March 8, 2010
By David Driver
For the Daily News
Used with permission
CLEARWATER, Fla. — Ryan Howard, the All-Star first baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies, took groundballs during batting practice on Friday.
A few minutes later Jayson Werth, an outfielder for the Phillies, lofted some long fly balls to left field on a minor-league complex before the team headed a few miles north to Dunedin for a spring training game with the Toronto Blue Jays later in the day.
Meanwhile, veteran left-hander Jamie Moyer pitched in a morning "B" game for the Phillies against the Blue Jays in Clearwater, on the west coast of Florida at the team's regular spring diamond.
That was the surroundings on Friday for Trevor May, 20, a promising pitcher in the minor league system of the Phillies, who was drafted in the fourth round by the National League team in 2008 out of Kelso High School.
The 6-foot-5 right-handed pitcher is rated the No. 5 prospect in the Philadelphia system according to Baseball America, considered the industry leader in the coverage of the minors.
He flew from Washington to Florida on Thursday, and the next morning was among dozens of Philadelphia minor league players who had routine physicals performed by team doctors at the minor league complex, which is adjacent to the spring home of the big league club.
"Last year I felt like a lot of things came together," May said after he arrived in Florida. "I worked hard in spring training (in 2009) and extended spring to get on track."
The Phillies are certainly high on May, who was 4-1 with an ERA of 2.56 in 15 starts last year for low Class A Lakewood (N.J.) of the South Atlantic League.
Chuck LaMar, the assistant general manager/player development and scouting for the Phillies, said Friday that May has a chance to move up a level to high Class A Clearwater of the Florida State League this season.
"We think he is going to have a chance to be a front-line Major League pitcher," said LaMar, sitting in the office of a colleague on Friday just a few feet from Steve Carlton Field. "For his first full season (in 2009) he handled himself very well."
LaMar, the former general manager of Tampa Bay, said May is a classic power pitcher with a fastball, curve and change-up.
"We feel his competitiveness is as good as it gets," LaMar said. "He has an above-average fastball, and his curve and change are getting better."
May has a chance to gain a spot on the Clearwater roster, LaMar said.
"That is a good jump for a high school pitcher, especially from the Northwest," added LaMar.
The Phillies have several prospects from the Pacific Northwest, including outfielder Kyrell Hudson. He was drafted out Evergreen High in Vancouver in the third round last year by the Phils, and entered this season as the 14th-best prospect in the system, according to Baseball America.
"We make a concentrated effort in cold-weather areas and have had success in the Northwest," LaMar said.
Pitcher Matt Way was drafted out of Washington State in 2009 and is the No. 28 prospect in the system.
May began his pro career in 2008 in the Gulf Coast League and was 1-1 with an ERA of 3.75 in five games, with two starts. He stayed in extended spring in 2009 before heading to Lakewood, and ended the year with 24 scoreless innings, with 11 coming in the playoffs as his team won the league title.
"When I got to the SALLY league a lot of stuff clicked," May said. "But there is a lot of improvement to be had."
For one he has thrown just 89 innings at the pro level. Last year he threw 77 innings in regular-season play and allowed just 58 hits and 43 walks with 95 strikeouts. Opponents hit just .211 against him.
So what did he do after last season?
"I did a lot of training at home in Kelso. I worked out a lot with my high school catcher (Cody O'Neill), who goes to the local junior college. I did a lot on my own," May said.
Here is what the Baseball America 2010 prospect handbook says of May: "Big and strong, May has gained fastball velocity as a pro and now ranges from 88-95 mph. His heater features heavy sink at times, and he uses its arm-side run to pitch inside effectively. He has solid command of his upper-70s curveball, which has a solid if slurvy break. His solid-average change-up features fade when thrown down in the zone. Still raw, May can lose his command suddenly. May has a No. 3 starter potential and took a giant step with his strong finish last season."