Baseball stat heads and sabermetricians use advanced projection systems known as Steamer and ZiPS to predict a player's future performance. But an emerging trend increasingly serves as a more accurate indicator of a player's success in the upcoming year: off-season yoga workouts.
Trevor May certainly isn't the first Major League player to incorporate yoga into his off-season training; but as Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports, the Minnesota Twins right-hander credits meditation and yoga for his strong showing in spring training.
Having posted a 1.00 ERA through nine innings of work, May says his body "feels under more control" as a result of his off-season yoga regimen. He says, "You feel really good after it. Even more than that, it's just that you're aware of how your body feels at any moment. That's a huge deal when you're pitching, and I'm surprised more guys don't do it."
Since reporting to spring training, May has continued his yoga practice. He performs daily 30- to 40-minute sessions on his own, cutting it down to 20-minute routines on days he's scheduled to pitch.
Twins manager Paul Molitor noticed a difference in May's mound presence, and he says May's "stuff has been better" this spring. General Manager Terry Ryan echoed his manager's sentiments. Ryan told the Pioneer Press, "His body language is pretty good [and] his confidence level looks pretty high."
MLB Pipeline ranked May as the No. 11 prospect in the Twins organization entering the season. He's competing for the fifth spot in the starting rotation and could open the season in the bullpen as a long relief man.
May's situation is similar to that of Drew Hutchison of the Toronto Blue Jays. A former top prospect who missed most of the 2013 season recovering from Tommy John surgery, Hutchison enlisted the services of pro sports yoga trainer Dana Santas prior to the 2014 season.
Hutchison broke training camp last season as the Jays No. 5 starter, then went on to log 184 innings (third among Blue Jays starters) and lead the staff with 184 strikeouts. "Once I started doing yoga, I immediately noticed the effects, with how much more flexible I became and how much better I felt," Hutchison told STACK.
Santas also worked with Washington Nationals CF Denard Span, who posted career-high totals in hits (184), doubles (39) and stolen bases (31) in 2014.
When working with baseball athletes, Santas focuses on improving three areas of the body that are crucial for a player's performance: T-spine (mid-back) mobility, pelvic function and hip mobility, and core stability.
You can find Hutchison's complete yoga routine here. You may also find May taking the bump at a Major League stadium near you in 2015. If he cracks the Twins starting rotation, it wouldn't be a stretch to say that yoga helped him earn the spot.
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