Position: SP Bats/Throws: L/L Age: March 21, 1995 (23)
Acquired: 2016 First Round Draft Pick (31st overall) from the University of Connecticut
Previous Rank: 9
Stats (Columbia & St. Lucie): 7-11, 4.26 ERA, 1.410 WHIP, 3.6 BB/9, 9.0 K/9
The Mets appear to really like the left-handed pitchers from Ward Melville High School. Back in 2009, the team drafted Steven Matz right out of high school. Four years later, they would then draft Kay with their 29th round draft pick. When Kay opted to attend UConn, the Mets jumped on their next chance to grab him by drafting him with the compensatory pick they received when Daniel Murphy signed with the Nationals.
While the Mets were apparently eager to acquire Matz, they would have to wait another year. After a heavy, and according to some excessive, workload in his three year collegiate career. Kay would have a fraying UCL ligament. The UCL ligament not only led to Kay having Tommy John surgery, but it would cost him. It would cost him over a year in development time, and it would cost him as he would take an underslot bonus.
Finally, after not having pitched competitively since being named The American Tournament Most Outstanding Player, Kay would begin his professional career with the Columbia Fireflies.
— UConn Baseball (@UConnBSB) June 10, 2016
As could be reasonably expected, it was a mercurial year for Kay as he was just getting acclimated to pitching again. Notably, not once all season did Kay throw more than 97 pitches in one start. More often than not, he threw 92 or fewer pitches. He would not top the 93 pitch mark until his sixth start of the season. As a result, Kay would throw five or fewer innings in 11 of his 23 starts.
It should be noted in many ways, the 2018 season for Kay was more about him returning, staying healthy, and getting stronger. It was about him returning to the mound and getting back on track to being the pitcher which led the Mets to draft him on two separate occasions.
Fortunately, there were glimpses with Kay. In a June 28 start against the Asheville Tourists, the Rockies Single-A affiliate, Kay would strike out 11 batters while walking none over 6.2 innings. This start was all the more impressive when you consider according to MLB Pipeline the Rockies lineup would have two of their better prospects – Bret Boswell (29) and Ryan Vilade (7). This start was a glimpse of what could be with Kay, and it was an indication to the Mets organization Kay was ready to be promoted to St. Lucie.
There would also be bumps in the road. At times, he would struggle with command walking four or more batters five times. He would have a good stretch after getting called up to St. Lucie with a 2.83 ERA in five July starts, but he would fade down the stretch with a 5.11 ERA in five August starts. In three of those five August starts, he would not make it through the fifth.
To a certain extent, that is to be expected. As discussed above, Kay had not pitched since he was a Junior at UConn. What was more important than anything is we saw glimpses from Kay while he stayed healthy for a full season.
The biggest thing we saw from Kay was spin. According to Baseball America, Kay’s curveball had an average spin rate of nearly 3,000 RPM. To put that into perspective, Baseball Savant had Seth Lugo‘s famous curveball at 3,064 RPM last year. In addition to the spin, Kay showed the ability to locate his curveball well. What is all the more exciting about the curveball he showed last season was out of the draft, Kay was viewed as more of a fastball/change-up pitcher who needed to develop a third pitch.
Kay’s fastball typically sat in the low 90s, but he did show the ability to ramp it up to around 96 MPH. More important than the velocity is the movement. The movement allows him to utilize the fastball up in the zone. He also has that ability because Kay counter-balances the pitch with a good change-up. There is a little less than a 10 MPH difference between the pitches which does permit him to keep hitters off balance.
Of the three pitches, the change is seen as the pitch which can be an above average pitch. The reason for that is due to its sinking action. The sinking action helps him keep the ball in the ballpark, and it also helps him neutralize right-handed batters. That is evidenced by right-handed batters striking out 22 percent of plate appearances against Kay.
Looking at his repertoire, it is interesting to note when he was drafted MLB.com listed Mark Buehrle as a comp for Kay. Given the skill set and “bulldog mentality” Kay has exhibited, you can understand why the comp was made. If Kay lives up to that, we may see a mid rotation starter. If his curveball proves out to be better than expected, and it has so far, Kay’s ceiling may be higher than people anticipated it to be.
50-46 Led by Michael Paez
45-41 Led by Ranfy Adon
40-36 Led by Anthony Dirocie
35-31 Led by Ryley Gilliam
30-26 Led by Chris Viall
25 Carlos Cortes
24 Ali Sanchez
23 Eric Hanhold
22 Luis Carpio
21 Freddy Valdez
20 Walker Lockett
19 Junior Santos
18 Gavin Cecchini
17 Jordan Humphreys
16 Christian James
15 Tony Dibrell
14 Francisco Alvarez
13 Will Toffey
12 Adrian Hernandez
11 Desmond Lindsay
10 Franklyn Kilome
9 Shervyen Newton
8 Thomas Szapucki
7 Simeon Woods-Richardson