Trevor May: Fastball Command Key To Early-Season Success, Long-Term Potential

Author’s note: I was busy last night and this morning, so this piece was written yesterday afternoon, before May’s start at Charlotte. (Update: May extended his scoreless streak to 30 innings last night, before surrendering three runs in the fifth inning. His final line was 6 IP, 3 ER, 6 H, 2 BB, 9 K)

As of this writing, four weeks have passed since Trevor May last allowed an earned run. The 24-year-old was terrific in May (pun not intended, but entirely unavoidable), posting a 1.47 earned run average in 36.2 innings, including a 26-inning stretch to close the month in which he surrendered just one unearned run.

Through ten starts, May’s ERA sits at a tidy 2.62, with a 3.04 FIP. He’s striking out just under a batter an inning, and his walk rate has dropped for the second consecutive year, which is a very good sign considering that he’s done so while also getting his first taste of Triple-A:

  • 2012 (Double-A) – 4.69 BB/9
  • 2013 (Double-A) – 3.98 BB/9
  • 2014 (Triple-A) – 3.60 BB/9

Now, 3.60 BB/9 is still nothing to write home about, but May’s continued progress in this area is a big deal, seeing as his command/control profile has been the biggest knock on him as a prospect throughout his entire professional career. It’s also the reason May found himself outside the Top 10 prospects in the organization coming into 2014.

It’s not just the walks, either — May’s lack of fastball command has long been a problem, as he has always struggled to keep the pitch down in the zone. His low-mid 90s heater has good sinking action when it’s thrown low in the zone, but is extremely flat up in the zone, practically begging to be hit 440 feet.

I haven’t had the opportunity to see May pitch in person this year, but just from watching him on, it’s clear that he’s doing a much better job of spotting the fastball low in the zone. This is supported by his dramatically improving home-run rate:

  • 2012 (Double-A) – 1.32 HR/9
  • 2013 (Double-A) – 0.83 HR/9
  • 2014 (Triple-A) – 0.33 HR/9

It’s not that May has magically transformed into a ground-ball pitcher — his batted-ball profile is pretty much the same as it’s ever been — but a drastically reduced portion of his fly balls have been leaving the yard, due to his improved ability to locate his fastball down in the zone. If you want to take a look at the pitch for yourself, click on this conveniently embedded video:

In addition to the improved fastball command, May seems to have rediscovered his curveball. Early in his career, scouts saw his curve as a future plus offering, but last year he couldn’t throw it for strikes to save his life. The beer vendor roaming the stands had about as much knowledge of where the curve was going as May himself did. This year, he’s started locating the curve again, once again raising his profile to that of a starter with a legitimate three-pitch mix, quieting the murmurs that he might be better off as a fastball/slider guy in the bullpen.

May has done just about everything he can this year to indicate that he has truly taken a big step forward. The walk rate still needs work, but is trending in the right direction for the second straight year. The extreme, yet steady, improvement in his home-run rate is a godsend. He’s also generating swinging strikes on 10.1% of his pitches. All this while getting his first taste of Triple-A.

At 6’5″, 215 pounds, May has the type of body that you can easily see regularly piling up 200+ innings, and he’s already been highly durable in his minor-league career, averaging 27 starts in each of the last three years. He might be overlooked at times in a system like Minnesota’s that has so many high-ceiling arms (Alex Meyer, Kohl Stewart, Jose Berrios, Lewis Thorpe), but his progress this season cannot be ignored.

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Scott Strandberg has written for RotoGraphs since 2013. He is also a film critic and entertainment writer for The Norman Transcript newspaper. Scott is the co-founder of RosterResource Wrestling, and the co-host of the Going Over Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @ScottStrandberg.

2 Responses to “Trevor May: Fastball Command Key To Early-Season Success, Long-Term Potential”

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  1. Nick says:

    From where are you getting minor league batted ball data?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

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