What does a team do when it loses its most accomplished pitcher in program history, along with the pitching coach who helped develop a top staff on the bump? That’s precisely the situation facing Maryland baseball in 2017.
The Terps kick off this season on Friday at the Clearwater Tournament in Florida, and Mike Shawaryn won’t be on the mound. He’s now pitching in the Red Sox organization, and former pitching coach Jim Belanger took a job closer to home at Kentucky. As if that weren’t enough, last year’s bullpen was not up to par on many occasions, resulting in the starters logging pitch counts that could send Keith Law over the edge.
But as head coach John Szefc and his staff have shown over and over, they’ve been preparing. Shortly after Belanger left, Maryland hired Bryant pitching coach Ryan Fecteau. The Terps played series against Bryant the last two years, and the team pitched impressively both times. Fecteau has been praised by the national press, and I expect he’ll do an outstanding job at College Park. Maryland also returns a number of accomplished pitchers, as well as bringing aboard top prospect Tyler Blohm.
The Terps begin the season with a pitching staff that might even be better than last year’s core, even if it doesn’t have that front-of-the-line ace. That’s especially the case in regards to the depth of talent, as the Terps were hurt last season by poor midweek performances. Those RPI-killing losses probably kept Maryland out of the NCAA tournament. Here’s a snapshot of the pitchers projected to play key roles in 2017.
Junior righies Brian Shaffer and Taylor Bloom are set as weekend starters. Sophomore right-hander Hunter Parsons and Blohm, the freshman lefty, will battle it out for the third spot in what might be the best weekend rotation in the Big Ten. With Shawaryn gone, Shaffer is locked in as Maryland’s Friday night starter. He came on during his freshman year before being sidelined by soreness in his right elbow. He sat out summer ball in 2015 before stepping up big time in 2016, recording an 8-3 record and making his way to the All-Big Ten third team. He’s listed as the No. 2 draft prospect in the Big Ten by D1Baseball. He hurled two complete game shutouts last season.
Taylor Bloom doesn’t look imposing, but try convincing opposing batters of that. With pinpoint control that Baseball America ranks as the best in the conference, and a change-up that continually confounds hitters, Bloom had an ERA of 2.46 in 2016, the best on the team and fourth-best in the Big Ten. He’s inked in as the Saturday starter.
The Sunday starter is still not resolved. That’s not due to a lack of talent; rather, it’s the opposite. Parsons and Blohm are neck-and-neck for the Sunday slot, as both are big-time talents. Parsons initially had mixed results last season, but once he moved to a starting role, he felt more comfortable. He became a reliable arm for the Terps, holding opponents to a .201 batting average. This past summer, Parsons was named the Cal Ripken League Pitcher of the Year. Blohm was good enough at Archbishop Spaulding High School (Md.) to get drafted in the 17th round last year by the Orioles, but elected to postpone his pro career and hone his skills in College Park. The southpaw was dazzling in the Cal Ripken League last summer, and Szefc says that "he’s progressed at a faster rate than almost any other guy I’ve been around." His curveball, not always a reliable weapon for a young lefty, is a plus pitch.
Midweek games are important. That’s even truer in 2017, as the Terps play a number of high-RPI teams during the week, such as North Carolina, UNC-Wilmington, and West Virginia. Fortunately, the Terps are well positioned for these games. Whether it’s Parsons or Blohm, the Terps will be sending out someone who would be a weekend starter on almost any other Big Ten team. There’s also sophomore righty Cameron Enck. He had ups and downs last season, then blew away batters in the Perfect Game League with a league all-time low ERA of 0.39.
Back end of the bullpen
Maryland has a number of options for the closer spot. Senior righthander Mike Rescigno started out his career at Maryland at third base, but converted to a pitcher his sophomore season. After some initial "ups and downs," as Szefc described, he was drafted in the 25th round last year. Rescigno elected to come back for his final season, and is considered one of the top draft prospects on the team. His fastball has climbed in velocity, and if he can limit walks, his upside is huge. Junior righty Ryan Selmer has shown that he can pitch in clutch situations. Selmer’s sinker gets him a lot of ground outs, and he’s particularly good at inducing double play balls. Expect sophomore Andrew Miller to provide late innings work from the left side. Miller was drafted coming out of high school, but had a disappointing 2016. He made giant strides during summer ball in the Cal Ripken League, and might be given the opportunity to pitch in tight situations this year. Miller’s had good fall and winter practices. Senior righthander Jared Price can be a dark horse pitcher this year if he can stay healthy. The coaches have worked with him in making a slight change to his wind-up that should improve his plate location.
Middle & Long Relief
Senior left-hander Taylor Stiles can certainly provide quality innings. Previously a starter before suffering an awful face injury in 2015, he has battled back and is primed for a strong senior season. Junior righty Andrew Green has worked on a submarine-style delivery, where the ball is hidden slightly longer from the batter. With his imposing size and an effective submarine pitch, Green might have a breakout year. Junior college transfer right-hander Ryan Hill and lefty Zach Guth are also likely to see action.
Fecteau has a plethora of good arms to work with in his first season at Maryland, and the staff’s depth should serve the Terps well in postseason tournaments.