The Evolution of Trevor May
Image courtesy of © Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY SportsI've officially been "knighted" as a Twins Daily contributor as Tom Froemming has informed me, and I couldn't be more grateful to be able to plaster my thoughts on the front page of this community for all to read. For my first official post, I wanted to take a look at one of my favorite career arcs and players in general.
Trevor May was a fourth-round pick by the Phillies in 2008 and was considered their number one prospect by 2011 according to Baseball Prospectus. Philadelphia was in need of a center fielder after the 2012 season however, and their top prospect became expendable. As we know, the Terry Ryan regime was firing off center fielders left and right in their tenure. In December of 2012, they were able to trade Ben Revere for Trevor May and (Twins Legend) Vance Worley. The bottom line was that the Twins believed they had their future center fielder in Aaron Hicks coming up the pipeline and traded their light hitting center fielder for what they valued as a future rotation piece.
May would start 27 games for the Twins AA affiliate in 2013, pitching to a 4.51 ERA and striking out over a batter per inning before being moved up to Rochester in 2014. After 18 starts and a 2.84 ERA, May got the call to the majors and struggled to the tune of a 7.88 ERA in 9 starts. 2015 was May's most successful season as a starter, as he actually pitched to a 4.37 ERA and a much better 3.25 FIP in 15 starts to begin the season. The team's rotational depth however pushed May into a bullpen role. He would make one more start down the stretch in 2015.
The move to the bullpen looked like the beginning of something great. In 31 1/3 innings, May put up a 2.87 ERA and held opposing hitters to a line of .250/.305/.392. with well over a strikeout per inning. Despite his strong finish to 2015, he stumbled a bit in 2016 where he saw his walk and homerun rates increase, which resulted in a 5.27 ERA. The potential was still obvious when looking at his 32.1 K% however. His season would end abruptly with a stress fracture in his back. It would be in the spring of 2017 where he would be diagnosed with a torn UCL which would cost him his 2017 season.
May made his first appearance in over a year on July 31, 2018. He would go on to make 24 appearances in 2018 boasting a 3.20 ERA with a 35% K rate. He was simply dominant for the remainder of the season.
The Twins bullpen was their clear weakness to start 2019. Taylor Rogers dominating on the back end however, allowed May to take the time he needed to continue adjusting after Tommy John without having to take a high leverage role. He began the season pitching well, albeit not quite on the same level as his finish to 2018. His strikeouts hovered closer to about one per inning. His walks also crept up to around 4.5/9 innings in the first half of the season. What we saw in the second half from May was nothing short of incredible. He held opponents to a .159/.220/.354 line. He finished the season with a 2.94 ERA. His FIP of 3.73 was a likely result of his 3.64 BB/9, a number that consistently decreased as the season went on. His 11.05 K/9 trailed only Rogers and Duffey in the Twins bullpen, as May flourished in a fireman role pitching in just about every situation from fifth inning stopper to picking up a save here and there. For more context on May's dominance, see his Statcast data below.
His lowest measurement in context to the rest of the league is his curveball spin rate falling into the 55th percentile. Other than that, that's a lot of red. It's difficult to find a pitcher who grades out above average in just about every Statcast category. For reference, here are the Statcast measurements from Daniel Hudson who the Washington Nationals leaned heavily on down the stretch and closed out the 2019 World Series.
Hudson is two-years older than May, but only surpasses him in fastball spin rate by Statcast measurements. Hudson slightly bested May in ERA, BB/9 and HR/9 and in 2019, with peripherals that do not reflect his final line (2.47 ERA vs 3.97 FIP). Despite the warning signs in his peripherals, Hudson was recently rewarded with a two-year $11 million contract with the Nats.
Trevor May enters 2020 penciled in to play another significant role in our bullpen plans with a salary of about $2.2 million. This is his last season before he hits free agency for the first time in his career after his age 30 season. While he didn't close out the 2019 World Series (Maybe 2020?), we've seen that teams are not shy about handing out sizeable contracts to Statcast darlings, especially when they already have had some form of sustained success. Former Twin Ryan Pressly serves a similar fireman role with an occasional save and signed a contract that pays him almost $9 million annually for the next two years, as well as a $10 million vesting option in the third year. That number shows that teams aren't only paying up for saves these days. May wouldn't command quite so much on the open market, but there would likely be interest. A team could certainly pay him handsomely to be a fireman or even a closer depending on the situation.
While his recent performance bodes well for the Twins going into 2020, it likely means a decent payday for him in the near future. Relief pitcher is one of the most volatile positions from year to year. At age 30 for a team at the beginning of their window, should May be receiving an extension for similar money to Daniel Hudson listed above? The Twins front office may very well be confident in the young arms on their way up or those that have already arrived. They may be more inclined to focus on that Buxton or Berrios extension. I for one would love to keep Minnesota's favorite Twitch streamer in a Twins jersey for a few more years. What do you think?
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