Spring Observations: Trevor May is good representation of new approach
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Of all the young pitchers in camp, I keep hearing the most praise of right-hander Trevor May, who the Twins acquired along with Vance Worley in the Ben Revere trade this winter.
May, 23, was MLB.com's 54th-best prospect heading into the 2012 season, but he ran into problems at Double-A Reading, posting a 4.87 ERA with 78 walks and 22 home runs allowed in 149 2/3 innings. To May's credit, he did strike out more than a batter per inning (151), and throughout his minor league career he has been a strikeout machine, setting down more than 11 batters per nine innings.
People with the Twins have raved about his durability and thick frame, and most believe he has the tools to become a solid mid-rotation starter. May stands 6-5 and is listed at 215 pounds, although that number is likely a few turkey burgers low...
May's fastball usually sits in the 91-93 mph range, and he throws a biting curveball that can work well as a swing-and-miss pitch.
His problem has always been command. If May can trim down those 4.7 walks per nine innings he has issued in the minor leagues, he isn't far away from making his major league debut.
But May is a perfect representation of the Twins' new approach to acquiring young pitching -- they want guys who can miss bats, even if they don't throw it over the plate as often as they should. The Twins have always felt confident in being able to improve pitchers' command.
'We catch what we can get to, right?'
It seems most people have come to the conclusion that the Twins' offense is destined to be worse this season because of the absences of Denard Span and Ben Revere, and also the likelihood that Josh Willingham isn't going to repeat his career season from 2012.
All valid concerns.
Along with needing to find a viable leadoff hitter, the Twins are banking on improvements from others -- particularly Justin Morneau, who appears to be fully healthy for the first time in years, and Trevor Plouffe and Chris Parmelee.
Parmelee, 25, went through some growing pains at the beginning of the season, leading to a May demotion to Triple-A, but he hit .262/.300/.452 with nine extra-base hits over his last 24 games. This stretch, combined with Parmelee's destruction of Triple-A pitching (.338/.457/.645 with 17 home runs in 64 games) have the Twins believing he could be in for a solid season.
Parmelee's evolution as a hitter since being drafted at age 18 has included increased plate discipline and an influx of power. At age 19, Parmelee struck out 137 times while walking 46 and he hit just 15 home runs in 128 games.
The walk and strikeout totals have gradually trended in opposite directions, leading to Parmelee's breakout season for Rochester last year, where he walked (51) almost as much as he struck out (52).
It's realistic to think Parmelee can settle in as a .280ish hitter who knocks 20 or more over the fence on a regular basis.
The question is whether he can provide value defensively.
Parmelee is penciled in as the Twins' starting right fielder, although he continues to take reps in practice at first base. Nobody will confuse Parmelee with speedsters Darin Mastroianni or Aaron Hicks in the outfield, but he did track down a long fly ball in the right field corner in the first inning on Sunday against the Rays.
Some in the organization have loosely compared Parmelee to Jason Kubel -- a solid left-handed hitter who became a respectable defensive outfielder by running good routes, despite multiple knee surgeries taking away most of his speed.
"That would be a compliment," Parmelee said when told about the Kubel comparisons. "We catch what we get to, right?"
Knowing that he doesn't possess great wheels, Parmelee said he's most concerned with becoming a "crisp" route runner to help make up for any lost speed.
Arm strength shouldn't be an issue, as Parmelee was a pitcher in high school and has always flashed a decent gun.
2.0 and under
The Twins have always timed catcher/pitcher splits -- how long it takes a pitcher to deliver to home plate, and how long it takes the catcher to gun the ball to second base.
But new bench coach Terry Steinbach appears to have placed added emphasis on this area, and it's probably for the best. The Twins threw out only 18% of potential base stealers last year, which ranked third-worst in MLB.
The catchers certainly need to do a better job, but many in the organization suggested Twins pitchers, collectively, were too slow to home plate last year.
Steinbach has been timing everyone closely in practice and games to figure out who the culprits are.
On Sunday, Tampa's Jason Bourgeois stole second base on a close play in the second inning. Mauer completed his transfer in less than 2 seconds, which is good, but pitcher Liam Hendriks lifted his leg too high and was a tick slow to home plate.