As part of mid-season checkup on Springfield Cardinals prospects, I interviewed St. Louis Cardinals minor league coordinator Derrick May, who so kindly took time out of his busy schedule to answer my questions.
May, a first-round draft pick by the Chicago Cubs in the 1986 draft, had a big-league career that spanned ten seasons, playing mostly for his home-grown Cubs, then spent time with the Milwaukee Brewers, the Houston Astros, Philadelphia Phillies, Montreal Expos, and Baltimore Orioles for his last six major-league seasons. A career .271 hitter in the big leagues, May also was successful in three seasons in Japan.
The son of 12-year MLB veteran Dave May, Derrick comes from a tremendous baseball background and has spent 25-plus seasons as a player and coach in professional baseball. He started his tenure with the Cardinals organization as a hitting coach for six years before being named the organization’s hitting coordinator four and half seasons ago.
May’s hard work tutoring young Cardinal prospects paid off this spring, the 46-year old was named the recipient of the George Kissell Award. The honor for excellence in player development throughout the Cardinals organization is voted upon by peers and announced every spring. In season, his responsibilities include visiting every level of the organization multiple times as to evaluate and instruct players in the process of reaching their offensive potential.
In the following chat transcript below, an upbeat May discusses this season as “progressing” his hitters through the pipeline, what he has learned from year to year to refine his coaching skills, chats extensively on the progression of several of his hitters that have showed well this season, as well as give some early feedback on 2015 draftees.
Derek Shore: How would you characterize this season now more halfway through, up and down hitting wise?
Derrick May: “I would characterize this season like every season as ‘progressing.’ Realistically all we hope for is for players to get better. Some will progress a lot and some will progress a little. Some move up and some move back. This is what happens in development. Putting players in the right spot to continue his progress or improve.”
DS: You've served as a hitting coach and now a hitting coordinator throughout the Cardinals organization, what have you learned from year to year to better your coaching?
DM: “Great question! I've learned more than ever that all players want to learn, but some want to learn and receive information more than others. The ones who ask questions and continue to seek knowledge have a greater chance of success. I look back to players like Jon Jay, Matt Carpenter, Tommy Pham and Trevor Rosenthal. They continue to seek knowledge. Not just working hard.
“I've learned personally that basics are best. Teaching the fundamentals is so important. I continue to learn more and more about the aspects of hitting. I learn from coaches and also players. I appreciate the hard work the hitting coaches and players put in. Hitting is hard. Physically but more importantly mentally. The mental part is the most important. It's not easy.”
DS: What have you seen from outfielder Nick Martini, who has hit well with more playing time this season and was rewarded with a promotion to Memphis recently?
DM: “Nick continues to improve year by year which is one of the reasons he is in Triple-A. He is solid defensively and his bat has shown more consistency.”
DS: Patrick Wisdom struggled out of the gates earlier this season but has since turned everything around after a stint in Florida. What particular adjustments have you seen Wisdom make this year compared to last year?
DM: “Patrick has so much ability and with confidence he has a chance to be MLB'er (major-leaguer). Patrick had a great attitude and made some corrections he needed to his swing down in Florida. His issues were being ready on time, staying on the ball and getting into a good hitting position consistently. He did a great job and George Greer helped him with those issues. George has been a great help to me and the organization, in my opinion.”
DS: Charlie Tilson has also come on this season. He is stealing bags and currently hitting above .300. What improvements have you seen from Tilson?
DM: “He is coming along great! He is taking advantage of his speed and he has done a solid job against left-handed pitching. Charlie is only going to get better in all areas. He is still learning how to do things and gaining baseball instincts.”
DS: Anthony Garcia is another who has had a very solid season at the Double-A level for Springfield. What progress have you seen from Garcia at the dish this season?
DM: “Really happy for Anthony. He has come so far this season. He has some special ability with the bat, but he hadn't cashed in on it. But now he is showing that ability. A couple of years ago he showed the bat, last year he was the MVP in the Puerto Rican Winter League, this year the Pan Am Games and now he's returned a more mature player. He's worked hard and has done a great job with the help of Erik Pappas of staying on the ball and maintaining his approach.”
DS: Derek Gibson came up recently to Springfield, a very brief stint, and performed very well at Palm Beach before that. What's your impression on Gibson?
DM: “Love his energy! He has such a great personality and work ethic. He has some tools and it's just about him refining those tools. He hasn't played much pro ball so he is still learning. Great kid.”
DS: Lastly, most of the 2015 draftees have had more than a month of professional ball under their belts. Has there been anyone that's caught your eye or stood out?
DM: “There have been a couple of players who have stood out. Nick Plummer caught my eye and reminds me of Charlie Tilson, Bryce Denton looks to have solid potential with the bat as well as Harrison Bader who is off to a great start and Paul DeJong, who looks to have a solid bat as well.”
Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @D_Shore23.
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