Anthony Kay has yet to pitch in a game at Sahlen Field since being traded to the Toronto Blue Jays on July 28 as part of the swap that sent All-Star starting pitcher Marcus Stroman to the New York Mets.
But the left-handed prospect from Long Island is already developing into a fan favourite – make that favorite – after engaging the Blue Jays’ faithful on social media, requesting info about Canada and Toronto and responding in earnest.
Jays fan I need some help.. gimme some info on Canada/Toronto that I need to know. I’m clueless 😂
— Anthony Kay (@TonyBuckets18) July 30, 2019
“I can’t get behind milk in a bag or adding an extra letter in colour ... I’m taking a stand,” Kay tweeted, and the volley continued.
“What is poutine?” he wrote.
“Pineapple on a pizza?” read another. “That’s where I draw the line. I’m from New York you don’t do that.”
Kay, 24, was the Mets’ first-round draft pick in 2016, the 31st overall selection, after a stellar three-year career at the University of Connecticut, where he set a school record with 263 career strikeouts. New York also drafted him out of Ward Melville High School in East Setauket – the same high school that produced Mets starting pitcher Steven Matz – in the 29th round in 2013.
At the time of the trade, Kay was rated the fourth-best prospect in the Mets’ farm system by MLB Pipeline. He’s ranked the No. 5 prospect in Toronto’s organization, with recently promoted shortstop Bo Bichette in the top spot.
Kay struggled in his first game in a Bisons uniform, a 5-1 loss on July 31 at Lehigh Valley. He allowed seven runs (three earned) on nine hits and three walks – all season highs – while striking out three in 4 2/3 innings.
“I feel like I just got a little bit unlucky,” Kay said the next day in a pregame segment with Bisons play-by-play announcer Pat Malacaro. “They were getting a couple of infield singles and that’s just what you’ve got to live with.”
But he wouldn’t dwell on the performance.
“You always want to turn the page after an outing, even if it’s a good one or bad one,” Kay said. “You want to focus on the next outing and focus on the next team you’re going to face.”
The last couple of months have been an adjustment period.
Kay has struggled since a midseason promotion from Double-A Binghamton to Triple-A Syracuse, where he compiled a 1-3 record, 6.61 ERA, 1.62 WHIP and 26 strikeouts to 11 walks in 31.1 innings over seven games.
One of those defeats came in a 9-3 loss at Buffalo on June 29, to this date his only start at Sahlen Field.
Kay allowed four earned runs on six hits and three walks while striking out four in five innings.
“He has a fastball/change-up combination that’s real good,” Bisons manager Bobby Meacham said after the trade. “And I don’t remember guys unless I saw something really good. When they mentioned who it was, I remembered him right away.”
Kay throws a mid-90s fastball that has touched 96 mph; a high-spin, top-to-bottom curveball that he locates to sides of the plate; and an above-average change-up with sink at the bottom of the zone, according to Baseball America, which notes his inconsistent control and command.
“He’s got major league stuff,” Bisons pitching coach Doug Mathis said, “and we obviously wouldn’t have acquired him in the Stroman deal if we didn’t think so. I’m excited for the opportunity to work with him.”
The Jays also received right-handed pitcher Simeon Woods-Richardson in the Stroman trade. Woods-Richardson, 18, the Mets’ second-round pick last season, received glowing reviews from talent evaluators despite a 4.25 ERA in the Low-A South Atlantic League this season.
Kay enjoyed a meteoric rise through the Mets’ farm system after Tommy John surgery sidelined him for the 2017 season, pitching for four minor league affiliates while climbing from Low-A to Triple-A in less than two seasons.
He started this year with Double-A Binghamton, where he produced a 7-3 record, 1.49 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and racked up 70 strikeouts to 23 walks in 66.1 innings over 12 games.
“That was the first time my dad’s been able to watch me in professional baseball,” Kay said. “So it was really cool. A quick drive up.”
Kay also impressed in the MLB Futures Game on July 7, during All-Star Weekend, when he allowed one hit in a scoreless fourth inning. He struck out one.
Kay could be pitching in Toronto as early as this season, according to Baseball America, or next season, according to MLB Pipeline, which both project him as a mid-rotation starter.
Bisons fans are still waiting for his first turn in Buffalo, at least for the home team.
The Bisons are in the midst of a six-game road trip – they will have played nine of their last 12 games on the road once they return home on Aug. 13 against Toledo.
That stretch was interrupted by a three-game homestand against Lehigh Valley, which began on Friday with a fan handing Kay a small bag of ketchup-flavored potato chips, a Canadian favorite.
He deemed them “not bad but not great,” tweeting his assessment along with a photo of the bag of Old Dutch chips in his hand.
— Anthony Kay (@TonyBuckets18) August 3, 2019
“I’m hearing those r the wrong brand and I gotta try something else,” Kay tweeted later. “I’ll give them another try for sure.”
“Send me a shipping address!” one fan responded, adding a photo of bags of Lay's and Doritos.
Another suggested mailing the chips to the ballpark.
“I’ll for sure open em,” Kay wrote.
— Ryan | 45-67 (@CavanBiggio) August 3, 2019