Fall From Ace: Scouting Trevor May

Scouting Phillies righty, Trevor May, this year was not easy. A whiff inducing howitzer one start, a frustrating, homer prone mess the next, May entered the 2012 season as the Phillies’ consensus #1 prospect and leaves it having taken an enigmatic step backward. It’s not an insurmountable retardation of the Washingtonian’s development, especially when you remind yourself that May only realistically projected as a mid-rotation starter anyway. Of course, a full page write-up and action shot in Baseball America’s annual handbook will often alter the layperson’s perception of a player, no matter how uninspiring a system for which he is the masthead.  There was more hype surrounding May this year than was warranted and, as such, his tumultuous season feels worse than it actually was.  It’s time we take a step back, forget about May’s pre-season status as the top dog in the Philly system, and have a context-free look at what there is to work with.  That’s what I’ve got for you here.

Trevor May looks mighty impressive in his uniform. A broad-shouldered 6’5″, he has the frame of an inning-eating horse.  There’s no projection left, but as May has filled out nicely.  He’s only listed at 215lbs but trust me, he’s carrying more than that and he carries it quite well. May ‘s athleticism is less impressive.  He doesn’t always repeat his delivery well and his command suffers as a result.  He cuts himself off a bit before he gets to his 3/4s delivery, an arm angle which stifles some of the downhill plane you’d like to see s 6’5″ pitcher get on the ball.  Onto the stuff…

May mostly pitches with a low-90s fastball that will touch as high as 94mph. I did see him kiss 96mph several times in a start early this season but I didn’t see that much heat again all year.  May will incorporate a two-seamer every now and then ( it usually hums in around 89mph) but it’s not much of a weapon right now.  While previous reports indicate healthy armside run, from my vantage point May’s fastball looks straight.  And boy, does he leave it up in the zone a lot.  Many of the whiffs May induces come from high fastballs that big league hitters will either scoff at or launch into orbit.  It’s been an issue of May’s for a while now and it hasn’t been corrected or even improved.

May’s stable of secondary pitches is headlined by a good looking curveball.  It’s usually sharp with good depth and breaks late.  He can bury it and throw it for strikes and he adds and subtracts from it well.  It usually sits upper-70s but he’ll take some off and throw a big, loopy curve in the low 70s once in a while. I can’t decide if I’m pleased he’s learned this little trick or concerned because he thought he had to.  There’s one HUGE problem with May’s curveball.  He throws it from a different arm slot than his other pitches.  He’s 3/4s for everything except the curve for which his arm becomes more vertically oriented upon acceleration.  As such, it’s easy to pick up out of his hand.  This needs to be corrected yesterday.

May’s changeup is bad.  In his Eastern League Semifinal start he threw just one handsome changeup through 5.1 innings of work.  He often leaves it up in the zone, same as the fastball, and it rarely exhibits the fade/action you look for en un buen cambio.  May also throws a slider/cutter type thing in the 82-86mph range.  It’s short and unrefined but it exists.

So what exactly do we have here? In short it’s a pitcher with an ideal build and above average velocity with some fatal flaws in his secondary stuff and whose control/command development has stagnated.  I wouldn’t be surprised if May began next season back at Reading, though if I were in charge, I’d send him to Triple-A where more seasoned hitters won’t let him get away with the stuff he still mostly gets away with against Eastern League bats.  Maybe adversity and failure in front of minor league baseball’s biggest crowds will catalyze development.  If he’s an abject failure next season, maybe I start thinking about penning him.  Regardless, May’s ceiling is mostly the same (folks, I saw 96mph, a plus curve and a plus change at various times this year. A mid-rotation starter is in there somewhere and it’s still his ceiling) but the chances he gets there are now minute.

I could go on forever about May because, most of the time, prospect failures are far more interesting than successes, but 800 words is enough.  You’ll see a new name atop the Phillies organizational prospect rankings next year but that does not mean it’s time to give up on Trevor May.  It’s just time to over hype somebody else.

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13 comments

  1. Dan K.

    October 17, 2012 11:15 AM

    Biddle will, in all likelihood, be receiving that hype now. Deservedly so considering the success he’s had thus far. I wonder what the media will make him out to be, the next Carlton?

