With the trading of Peter Bourjos to the Rays, it appears that Jacob May will be the White Sox starting centerfielder when they open the season next Monday. While there has been no official word on the matter yet, it seems like we are just waiting for the formal announcement.
May comes into the season at number 18 on the Sox prospects list according to MLB.com. The 25-year-old was a third round pick by the Sox in the 2013 draft. He is hitting .339 with a homer and four stolen bases this spring.
May spent last year at Triple-A Charlotte after splitting time between AA and AAA in 2015. He slashed .266/.309/.352 with a .662 OPS for the Knights and stole 19 bases in 83 games. The stolen base numbers were down a bit for May, who stole 38 bases in 2015 in the minors and 37 in 2014.
For May the name of the game is speed. He has plus-plus speed, with a 70 rated run tool according to MLB.com. He doesn’t have much extra base power, so he will need to focus on making contact and getting on base any way he can. He hasn’t drawn a lot of walks in the minors, something that will likely need to improve if he hopes to stick as a starter in the big leagues.
If he does break camp with the White Sox, Jacob will not be the first member of his family to take the field for the South Siders. His great uncle is Carlos May, who played parts of nine seasons with the White Sox from 1968-1976, and was a two-time All-Star. Carlos also holds the distinction of being the only major leaguer to wear his birthday on his uniform (May 17). Jacob was born in January, so he’s sadly unable to duplicate the feat.
Going with May is the right decision for the White Sox right now. Bourjos is a career journeyman, and not someone that fits into the long term plans for the club. Giving May this chance lets the team get a look at him and see what they’ve got. It’s possible May will be overwhelmed by Major League pitching, and that he shows you he’s probably not cut out to be more than a fourth outfielder and a pinch runner on a big league roster. Or, you may (no pun intended) find out that he does have the makings of a regular player. This is the perfect season to find out about a player like May, and I applaud the Sox for making the decision to give him a legit shot out of the gate.
Now this could be a short term starting gig anyway. Charlie Tilson, acquired from the Cardinals last year, was seen as the likely starter in center when camp began. But Tilson has suffered a series of foot injuries while trying to come back from his hamstring injury a year ago and will start the season on the shelf. Whether or not he can work his way back this year is yet to be seen, but if he does get healthy, I expect the Sox to take a hard look at him as well.
There will likely be a lot of moving pieces on the White Sox roster this year as they enter the first official year of the full rebuild. Taking a look at some of the pieces in the system will give them a better chance to evaluate and see what areas they need to continue to address in the future, via trades, free agency, or the draft. Letting May get the bulk of the playing time in center to start the year is likely the first of several similar moves. And I for one, would much rather see that, then watch a guy I know is a one year filler piece.