What scouts and Anthony Kay see in Kay

November 12th, 2019

Anthony Kay was a little late to the party that was the Blue Jays season of opportunities, but it didn’t take long after his arrival for the 24-year-old left-hander to make a solid first impression.

Acquired from the Mets -- along with Simeon Woods Richardson -- ahead of the Trade Deadline in exchange for Marcus Stroman, Kay immediately understood how the changing circumstances might weigh in his favor.

“You see the guys that they have over there with [Jacob] deGrom and [Noah] Syndergaard, and I didn’t really feel like I would crack the rotation,” Kay said. “But once I got traded over here, the Blue Jays have a lot of opportunity for pretty much anyone coming up, so it was definitely a good opportunity for me to get up here and show everyone what I can do.”

Kay began the 2019 season at Double-A Binghamton, where he posted a 1.49 ERA over 12 starts and 66 1/3 innings with 23 walks and 70 strikeouts. After his midseason promotion to Triple-A, Kay allowed 23 runs over seven starts 31 1/3 frames with 11 walks and 26 strikeouts with Syracuse, but showed a marked improvement in the International League after being traded to the Blue Jays.

With the Bisons, the New York native posted a 2.50 ERA over seven starts (36 innings). In September, Toronto’s No. 4 prospect joined the expanded roster and saw action in three games, getting two starts before a back issue sidelined him in the last week of the season. The rookie allowed nine runs on 15 hits with five walks and 13 strikeouts in 14 Major League innings.

What the scouts say
While the sample size at the highest level was small, the No. 31 overall pick from the 2016 Draft -- who underwent Tommy John surgery not long after signing -- has continued to impress those who have seen him throughout his two-year journey in professional baseball.

“He’s got a chance to be a top-of-the-rotation guy,” one National League scout said. “I’ve seen him a lot, from last year when he was coming back from Tommy John and he was 87-to-89, to this year with the Mets and Toronto. He really knows how to pitch and he competes. He’s got a deceptive delivery and it’s tough to pick him up.

“He doesn’t throw downhill or pitch low, but he gets a lot of swings and misses on his fastball because you don’t pick it up -- it gets on you. And his secondary stuff is really, really good. He’s got a great feel for the change, has good arm action, he sells it well. His breaking pitch is outstanding, he just needs to tighten up the command. His secondary stuff he commands a little bit better, but for me he’s a third starter with a chance to be a top-of-the-rotation guy. He’s [Toronto’s] best starter.”

While other evaluators have Kay slotted a little later in the rotation, there’s some consensus that with an improved ability to locate his pitches -- a fastball averaging between 93 and 94 mph through the entire year, a curveball sitting between 76 and 80 mph, and a changeup averaging 85 mph -- he will continue to deceive hitters.

“I see him as a solid No. 4 starter with some upside,” another evaluator said. “He has a solid, deceptive delivery, and he’s aggressive, pitches off his fastball, but needs to locate it better. He loves to pitch in on both right-handers and left-handed hitters, but works more up than down with his fastball. His curveball has excellent angle against lefties, and he can get it down and in to right-handed hitters. He has good arm action and sells his changeup, which has tail and fade.”

Making the grades
Evaluating himself using a Major League Scouting Bureau report and the 2 to 8 scouting scale, Kay offered the biggest jump from his present to future grade on his curveball, a pitch that one professional scout valued in particular because, “the angle on it is so good, and he knows how to expand the zone with it against a lefty."

Challenged on his circling of the descriptor “durable” as the 6-foot-1, 218-pound hurler completed the evaluation while temporarily sidelined, Kay said, “It’s all right. One missed start in two years -- I’ll take that.”

Continuing through the offerings of physical descriptors, the young southpaw noted, “I do have small hands though. I’ve been told that a bunch of times, very small hands. We measure them, so compared to everyone else, because everyone else is huge.”

Though he indicated that the report was informative and inclusive of many important factors that make up a player, Kay emphasized that not everything can be quantified on paper.

“You can say you have baseball instincts, but it doesn’t really show how well you know the game,” he said. “I feel like you need to see someone in person to actually know how well they communicate [and] if they’re talking about the game, trying to learn from their teammates.”

Continued development
Looking to next year, Kay wants to continue to use the aggressiveness that he believes got him to the Majors and build on it with consistency.

“Being aggressive is one thing,” he said. “Working hard at your craft and always looking to improve a pitch or something like that, rather than being content with what you’ve got. You feel like you’ve always got to work at something.

“I just want to be consistent in everything. I feel like my first outing, my offspeed was really good, and my last two, it kind of fell off a little bit I feel like. But if I can throw all three pitches consistently, I’d have a lot more success.”