Trevor May Presents A Planning Paradox For Twins
Image courtesy of John Rieger, USA TodayWhen I was in Ft. Myers in March for spring training, May was one of the best performers on the mound I had a chance to watch. I wasn't alone in my sentiment. There was significant buzz around the big right-hander, who had worked hard in the lead-up to camp after getting the go-ahead to prepare as a starter.
He was in great shape. His pitches were buzzing. He was amped up and ready to go.
That May's stuff was among the best in the organization was no secret, and he had it all working in the Grapefruit League. He was electric on the mound in what turned out to be his final appearance of 2017, facing an all-star laden Team USA squad in early March. His sterling performance against premium hitters represented a big step toward locking up a spot in the rotation.
And then, just a couple days later, it was all over. Shockingly, May had suffered a torn ACL in the middle of that outing, despite reporting no issues postgame. He underwent Tommy John surgery on March 22nd, and then spent his summer rehabbing.
TJ recovery can sometimes take more than a year, but the timetable is growing shorter as methods improve. These days, pitchers frequently return to the mound after 10 or 11 months.
There's reason to believe May will be ready to roll around the start of spring training if not shortly thereafter. As he noted at the time, the 28-year-old has never had a remotely serious arm injury in the past. GM Thad Levine pointed out that the UCL tear was "an acute injury" and that the cumulative impact was minimal. In other words, May's elbow was otherwise quite healthy, improving his odds for a quicker recovery.
May has been throwing for a while now and reported on Twitter that he was starting to touch the mid-80s already in early October, less than seven months removed from the surgery.
If by the end of camp next year he's looking like he did this spring before going down, May could be a high-impact addition, either in the rotation or bullpen. But in either capacity, how do you account for him if you're in charge of constructing the team this winter?
The rotation already figures to have four members more or less locked in: Ervin Santana, Jose Berrios, Kyle Gibson and Adalberto Mejia. If you sign or trade for a starter, suddenly May is crowded out of the picture, though he could obviously push someone like Gibson or Mejia for a job, or stand by as the ready reinforcement.
Sending May back to the bullpen is a less appealing option, in my mind. He showed upside as a full-time reliever in 2016, striking out 60 in 43 innings, but was altogether inconsistent and deserves a real shot at starting anyway. Besides, the pen has its share of question marks as is – Ryan Pressly, Tyler Duffey, Alan Busenitz, JT Chargois, etc. Adding May would further cloud a situation already lacking much clarity.
On the bright side, the Twins do have the luxury of taking their time, in a sense. There's nothing wrong with getting to Ft. Myers next February, allowing May to rev it up on the mound, and assessing from there. He has options left, so they'll even be able to start him in Rochester if they deem it necessary.
But the front office's moves to improve the team in the coming months will need to factor in what they already have on hand, and May – more than most – is a difficult one to project with any kind of certainty.
If he makes a full recovery and is ready to roll by Opening Day – and currently there's little reason to think this won't be the case – he should be part of the plan. Maybe a big part.
- Cory Engelhardt, sploorp and MN_ExPat like this