Kay puts potential on display vs. Braves

August 5th, 2020

There wasn’t much to like about the Blue Jays’ 10-1 loss to Atlanta in the series opener on Tuesday, but left-hander Anthony Kay pitched as well as he has in the Major Leagues over two innings of relief.

Kay entered with the bases loaded, nobody out and Freddie Freeman at the dish, which isn’t exactly a pitcher’s dream scenario. He got Freeman to ground into the rare 4-2-3 double play to keep a run from crossing, then struck out Johan Camargo with a heavy fastball.

“Freddie doesn’t really swing and miss that much, so we were trying to get him to roll over something,” Kay said Wednesday. “Fortunately, he hit it hard right at Biggio and we were able to turn it. Camargo, after that, it was about getting an out any way possible.”

Kay touched 96 mph in his second inning of work, almost matching his hardest pitch in the big leagues (96.2 mph). This is where it becomes a good problem for the Blue Jays, and one can consider Ryan Borucki and Thomas Hatch to be part of this same group: All three are starters long-term, but they have flashed some exciting short-term potential in bullpen roles.

As rosters are slimmed to 28 players soon, the Blue Jays will need to make some tough decisions. It’s ideal to have a few of your top depth starters stretched out at the alternate training site in Rochester, N.Y., but Chase Anderson will be part of that rotation picture soon, as well. How, then, do the Blue Jays strike a balance between being competitive today and developing their young arms for tomorrow?

Both Kay and Hatch are still prospects by definition, ranking No. 11 and No. 25, respectively.

Working in Kay’s favor is his pitching style, which is naturally aggressive against any style of hitter. That’s the first thing that caught they eye of manager Charlie Montoyo last season when Kay made his MLB debut. He also came out of the bullpen in college, so it’s not completely unfamiliar to him.

“I’ve always been comfortable going inside to righties and lefties,” Kay said in Summer Camp. “I feel more comfortable than going outside -- rather than leaving the ball on the outer half of the plate -- so that’s something I’ve always done my whole life. Pete [Walker] and Charlie definitely encourage it.”

Kay's role could gain some clarity naturally as rosters shrink and given injuries are bound to hit at some point, but for now, he offers Montoyo an arm that's capable of both high-leverage innings and length. Tuesday's performance should only open more doors for the 25-year-old.

Blue Jays in updated Top 100 Prospects
MLB Pipeline has released its updated Top 100 Prospects list, and Blue Jays right-hander Nate Pearson comes in as the No. 9 overall prospect in baseball. This makes Pearson the game’s third-best pitching prospect behind only the Padres’ MacKenzie Gore (No. 5) and the Tigers’ Casey Mize (No. 8).

Joining Pearson on the list is the No. 5 overall pick in the 2020 Draft, Austin Martin, who ranks No. 20. Jordan Groshans now ranks No. 83.

Looking at the Blue Jays’ own Top 30 list, Martin slides in as the new No. 2 prospect, behind Pearson, while 2020 second-round pick CJ Van Eyk out of Florida State ranks No. 12.

Roster moves
Prior to Wednesday’s game, the Blue Jays placed outfielder Derek Fisher on the 10-day injured list with a left quad strain and recalled outfielder Billy McKinney from the taxi squad.

Fisher has appeared in six games this season, hitting .250 with a .900 OPS and one home run. McKinney opened the season on the 30-man active roster, but was optioned to the taxi squad before appearing in a game.