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Among the 15 Division I schools with at least eight players drafted in 2015, the most surprising of the bunch was the University of Maryland. With the most wins in school history, and an upset Regional victory to their name, the team undoubtedly put forth an impressive performance on the field, but a successful college team isn’t necessarily composed of impactful future pros. As is the case in the minors, very important contributors on winning teams are sometimes guys who have reached maturity the soonest, and/or those who possess a collection of skills that work in the their present competition environment but won’t translate at higher levels. The low-80s lefty with command of four pitches, or the performing first-base-only guy with a grooved swing are prime examples of this sort of college player. The University of Maryland certainly had guys like this playing meaningful roles during their recent run, but there were nonetheless a number of 2015 draftees who could indeed contribute at the major-league level one day, and even one with a very strong chance of being a high-end everyday regular.

Alex Robinson, LHR, Minnesota Twins (Rookie-Elizabethton) – Round 5, Pick 5
Robinson was the main draft-eligible attraction for this year’s Terps, as he was up around 97 at times during the summer. While I never saw him up to 97, his ultra-heavy fastball nonetheless sat consistently at 93-95 from a low-three-quarters slot. Based on velo, movement, and the deception created by his effortful, checkpoint-laden mechanics, Robinson needed nothing more than his fastball to dominate college hitters. While the fastball-centric dominance was obviously great for the University of Maryland baseball program, it likely came at the expense of Robinson’s long-term development and draft stock, as 2-grade command, alarming mechanics, and a slider that isn’t really worth throwing to pro hitters don’t exactly scream “draft me within the first five rounds!”, even for a guy who sits in the mid-90s. He slid a bit from his projected landing spot in the late-second to third range.

If you like Robinson, it’s because you like the fastball. Despite my fairly negative take on him, I believe he’s not too far away from being a usable, albeit unremarkable piece of a big-league bullpen based almost entirely on the utility of his fastball against left-handed hitters. However, given Robinson’s initial assignment to Rookie-level Elizabethton in the Appy League, it appears as though the Twins view him not as a quick-moving, low-ceiling type, but rather as a higher ceiling guy who’s worth nurturing a few levels below where his out-getting ability suggests he should be. Teaching Robinson how to pitch in the low minors is obviously a riskier approach than just letting him throw his way to a situational reliever role, but teams don’t take a reliever in the fifth round if they think he’s just a future situational type. The going’s been tough thus far (16 BB in 12 IP.

Jose Cuas, 3B, Milwaukee Brewers (Rookie-Helena) – Round 11, Pick 16
Thanks to an impeccably proportioned baseball frame and some very loud tools, it’s difficult to miss Jose Cuas on a baseball field. All of his actions show grace and confidence, his raw power is above average, his arm is easy plus, and his defense at third base is a future 7 if you’re evaluating for a team that strongly encourages use of the whole scale. What’s the catch, then? Why did this guy go in the 11th round? Very simply, it’s because his ceiling is a profile that doesn’t really exist at the major-league level.

There’s a lot to like about Cuas’s swing, based on fluidity and intent to do violence, but the bat-to-ball skills that promise future success at the highest level just aren’t there. Imagine Matt Dominguez’s offensive output, coupled with a top-10 glove at third base. That’s Cuas if everything goes right. In theory that equates to at least second-division starter material, but it’s an odd, super-risky profile, so it’s very difficult for scouts to get behind. To further complicate matters, Cuas is a 3-grade runner, which greatly diminishes the plausibility of him possessing plan B value as a utility infielder. The Brewers had him playing all over the infield in his first taste of pro ball but the inevitable decline of speed and athleticism that comes with age will almost certainly put an end to that experiment before long. Loud, carrying tools are undoubtedly important, but in some cases, tool distribution matters more than the sum of the tools. Subtract a grade from Cuas’s throw or field tool and add it to his hit or run tool and you end up with a much more palatable profile that, in an alternate universe, would have resulted in him going higher on draft day.

Brandon Lowe, 2B, Tampa Bay Rays (suffered broken fibula in Super Regional) – Round 3, Pick 12
In many ways, Brandon Lowe is Jose Cuas’s polar opposite. Cuas stands out on a field because he excels at a collection of easily-observable tools—throwing strength, actions at third base, and raw power—while Lowe’s tool set is subtler but ultimately much more likely to produce value at the major-league level. He’s not a twitchy player but exhibits average athleticism, excellent “fieldability,” and sure hands at second base. He’s an average, albeit visually unimpressive runner whose performance on the basepaths plays up thanks to plus instincts. His arm is below average but it’s enough to more than adequately handle the demands of the position. The bottom line is, he’s going to stick at second base, which makes what I’m about to describe even more appealing.

Brandon Lowe can really hit. His swing is simple, extremely efficient, and there’s no wasted movement in his pre-launch actions. He makes consistent, hard line-drive contact to all fields, and possesses excellent feel for the strike zone. He puts on one of the more controlled, professional BP performances I’ve seen from an amateur player, which is great for getting a look at how his hands work, but the downside is that the controlled nature of his approach necessarily obscures the true extent of his power if you’re seeing him for the first time. His power is only a future 4, but it’s more than you’d expect from a 5-foot-10, one-seventy-nothing guy. Further adding to the appeal of his in-game power utility is the fact that he doesn’t have to work to get to it. For example, the very same swing that produces a line drive over the second baseman’s head in one at-bat is capable of producing a home run to right center field in the next, without the characteristics of the swing altering to any discernible degree. At maturity, Brandon Lowe will be a 6 hitter with 4 power, strong on-base skills, and a solid defensive profile. In my estimation, he’s going to be a major-league regular, which may not sound particularly sexy by internet standards, but given Lowe’s high probability of actualizing and his relatively low draft position, he could prove to be one of the better value picks in this year’s draft.

The Rest

LaMonte Wade

MIN

CF

Round 9, Pick 5

Frequently injured; bat-to-ball skills w/ 4th OF ceiling; climbed board late w/ strong postseason.

Jake Drossner

MIL

LHS

Round 10, Pick 16

87-90, T91; throws across body; struggles w/ control & command; future high-minors LHR.

Kevin Mooney

WSH

RHR

Round 15, Pick 29

90-94, T95; plus 12-6 CB on amateur scale; generic fringy RHR.

Kevin Martir

HOU

C

Round 18, Pick 4

Bad-bodied C w/ below-avg D; surprisingly high energy; makes loud contact; good feel for K-zone.

Zach Morris

PHI

LHS

Round 24, Pick 9

87-88, T90; underwhelming stuff; org-filling LHR.

Wrap-up

No assessment of Terps talent would be complete without acknowledging rising junior RHS Mike Shawaryn and rising sophomore SS Kevin Smith, both of whom were ineligible for this year’s draft. I see both going higher, in 2016 and 2017 respectively, than any Terp taken this year, and ultimately these two will likely prove to be the most impactful pro talents from the 2015 squad when all is said and done. Shawaryn is a fiercely competitive, strike-throwing machine who will be in the mix for a second-round selection, while Smith is a strong-armed, offense-first shortstop who will be a top-three-rounds pick when his time comes in two years. This was a very good college team whose success was driven by more than just good college players with good college skill sets. With Lowe leading the charge into the pro ranks as future major-league regular, Robinson and Wade coming in a few tiers behind as useful peripheral pieces, and Cuas possessing more upside than the latter two but with a much lower chance of actualizing, the 2015 Terps’ class will be an interesting group to watch going forward, as their collective performance has the potential to further bolster the school’s clout on the recruiting trail.

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