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What to Make of Trevor May?

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Baseball America, one of the most reputed publications in the nation for baseball prospect coverage, released its annual list of the Top 10 prospects in the Minnesota Twins organization earlier this week, courtesy of Mike Berardino.

The list included a few surprises and some promising signs, such as the presence of five pitchers among the top eight names. One of those hurlers is Trevor May, who was ranked No. 8.

Baseball America released its last Top 10 for the Twins in November of 2012, before May was acquired from the Phillies, so we can't make a straight comparison. But it's worth noting that the right-hander ranked ninth on the Twins Daily Top 10 list prior to the 2013 season, so BA ranking him eighth among a deep and strong system indicates that his stock is at least holding steady in the eyes of many.

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That's a little surprising, because May showed a disappointing lack of progress in the 2013 season. While playing in the same league as the year before (Minnesota and Philadelphia both have Double-A affiliates in the Eastern League), the righty put up extremely similar numbers:

Reading, 2012: 28 GS, 149.2 IP, 4.87 ERA 1.45 WHIP, 151/78 K/BB
New Britain, 2013: 27 GS, 151.2 IP, 4.51 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 159/67 K/BB

Despite having a full season of experience in the league and being a year older, May showed only very slight improvement in his numbers. For a 23-year-old repeating Double-A, it's tough to be impressed by a 4.51 ERA and 1.42 WHIP. In that respect, May's placement at No. 8 on BA's list seems high.

Then again, you don't have to look hard to find some real positives in the bulky hurler. He continues to be a durable workhorse; he hasn't missed a start in three years and has logged about 150 innings every season during that span. He also led the Eastern League in strikeouts for a second consecutive season in 2013.

Those missed bats have come along with iffy control, as illustrated by his 4.0 BB/9 rate last year. Yet, in the context of his career, that number really isn't too discouraging. May has always struggled to throw strikes (his career BB/9 average is 4.6), and his 4.0 mark actually ties for a career low. The improvement was especially noticeable after the first leg of the season; over the final three months, May issued only 35 walks in 95 innings (3.3 BB/9).

Still, the results weren't there. During those last three months, he put up a 4.64 ERA. Because he's been unable to back up the big strikeout numbers with overall success at the higher levels, many have speculated that May could end up in the bullpen. That is, in fact, where he pitched almost exclusively in the Arizona Fall League, registering a 3.21 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in 14 appearances.

May was interviewed this week by MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo, who asked about his experience pitching out of the bullpen. May said the switch was made mostly to keep his innings in check, but added: "I think I fell into that role pretty well. I know that regardless of what role I need to play on a team, I'm comfortable pitching any inning, coming in whenever."

Given his profile and his high-end stuff, I feel pretty confident that May would excel in a relief role, but it's too soon to relegate him to that outcome. He can, of course, offer more value as a starter, and 2014 may be one of his last opportunities to prove that he can be an asset there. He'll be 24 and (likely) in Triple-A, so the Twins need to determine what his long-term role is going to be as a big-leaguer.

It would be great if he can reestablish himself as a top starter prospect this year, perhaps joining Alex Meyer and Kyle Gibson as youngsters with the potential to make a real positive impact in the '14 rotation.

That's certainly what the Twins were hoping for when they acquired May alongside Vance Worley 13 months ago.
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