Jacob May is your opening day center fielder. At the start of spring training, hearing that there would be a post with that sentence on April 1, I'd have said that it was a joke. A really inane one but nonetheless. Well, here we are. And here he is.
The calling card of the 25 year old's game is his double-plus speed. In the outfield, it covers for his weak arm and sometimes awkward routes. Right now, he's probably an average to slightly above center fielder. With improvement to his routes, the 2013 third round pick can certainly become an above average one.
As a baserunner, he exhibits above average aptitude, routinely taking the extra base, whether on his own hits or his teammate's. Particularly from the left side, he leverages his speed into bunt hits and infield singles. He isn't a good basestealer, as his technique and reading of pitchers is not advanced, but he's fast enough now to be able to maintain a stolen base rate above the break-even point.
Contact is key for a player with his profile. He has the advantage of being a switch-hitter and he's pretty much been the same hitter from both sides. As he has well below-average power, major league pitchers are not going to be afraid to challenge him. If/when he shows that he won't chase pitches early in the count, he's going to see pitches in the zone. He's never drawn many walks but, prior to last season, he also had kept the strikeouts under control. In 2016, however, his strikeout rate jumped to 22.4% and that's not going to work well in the majors. It's okay to have an empty batting average if you can run a little and you're a good defender at a premium position. But a 25% (or worse) rate for May would result in an empty and low batting average and that's not okay.
The talk of eventually batting May leadoff is crazy. Of course that's never before stopped a manager from putting the speedy-bunty-slappy guy atop the lineup card. For now, they profess that they'll ease him in to the majors at the bottom of the order. Without some serious BABIP luck, it's hard for me to see him showing enough this season to keep the starting job all year. I expect something like .240/.285/.335 with a few stolen bases per month.