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MLB Draft 2017: Looking at Maryland baseball’s top prospects

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The Terps have a few draft-eligible players that could be taken in the first few rounds.

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kevin smith
Sung Min Kim/Testudo Times

Shortly after the Maryland baseball team was bounced in the NCAA Tournament regionals by West Virginia, the team was faced with the somewhat surprising departure of John Szefc, who decided to bolt to Virginia Tech and ACC baseball.

The coaching staff shakeup should become much clearer over the next week or two, but more immediately, it’s time to look at how the 2017 MLB Draft will affect Maryland’s 2018 roster. In addition to Szefc, Maryland is set to lose possibly their best pitcher along with some of the Terps top hitters as well.

It may be sad to see some top talent go, but it’s also exciting to project where some of the Terps’ best players stack up against the rest of the country. With three potential top 200 picks on the roster, it really goes to show how far the Maryland baseball program has come.

While many of the eligible Terps are longshots to get selected in the 40-round frenzy, there are a few players on the 2017 squad who could hear their names called fairly early on.

Both MLB.com and Baseball America have released their respective draft rankings. BA’s lists the top 500 players, while MLB.com only lists their first 200 draft-eligible prospects.

The MLB Draft will kick off with the first, second and competitive balance rounds starting today at 7 p.m. Rounds 3-10 will start on Tuesday at 12 p.m., with the remaining rounds (11-40) set to begin on Wednesday at 11 a.m.

The first night of the draft can be seen on MLB Network or streamed on MLB.com. The remaining rounds can be streamed on MLB.com as well.

It should be noted that just because a player with college eligibility remaining is drafted, that doesn’t mean that they have to play for that organization. The individual still has the opportunity to go back to school, although highly-drafted juniors are often easily signed by big league clubs.

So let’s dive into which Maryland players could have the opportunity to start their professional careers by the end of the day on Wednesday.

1. Junior SS Kevin Smith

MLB.com rank: 91
Baseball America rank: 80

Scouting Report: Coming into the season as a potential top 50 pick, Smith’s somewhat underwhelming 2017 campaign now makes him more likely to be taken near the back end of the top 100. The junior has both the arm and the glove to stay at shortstop. He did make 12 errors this season, although some of that could be more due to scoring than anything else.

What scouts are intrigued by is the raw power that Smith has in his swing. It’s rare that you get a shortstop who can play the position with the type of power potential that Smith brings to the table. Smith does swing hard and with considerable loft, so the swing-and-miss potential is really high. He won’t be a great contact hitter at the professional level given his tendency to sell out for power. However, the Maryland shortstop does have upside because of his strength and fielding capabilities.

Likelihood of leaving: Smith is likely to be taken in the top 100, and it will be difficult to get Smith to come back to College Park as a senior. He would have considerably less leverage earning-wise if he were to return and get drafted in 2018, so barring a shocking development, the junior will make the most of this opportunity and go pro.

2. Junior RHP Brian Shaffer

MLB.com: #168
Baseball America: #126

Scouting Report: Shaffer burst onto the scene as a sophomore and still managed to improve on his play this season. As the Friday night starter for the Terps, he pitched to a 2.18 ERA while striking out 8.9 batters per nine innings. But while the strikeout numbers are high, the right-hander is seen as more of a control/command guy coming into the draft. He only throws his heater in the low 90s and doesn’t have the frame in order to improve his raw strength as he gets older.

He compliments the fastball with a slider that can keep hitters off balance. He also will throw a changeup at times, even though that lags behind his fastball-slider mix. The stuff is good enough to play, but Shaffer’s minor league success will rely on his ability to continue to work the batters he faces and hit his spots. Shaffer relies on working quickly and efficiently, but he will be hit hard when he challenges batters at the professional level because of the sheer difference in talent from college to minor league ball.

Shaffer is a relatively safe selection because he profiles as a back-of-the-rotation hurler, but offers little in terms of upside. This should make him a top-five-round pick come the draft.

Likelihood of leaving: Like Smith, there’s not much else that Shaffer can accomplish at the college level. He’s going to almost assuredly sign a deal with whatever team decides to take a chance on him and try and max out his earning value.

3. Sophomore OF Marty Costes

MLB.com: Not Ranked
Baseball America: 208

Scouting Report: Costes is an interesting prospect. He’s the rare draft-eligible sophomore because he turned 21 before the deadline to enter the 2017 draft. The outfielder is best known for the quality offensive numbers he’s put up for Maryland over the past two years, and that will be his main calling card as a prospect for this draft. Costes has power to all fields and has enough bat speed to catch up to velocity as well. He does a good job of maintaining balance in the box and controlling his bat throughout the zone. He’s got less swing-and-miss in his game than most college hitters, which should help him in getting drafted highly as well.

Despite the fact that he was a regular in right field for the Terps, Costes profiles better in left because of his below-average arm. He is not a strong defender, but he has enough speed and skills to not be a liability. Costes brings unusual credentials for a player that’s only just becoming an upperclassman next season. The outfielder’s bat is what’s going to get his name called, even if there are some questions with his signability.

Likelihood of leaving: Unlike most first-time draft eligible college players, Costes has the ability to actually threaten going back to school because he’ll still have leverage as junior a year from now. It really is a toss-up whether he leaves or not. A lot of it depends on where he’s picked or if he slides because teams will be afraid of having to overpay to lure him away from College Park.