Jays fans got their first look at part of the return in the Marcus Stroman trade on Saturday.
On July 28, 2019 in what was a bit of a surprising move, the Toronto Blue Jays traded all-star RHP Marcus Stroman to the New York Mets for two pitching prospects, LHP Anthony Kay and RHP Simeon Woods Richardson.
It wasn’t so much a surprise that Stroman was traded; in fact it had been widely speculated for some time beforehand that he would be. The Jays are rebuilding and Stroman will be eligible for free agency after the 2020 season.
The surprising part was who he was traded to. At the time of the trade, the Mets were borderline contenders in 2019 at best. On July 28, the Mets were 50-55, six games back of the second wild card with six teams to pass to claim that spot. Since then, they have gone 22-14, are currently four games back with four teams to pass, so they still have a chance with 21 regular season games remaining.
Kay was drafted by the Mets in first round of the 2016 draft, 31st overall. Unfortunately he needed Tommy John surgery later that year. As a result, his professional baseball career didn’t start until 2018.
The 24-year old southpaw has had a decent two years in MiLB. He had a 3.58 ERA, including a 2.50 ERA in seven games with the Buffalo Bisons after the trade.
In terms of tools, Kay throws a fastball, curveball and changeup. Fangraphs rates all three pitches as 50 grade (MLB average) but they do project the curveball and changeup to improve to slightly above average at 55 each. Command has been a bit below average at 45, with the potential to improve to 50 grade.
He has averaged 3.7/9 BB/9 in the minors which will need to improve for him to succeed in MLB. His K/9 of 9.1 however is quite good. When Kay succeeds, he mixes his pitches effectively, changing speed and location.
Kay faced a tough test for his first appearance in the show. The Tampa Bay Rays, at the start of the game, was 84-59 and holding down the first AL Wild Card spot. Kay got through the Rays lineup the first time without allowing any runs, but after that it was a different story.
Kay surrendered three straight singles to the top of the Rays lineup to trail 1-0. A fly ball out and HBP to load the bases, Kay struck out Kevin Kiermaier for the second out of the inning and it looked like he might escape without allowing any further damage. But the next batter, Willy Adames, drew a bases loaded walk to make it 2-0. Kay then settled down to strike out Mike Zunino and escape without allowing any further damage.
His final line for the night read 5.2 innings, two runs on four hits with three walks with eight strikeouts. He left with a 3-2 lead which unfortunately Toronto’s bullpen couldn’t hold, in a game the Jays ultimately lost 5-3. He threw 92 pitches, 53 of them for strikes. He will have to settle for a no decision and a solid outing in his first game in MLB. His first big league win will come another day.
As a team, the Jays pitching staff has a 4.72 ERA, 20th best out of 30 MLB teams. It’s no secret that they need to improve their pitching in order to move forward in the future. The 2019 season has been an open audition for young players looking to fill roster spots for the team in the future. So far, so good for Anthony Kay.