 2008 and 2009, respectively.

Lowe, who had been drafted by the Rays in 2015, was a major component in helping the Terps make their first two NCAA Super Regional appearances in the school’s history in 2014 and 2015, slashing .338/.448/.509 between the two years.

This is the first time that either former Terrapin will be breaking camp with a major-league team as they’ll open the season Thursday at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg when the Rays take on the Houston Astros at 4 p.m. ET.

Former Terps pitcher Ryan Hill signs pro contract

Former Maryland right-hander Ryan Hill signed a professional contract with the Florence Freedom (Ky.) of the Frontier League on March 18, according to the league website.

Hill transferred to Maryland from Grayson County College in 2016, where he put up a 2.29 ERA in 39.1 innings pitched in 2016, and recorded a combined 89 strikeouts over his two years as a Viking.

One of the Terps’ go-to relievers, Hill played at Maryland for two seasons. In 2017, the righty made 29 appearances, including two starts, throwing 46.2 innings while working a 5.01 ERA and striking out 55.

After starting 2018 on the bench due to eligibility issues, Hill made nine relief appearances, finishing his senior year with a 2.92 ERA in 12.1 innings pitched, while striking out 14.

Right-hander Taylor Bloom, Hill’s college teammate who went undrafted after last season, signed with the Frontier League’s Washington Wild Things last June and made four appearances before being released in July. He is not currently listed on a roster for the 2019 season.

Hill and the Freedom open their season on May 9.

 

Pro Terps Update: Lowe signs six-year deal with Rays, per reports

Former Terrapin infielder Brandon Lowe has signed a six-year extension with the Tampa Bay Rays, per reports. The deal guarantees Lowe with $24 million and includes two club options.

After making his major-league debut last August, Lowe appeared in 43 games for the Rays, batting .233 and ending the season with a .324 on-base percentage in 148 plate appearances.

With his call-up in 2018, Lowe became second Terrapin on the Rays’ active roster, and the third Terp on an active MLB roster in 2018, joining southpaw Adam Kolarek in Tampa Bay and reliever Brett Cecil, who at the time was on the 10-Day Disabled List for the St. Louis Cardinals.

Prior to the draft in 2015, Lowe spent two seasons in Maryland’s infield and helped the Terps make their first two NCAA Super Regionals appearances in program history. He finished his collegiate career with a .338/.448/.509 line, contributing to Maryland’s first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1971 in his first year as a Terp in 2014.

Drafted by Tampa in the third round (87th overall) of the 2015 MLB Draft, it took Lowe less than three years to reach the majors after his entrance into the Rays’ minor-league system in 2016 with the Class-A Bowling Green Hot Rods

Lowe then spent time with the Class-A Advanced Charlotte Stone Crabs and the Class-AA Montgomery Biscuits in 2017, during which he hit .298 with 11 home runs and 58 RBIs between both clubs. He started 2018 in Montgomery, but moved up to the Class-AAA Durham Bulls after 54 games. Lowe spent 46 games with the Bulls, batting . 304 with 14 home runs and 35 RBIs.

Now, Lowe is hitting .359 with two home runs and 14 RBIs in 42 plate appearances with the Rays in the Grapefruit League. With his extension, Lowe is likely to make Tampa’s roster for opening day.

The Tampa Bay Rays have not yet confirmed Lowe’s deal.