Tuesday, December 27, 2016

May Gives Twins Another Option

August 14, 2016 was the last time Trevor May started a game for the Minnesota Twins. He lasted just three innings giving up two runs on five hits. Since that game against the Cleveland Indians, May has worked solely as a reliever for Minnesota. Now with his status for 2017 up in the air, it appears a return to the rotation could be in the cards.

Acquired from the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for Ben Revere, May was always the headliner of the deal that also included Vance Worley. He was expected to be an impact rotation arm, and while not an ace, was someone that surely should compete for many years. Now 27 years old, he's made just 25 big league starts and pitched a total of 203 innings across three seasons.

In 2016, Paul Molitor used May in high leverage situations and at the end of games until the wheels fell off. He posted a 5.27 ERA which was inflated due to poor defense as evidenced by his 3.80 FIP. Command was an issue for Trevor last season as he issued 3.6 walks per nine innings, but his strikeouts saw a big jump as he posted 12.7 per nine. In his first season as a full time reliever, there were glimpses of a really good pen arm. Unfortunately, he also experienced back issues that were likely tied to usage, and will undoubtedly factor into any decisions made for 2017.

So, now having been a starter and a reliever with a decent body of work to look back upon, can May really be counted on to give the Twins anything of substance? I've always been a bit torn as to whether or not I believe in him out of the rotation, but given the health concerns, I think it's the only way you get production out of him at all.

Working solely as a starter in 2014, May watched his fastball velocity sit right under 92 mph. As a reliever for the bulk of the past two seasons, he saw an uptick to nearly 94 mph in 2016. Also in 2016, May pushed his swinging strike rate up to 13.2%. Working out of the pen plays into both of those jumps, but it also could've provided a new perspective for him.

If May is going to be effective as a starter, he'll need to keep a focus on the things that worked for him out of the pen. Understandably the velocity will dial back down a bit as he looks to pitch deeper into games. However, he was allowing a career best 72.3% contact rate in 2016, and missing bats is something the Twins desperately need from their starters. If he can stay ahead in counts, and give up less of the med/hard contact (86.1%) he allowed a season ago, there's reason to believe he'll be a better version of the starter he once was.

Expecting May to be a savior for the Minnesota rotation isn't a good bet at all, but there's plenty of room for him to contribute. With the need for a quality arm or two on the back end of the group, you could do a lot worse than Trevor May. He's not a soft-tosser, and with some expected upside still in his favor, Paul Molitor should be pushing to get the best version of the one-time top prospect.

For a team that needs rotation help, May provides an internal option. I'd heavily shy away from him working out of the pen if you want him to stay healthy, and while he's not a slam dunk starting option, I believe he's one the Twins should welcome.