  2. Pencilfish

    October 17, 2012 11:17 AM

    Eric,

    His numbers at AA in 2012 are not good, but I’m surprised you say his chances of reaching his ceiling are minute. He just turned 23 last month. I think he still has time on his side.

    If not May, then who is the minor-league pitcher in the Phillies system with the biggest upside and the best chance to make it to MLB as a front-line starter?

  3. MyLarkE

    October 17, 2012 12:07 PM

    your posts have been a good read so far– good add to Crashburn. hopefully young Mr. May can correct some of those deficits you mention. Can’t teach 6’5” and built.

  4. Eric Longenhagen

    October 17, 2012 12:17 PM

    Pencilfish,

    Players, in general, rarely reach their ceiling. Biggest Phillies starter upside? Maybe Ethan Martin, he has the best raw stuff but a lot of things need to click for him to be a starter at all. Nobody’s going to be a #1 or #2.

  5. Phillie697

    October 17, 2012 12:35 PM

    I think many Phillies fans are still deluding themselves into thinking that we have a Cole Hamels somewhere in our minor league system. You know when was the last time we had a Cole Hamels in our minor league system? When Cole Hamels was there himself. And this includes the plethora of pitchers we did trade away that made our minor league system one of the best in the league once upon a time. Drabek and Cosart were no Hamels.

  6. mratfink

    October 17, 2012 01:18 PM

    I think this year hurt May’s probability of becoming a big league starter but not his upside and this article seems to agree. The stuff is still there for him to be a solid mid-rotation guy (something which is very valuable) he has gets a lot of swings and misses. the question after this year though is whether his negatives will outweigh his positives in the end. his command is bad, and has never been good, his fastball is left up in the zone too often and his secondary stuff isn’t anything to write home about. i agree that the move to triple a will be much more informative on May going forward

  7. Andrew Cleveland Alexander

    October 17, 2012 04:28 PM

    I guess I’m a glass-half-full kind of guy, but I look at May after this season and see a guy with two plus pitches, who has shown the ability to put up gaudy strikeout numbers, but who has serious and perhaps fatal command issues. In other words, he is what he has been throughout his minor league career. Precedent (two stints at Lakewood) shows that he’s been able to learn and make adjustments, so maybe he’ll be able to continue to do so, moving slowly. Time will tell, as always.

    But I have a question about the arm slot observation, which seems important. If this were really such a tell, wouldn’t it have shown up in Lakewood and Clearwater? His problem at that level was never that he was hit hard, which would happen if he was tipping his pitches, but rather that he walked a lot of guys. A lot of A ball players can’t hit a curve, but it seems like they’d be able to pick up on something as obvious as the arm slot issue you mention.

  8. Ben

    October 17, 2012 04:36 PM

    How is a pitcher’s athleticism scouted? Is it primarily due to the ease with which he repeats his delivery? Or does it have a lot to do with the way he looks off the mound? This is something I’ve never been very clear on…because there is an intersection of muscle memory (practice/repetition) with athleticism and balance when it comes to repeating a delivery.

  9. Eric Longenhagen

    October 17, 2012 05:46 PM

    These are two REALLY excellent questions.

    First, ACA

    It’s possible that this is something May developed recently, like maybe even just for that start. It’s also possible the difference is easier to see from the scout seats than it is from 60 feet away.

    Ben,

    I look at delivery repetition, how he fields his position and just the general beauty with which he goes about everything he does. Also look at physical composition, but be careful not to be too influenced by body type. Tommy Hunter is a good athlete, he’s a black belt in Judo and has two Junior Olympic gold medals. Just because a guy sweats when he gets out of bed doesn’t mean he’s not unathletic, though it can be.

  10. Bill Baer

    October 19, 2012 01:05 AM

    test

    EDIT: Just installed a plugin to let commenters add their Twitter handle to posts. Try it out if you’d like.

  11. jake

    October 19, 2012 06:21 AM

    This is why they call them prospects.
    Rare is the prospect that becomes a contributor. Rarer still is the highly hyped prospect that becomes a starter. And lets not even talk about the prospect that becomes a star.

    This is why I have no problem trading prospects for young major league talent.

  12. Clave

    October 19, 2012 06:39 AM

    Yeah, I’ll help ou test your new Twitter widget, even though the only thing I have to say about Trevor May is that I agree is changeup is bad. That’s honestly all I got.

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