Breakout or Bust: Could Jacob May Seize The White Sox CF Job?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

Entering the spring the assumption was that Charlie Tilson would open the season as the White Sox centerfielder.  The addition of Peter Bourjos on a minor league contract clouded the issue, at least somewhat, but could another youngster be forcing his name into consideration?  With Tilson looking like he’s going to open the season on the DL, there should be room for Jacob May and he’s done everything he can this spring to earn the job (stats are through Monday):

.349 (15-43), 0 HR, 2 RBI, 8 R, 4 SB

At this point his battle was with fellow prospect Adam Engel, who he has out-performed (Engel is hitting .222 with 1 SB and was recently optioned to the minors).  There seems to be a good chance that May, a 2013 third round pick, breaks camp with the White Sox and should get some playing time.  Can he take advantage of it, though?

The switch hitter spent 2016 at Triple-A hitting .266 with 19 SB over 301 AB (he missed time due to abdominal issues).  Speed is obviously his calling card, which MLB.com described as “double-plus”, having stolen 37 bases in 2014 and 38 in 2015.

While he lacks power, that’s not necessarily a negative given his skill set.  A rising strikeout rate and a declining walk rate, though, is eye-popping (strikeout rate // walk rate):

  • 2014 (High-A) – 15.0% // 8.9%
  • 2015 (Double-A) – 16.9% // 6.7%
  • 2016 (Triple-A) – 22.4% // 4.7%

Things have not changed much this spring, with 8 K vs. 2 BB.  Considering that we’d expect the numbers to take another jump against MLB pitching, who should be able to exploit any vulnerabilities, and the outlook doesn’t look very promising.  Speed is great, but if you can’t get on base to utilize it does it really matter?

Time will tell and maybe May is able to surprise and take advantage of an opportunity.  At this point, though, we wouldn’t bank on it.  Consistently being prone to injury, May shouldn’t be expected to make much of an impact.

Current Grade – C
Upside Grade – C

Sources – MLB.com, MILB.com, Fangraphs

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Grading System:
Grade A – Elite Prospects (aka potential future perennial All-Stars)
Grade B – Above Average Prospects (aka above average Major Leaguers, could develop into a potential All-Star)
Grade C – Average Prospects (aka solid, though unspectacular)
Grade D – Nothing More Than Roster Filler
Grade F – Move On

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