All The Way May?
In Worley, the Twins landed a somewhat seasoned middle-of-the-rotation starter who has above-average movement. But Worley had recent elbow issues, necessitating the addition of the Phillies’ top prospect, May.
May’s pedigree is strong. His velocity ranges up to 95 complimented with a decent curve and an improving changeup. Unlike the majority of his Minnesota pitching prospect counterparts, May has been able to get batters “out” by throwing three “strikes”. On his way to these “strike outs”, he has avoided bats but also the strike zone as well – an aspect of his game which may have soured the Phillies on his potential.
Now in the Twins’ system, can they get the maximum return out of his abilities and turn him into a top of the rotation arm?
Within the 2012 season, the 22-year-old May impressively led the Eastern League in strikeouts (151), exhibiting dominance at times over his elder competition in his first stint Double-A ball. However, he also topped the league in walks (78) and home runs allowed (22). Both are somewhat disconcerting figures coming from the Phillies’ minor league pitcher of the year in 2011.
The home runs allowed spiked significantly from eight total the previous year – certainly a byproduct of leaving the pitcher-friendly Florida State League and facing tougher competition – but the walk rate also increased after showing signs of improvement in his command in 2011.
The struggle with his control is nothing new to May. In his first three years of professional baseball, while compiling impressive strikeout numbers, the right-hander walked 13.7% of all batters faced. In efforts to correct this issue, the Phillies attempted to corral his mechanics and smooth them out. According to May after his 2011 season, in which he made inroads towards bettering his free pass rates, he told reporters that:
“Every year, I seem to smooth out more of the movement. In high school, I was flailing around, leg kicks, moving my head. It made repeating what I did on a daily basis not easy, and now that I throw so many pitches, it made fatigue an issue. I've quieted the leg kick. It's very short now, I don't move my hands as much. I've gotten the ball down.”
Although he may have made some significant strides in the overall quality, there was a remaining kink in his delivery.
From video footage collected in 2011 by Baseball-Instinct.com, one thing that jumps out about May’s mechanics is an unstable balance point which affects his ability to keep everything consistent and encourages rushing through his delivery. Here are some stills of May at his balance point and while beginning to drive forward. Notice how his back foot is coming unglued from the rubber:
While this is isolated to his wind-up and not a trait exhibited on each delivery, it was something that likely influenced his overall command. Compare the above images to one of the other recent prospect acquisition, Alex Meyer. Notice how Meyer’s back foot stays flush and allows his upper body to remain balanced at the peak of his delivery:
The Phillies coaching staff and instructors likely noticed this problem area and have tried to get him to adjust. In 2012, while in Double-A Reading, May closed his pre-delivery stance thereby reducing the additional foot movement and, hopefully, leading to a more stable balance point.
So far, the change led to more walks (not to mention, home runs). Now, this could be a byproduct of adapting to a new delivery or it could be that the change never corrected his balance problem. At 23 in 2013, the Twins have the opportunity to continue to hone May’s mechanics in attempts to harness his above-average velocity and swing-and-miss secondary offerings.
As the organization sets their sights to 2014 and beyond, May's progress - particularly in the walks department - will be closely monitored as they try to refine him into a frontline starter.