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How former Maryland baseball players are faring in the 2019 season

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As the second half gets going, plenty of Terps have made strong impressions so far.

Tampa Bay Rays v New York Yankees Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

The second half of the 2019 MLB season is underway and teams are gearing up for the playoffs. Maryland baseball products have played a role on several playoff-caliber teams — four different Terps have been in MLB this season, with two making their debuts. Additionally, several more are making headway in the minors and could come up soon.

Here’s a roundup of how the top professional Terps are faring this year. (Editor’s note: players’ highest level reached is mentioned by their name.)

Brandon Lowe, 2B, Tampa Bay Rays

Lowe has been one of the biggest surprises of the 2019 MLB season. He made it up to the big leagues after a strong showing in the minors last season, but he struggled with the Rays, hitting .233/.324/.450 in 43 games with six home runs.

In 2019, he got the opportunity to shine when Joey Wendle went down, and he took advantage. Through 76 games this season, Lowe is hitting .276/.339/.523 with 16 home runs, 49 RBI, 17 doubles and 40 runs scored.

He is an AL Rookie of the Year frontrunner, sitting at or near the top of all offensive AL rookie categories. He also became the first Maryland position player in over 70 years to make an All-Star team, but went on the IL the week before, was unable to play and hasn't come back since.

Once healthy, Lowe will be a major cog on a Rays team that is looking to make a strong playoff push and is currently tied for the second AL Wild Card spot.

Adam Kolarek, RP, Tampa Bay Rays

While Lowe has stolen the headlines, the left-handed Kolarek is silently continuing to improve on the mound in his third year on the big-league club. His ERA is slightly up from last year, at 4.00 compared to 3.93 in 2018. However, he’s already appeared in 15 more games and 1.2 more innings, giving up one more run than last year. His 46 appearances lead the pitching staff by a wide margin and are fifth-most in baseball.

His strikeouts are way up from 2018 and his strikeouts per nine innings has gone up from 5.0 to 7.8. He will be relied upon heavily as the Rays march into August and September.

Mike Shawaryn, RP, Boston Red Sox

The Unicorn finally got his chance to shine in the big leagues, the first of two first-time call-ups for former Terps this season. Shawaryn was promoted from Triple-A Pawtucket on May 30 and he made his debut on June 7 against the Rays. He even matched up against Lowe, his former Maryland teammate, in that series.

Shawaryn threw the ball very well in his first six appearances, giving up just one run in 10 innings. But he was rocked when the Sox traveled to London to play the Yankees, giving up eight earned runs in 1.1 innings. He was sent down with an 8.53 ERA, giving up 12 earned runs over 12.2 frames overall, but he showed a lot of promise and could be back soon.

LaMonte Wade Jr., LF, Minnesota Twins

The surging Twins have had a surprising 2019 season, and Wade was called up to join the club briefly in late June. After the club suffered some injuries, the former Terps outfielder came up from Triple-A Rochester. He made his debut against Lowe and Kolarek’s Rays on June 28 and he’s gotten just two at-bats in his time in the majors.

Wade has struggled in Triple-A since getting promoted there in 2018 — he hit .229 in 74 games last year, and was hitting .246 this season before his call-up. However, his batting average at every other level was above .280. Now back in the minors, he will get more time to adjust to more MLB-ready pitching in hopes to have a more lengthy call-up to the Twins before the end of the season.

Brett Cecil, LHP, St. Louis Cardinals

Cecil has been sidelined the entire 2019 season so far with carpal tunnel syndrome in pitching hand. There is no timetable for his return. Last season, he was 1-1 with a 6.89 ERA in 40 appearances.

The lefty is the longest-tenured Maryland alum in MLB, having pitched with the Blue Jays and the Cardinals since 2009. He was with the Jays through the 2016 season and then signed with St. Louis. Cecil has appeared in 443 games in his career, 74 of them starts, and he has a career 44-47 record with a 4.29 ERA. His best stretch was from 2013-15, when he posted a combined 12-9 record, giving up 50 earned runs in 168.1 innings (2.67 ERA) and made an All-Star team.

Kevin Smith, SS, New Hampshire Fisher Cats (AA)

Smith has risen among the eyes of scouts and Blue Jays fans, currently ranking as the fifth-best prospect in the Toronto system, but he’s been struggling with the Fisher Cats in 2019.

He was promoted to Double-A New Hampshire at the beginning of the 2019 season, and is currently batting .190/.247/.387 in Double-A in 74 games, but he does have 12 home runs and 37 RBI. This is a significant decline from 2018, where he batted .302/.358/.528 at Class A and Advanced-A with 25 home runs, 93 RBI and 29 stolen bases.

The shortstop still has a lot to work on, but he has raised his average 11 points since June 26th, which is a good sign.

Brian Shaffer, RHP, Montgomery Biscuits (AA)

Shaffer was a force with the Terps as a starter, but as of late, the Rays have decided to switch him to the bullpen after the Diamondbacks saw him as a starter when they drafted him in 2017. That switch has seemed to benefit him, as Shaffer currently has a 2.42 ERA over 22 appearances and 70.2 innings pitched between Advanced-A and Double-A ball.

He was recently promoted to Double-A Montgomery, where he’s given up 11 earned runs in 40.2 innings. His strikeout-to-walk ratio has been fantastic, recording 60 strikeouts to 19 walks over two levels. Shaffer might even make the Rays roster before the end of the season if he keeps up this success.

Marty Costes, CF, Fayetteville Woodpeckers (high-A)

Costes has quickly moved up the rungs of the Astros system, already promoted to Advanced-A Fayetteville in his first full season in the minors. The 22nd-round selection in the 2018 MLB Draft has been consistent at the plate, hitting .279/.378/.448 over two levels with five home runs and 29 RBIs.

The outfielder has improved his hitting significantly from 2018, where he hit .231 in 195 at-bats. The numbers are trending upward for Costes, but he has to keep up the pace if he wants to get a shot on a loaded Astros team that has George Springer holding steady in center right now.

Nick Dunn, 2B, Palm Beach Cardinals (high-A)

The Cardinals organization knows how to develop talent through the draft and within their own system. Dunn has already moved up to Advanced-A Palm Beach, but the second baseman is currently hitting .236/.275/.329, significantly worse numbers than his time at Maryland.

Much like Smith, Dunn is going to need some more time to adjust to pitching in a lower level before he has success in Double-A and beyond.

A.J. Lee, SS, Tri-City ValleyCats (short-season A)

One of Maryland’s 2019 MLB Draft selections, Lee is already having an impact at Short Season-A Tri-City, where he’s hitting .259/.375/.395 over 81 at-bats with two home runs. It’s a small sample size for the shortstop, who was a 34th-round selection by the Astros. He and Costes will try to create a Maryland duo in the majors much like Lowe and Kolarek with the Rays.

While he was a lower-round selection, expect Lee to make some headway in the minors if he can stay productive at the plate and in the field.

Hunter Parsons, RHP, Brooklyn Cyclones (short-season A)

Like many workhorse college pitchers, Parsons has seen limited action as he adjusts to the professional game. The righty has appeared in one game, giving up three hits and two earned runs without recording an out. Parsons was a 19th-round selection in the 2019 MLB Draft and should be getting a lot more looks on the mound later on.