So, as you might have heard, Twins pitching prospect Trevor May has been on a heck of a run
in Triple-A. The 25-year-old right-hander was named International League Pitcher of the Week on Monday
and hasn't allowed an earned run in his last four starts.
Overall, May is sitting with a 2.62 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in 10 starts this year, while averaging about a strikeout per inning and holding opponents to a .196 batting average.
That sounds like a guy who should be up on the big-league staff. The only problem -- and this ain't exactly a bad problem -- is that right now there's no obvious spot for May to fill.
That's a bit of an odd conundrum considering that the Twins have the worst starting pitching ERA in the American League at 4.86. But when you look at the five starters currently comprising the rotation, you can't really argue that any are deserving of a demotion.
In part, that is because Minnesota's starters have been shockingly healthy. Outside of the ailing Mike Pelfrey, nobody has missed a start in the first two months, which is sort of amazing after the last couple years.
In terms of performance, there are some ugly overall numbers in the mix, but everyone has been holding their own recently, helping to explain the club's decent 13-16 record in a month of May where the offense averaged only 3.2 runs per game.
It goes without saying that Phil Hughes is locked in. He's been one of the best starters in the league. Ricky Nolasco also isn't going anywhere, since he's in Year 1 of a four-year deal (he has also allowed three or fewer runs in five of his last six turns). Samuel Deduno hasn't been spectacular since taking over for Pelfrey in early May, but certainly hasn't done anything to put his job in danger.
Kyle Gibson's performances have been uneven, and his ugly 29-to-20 K/BB ratio in 56 innings is a bit worrisome, but this is sink-or-swim time for the 26-year-old right-hander and the Twins have little to gain by sending him back to Triple-A.
The most obvious slot for May to take over is, and has been, that of Kevin Correia. The veteran is in the final year of his deal with the Twins, and has had an ERA north of 6 for much of the campaign.
But even as someone who is clearly not the biggest Correia fan in the world, I can't really advocate for his removal from the rotation at this point. Correia simply hasn't pitched as poorly as his bloated 5.87 ERA suggests. His 5.0 K/9 rate -- while far from good -- is better than any mark he's posted in the last three years, and he has the best walk rate among Twins starters outside of Hughes. Correia has also allowed only six homers in 61 innings.
The biggest issues for Correia have been a .338 batting average on balls in play and a league-worst 59.6 percent strand rate. Both categories are considered to be -- at least to some extent -- luck-based, and by that convention Correia has been among the most unlucky starting pitchers in the majors.
You can't really punish a guy for being unlucky. Correia is doing what he needs to do.
So here's the situation: Barring monumental struggles, contractual and developmental considerations mean that Hughes, Nolasco and Gibson are staying put all year. Deduno and Correia aren't pitching their way out of jobs.
This means that in order to get his chance, May is going to need to wait until one of the latter two starters falls into a legitimate slump, or someone gets hurt. It also means that if and when Pelfrey finally gets healthy, he's going to have a very tough time breaking back into the rotation.
Like I said, not a bad problem to have, but certainly a peculiar one for a starting staff that statistically ranks as the second-worst in baseball.
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