With the first big domino to fall at this year’s trade deadline, Mets preseason number 10 prospect Anthony Kay was one of the players to find a new home – going from Triple-A Syracuse, across the state to Buffalo. More importantly, he is looking to progress to north of the border to Toronto, Canada sooner rather than later.
For Kay, dominance has followed most of his minor league career, but it is not without some road blocks. Just months after being a first round pick by the Mets, and before he threw a professional pitch, Kay was forced to endure Tommy John surgery. This also included the grueling rehab that followed.
“It has been a lot of fun,” Kay said about being all the way back and a step away from the big leagues. “Having that one year sitting out was pretty tough. Watching all of your friends and teammates going out there and compete it definitely tough, not being able to be out there. It has been fun being out there for the last year and a half, being able to pitch healthy. Hopefully I continue to do that.”
As for the rehab and the timing of the surgery, Kay said that the mental part was much worse than the physical rehab itself. He said that he was always wanting to go at the rehab 100 percent and that listening to the trainers and his own body, rather than his personal competitiveness was a struggle for him.
Hitting this adversity has also prepared the left-hander to the struggles he has hit at Triple-A so far. After posting a 1.49 ERA in Double-A prior to his promotion, Kay had a 6.61 ERA in his first seven starts with Syracuse before the trade.
He said that the level has just been an adjustment so far. He said that he feels like he is making good pitches and the more talented hitters are just squaring them up more often. He said that at the higher level, he just has to make every pitch with a plan. He said that there is no room for any get-me-over offerings.
“You just have to learn that these guys have a lot more experience and you have to be a lot less predictable,” Kay said. “Throw what they are not expecting.”
To say that the Mets desired and wanted Kay badly would be an understatement. Including him in the Stroman deal really says something. Kay was drafted by the Mets twice, once in the 29th round in 2013 and then again with the 31st overall pick in 2016. Kay remembers how aggressively the Mets pursued him in 2013, but he was upfront with them that he had that same strong desire to go to school.
“I wanted to go to school and experience college baseball for three years,” Kay said. “I wanted to go to college and get that under my belt. I wanted to go and prove I was better than being a 29th round pick.”
And while in college, he dominated. In his collegiate experience at UConn, Kay posted a 2.64 ERA with a 1.175 WHIP. He also posted an 8.3 K/9 with a 3.2 BB/9. Kay said that he did not get a lot of offers out of high school and it was between UConn, St. John’s, or Stony Brook. UConn was appealing because it was far enough from home, but close enough for his family and friends to visit.
Another thing that stands out with Kay’s game is that he pitches with glasses on. While looking at photos, these are one feature is one thing missing in many of them from his time at UConn. This is simply because he did not realize the he needed them.
“I did not wear anything up until my junior year,” Kay said. “My sophomore year, I kind of struggled to see the signs and stuff like that. I thought ‘I should probably get that checked out.’ They said that I needed it and tried contacts for a little bit, and it just wasn’t comfortable being in my eyes.”
Hits and home runs have been the largest issue for Kay at Triple-A so far. He has allowed 40 hits and seven home runs in 31.1 innings of work. Walks have not helped either, as he has allowed 11 free passes. With an elevated 1.628 WHIP, allowing contact is a recipe for disaster and it has been for Kay so far. His H/9 is nearly two per nine innings higher at Triple-A than any other level.
The only 24-year-old Kay allowed nearly the same amount of hits in double the innings at Double-A. Due to this, it feels like a pitcher getting hit in the mouth for the first time at a high level. His ultimate success just depends on how he adjusts and learns. Based on how Kay has dealt with adversity in the past, he is hard to bet against.
Ryan Palencer is a lifelong baseball fan who covers the Triple-A International League upper level MiLB prospects. He is located in Indianapolis, which features the AAA Indians. Ryan has covered Minor League, Major League, and All-Star games with Pirates Prospects prior to joining Prospects1500. Follow him on Twitter @RyanPalencer.