Coming off of an up-and-down 2016 season, Maryland baseball improved greatly in the offseason, and is currently ranked in the preseason top 25 by several publications. A big reason for this optimism is the returning production of the Terps’ outfield. Maryland, while losing Anthony Papio, a tough competitor who split duties in center and right field last season, still brings back two starters. Filling Papio’s hole in the outfield will be tough for the Terps, but based on offseason training, coach John Szefc has confidence in in this year’s group. Below are the starters and backups for the Terps’ outfield for the 2017 season.
Left field: Madison Nickens, senior, 6’2, 210 lbs.
2016 stats: 56 G, .260 BA, .362 OBP, .423 SLG, 8 HR, 28 RBI, 54 H, 27 BB
Nickens is the elder statesman of the Terps’ outfield troop. Last season, his first with Maryland after transferring from junior college LSU Eunice, he was tied for second on the team in home runs and tied for fifth in RBI. Nickens got postseason experience with LSU Eunice as he won a national championship there in 2015. His veteran leadership and playoff experience will help this already seasoned Terps outfield. Expect him to start the entire season. Nickens’ numbers should improve, and he should be near the top of most offensive categories for the Terps this season. As for the defensive end, he only committed three errors last season and had four outfield assists. However, he will be flipping over exclusively to left field from right field and DH in 2017. That shouldn’t affect his defensive numbers dramatically since he’s still a corner outfielder, but he will have to get used to more balls coming his way from right-handed batters.
Center field: Zach Jancarski, junior, 6’0, 185 lbs.
2016 stats: 46 G, .257 BA, .348 OBP, .327 SLG, 26 H, 13 BB, 1 HR, 6 RBI
Jancarski, according to Szefc, has greatly improved from last season, where he came off the bench but played a significant amount. Szefc has put much more confidence into the junior, who is expected to do big things as a starter this season. He should have a bigger offensive contribution to the team this season because he will get significantly more playing time, but also due to the progress he’s made in the offseason. The same should happen defensively, where he will be taking over in the most important position in the outfield. Based on what Szefc has said about Jancarski, he should be an impact player on both sides of the ball.
Right field: Marty Costes, sophomore, 5’9, 200 lbs.
2016 stats: 54 G, .263 BA, .363 OBP, .479 SLG, 9 HR, 37 RBI, 10 2B, 50 H, 28 BB
As a freshman, Costes led Maryland in home runs and RBI. He was arguably the Terps’ best offensive player last season, and will most definitely be in the consideration for that title this season. Costes, having only played baseball just recently, has come into his own, and with a season of college baseball under his belt, will be one of Maryland’s key players in 2017. His offensive output, especially his average, should improve. Subsequently, Costes’ defense should stay on par with last season, where he committed two errors and had four outfield assists. He will also be taking over Papio’s spot in right field, which will ask for a lot out of the sophomore, but he was more than up to the task last season. Expect Costes to be the captain of the Maryland outfield and a driving force behind the Terps’ offensive attack in 2017.
Jamal Wade, junior, 6’0, 205 lbs.
2016 stats: 19 G, .111 BA, .200 OBP, .111 SLG, 3 H
Wade didn’t play much last season, but he has a chance to contribute significantly more in 2017. Maryland’s thin outfield roster allows for Wade, the brother of former Terp and current Twins minor leaguer LaMonte Wade Jr., to step up in case of an injury or tiredness. His numbers will vastly improve in 2017, but don’t expect him to suddenly become much more than an impact bat off the bench for the Terps.
Will Watson, junior 6’2, 190 lbs.
2016 stats (with LSU Eunice): 46 G, .312 BA, .482 OBP, .518 SLG, 4 HR, 40 RBI, 44 H, 21 SB
Watson’s numbers at LSU Eunice were impressive, but he will have to work hard to get significant playing time in 2017. Watson and Nickens both came out of the same program, so like Nickens, Watson will bring experience, poise, and leadership to the outfield troop. Expect him to get around the same amount of playing time as Wade, but don’t be surprised if Szefc gets Watson in a few more games towards the latter part of the season.
Maryland will have a vastly improved outfield with experience and talent, a 1-2 combo that is hard to come by in college baseball. If the Terps want to get to Omaha this season, they will have to receive significant contributions from its outfield — and based on preseason predictions, they will be pleased with the output that Nickens, Jancarski, Costes, Wade, and Watson will bring in 2017 on both sides of the ball. Coach Szefc has a lot to smile about as the team heads down to Clearwater, Florida to start the 2017 season on Friday.