Anthony Kay has been a part of the Mets organization for the past three years and has had quite a ride in getting there.
Kay, 23, is a Long Island native who grew up in Stony Brook and went to Ward Melville High School, the same school Steven Matz attended. He graduated high school in 2013 before being drafted by the Mets in the 29th round of the MLB Draft.
However, he declined the Mets offer and decided to go to the University of Connecticut. After his junior year, the left-hander decided to enter the MLB Draft again in 2016. This time around, he was drafted in the first round (31st overall) by the Mets again, using a compensatory pick received by the team as a result of losing Daniel Murphy the previous offseason.
After being drafted, though, it was discovered that the then-21-year-old had a torn ligament in his elbow that was going to require Tommy John Surgery, which resulted in him signing an under-slot deal and forced him to not make his minor league debut until this year.
Kay started his minor league career with the Columbia Fireflies, where he went 4-4 with a 4.54 ERA and 1.37 WHIP to go along with 78 strikeouts and 22 walks in 69 1/3 innings (13 starts).
The Mets decided to promote him at the end of June, though, and he made his first appearance for high-A St. Lucie on July 4.
Since that promotion, the lefty has gone 3-6 with a 4.04 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, and 40 strikeouts in 49 innings of work (nine starts).
MLB Pipeline views Kay as one of the better prospects in the system, ranking seventh on their list of top prospects and fourth among pitchers in the organization. He ranks between David Peterson (sixth) and Ronny Mauricio (eighth) on the list.
I had the privilege of speaking with Anthony Kay a couple of weeks ago about his minor league career, his recovery from Tommy John Surgery, and much more. Thank you to Anthony for taking the time out of his day to do this and we at MMO wish him the best of luck in his career. If you want to follow him on Twitter, his handle is @TonyBuckets18.
MMO: What was your recovery from Tommy John Surgery like and did you have to rework your game as a result of that?
Anthony: Yeah it was definitely tough. Sitting out a whole year is never what you want to do, but I feel like I’m stronger than I was before it. My command is definitely a little bit off this year since I pretty much had almost two years off. I got to get used to it a little bit, but it’s starting to come together.
MMO: Has there been any sort of progression with that or did your progress just kind of plateau at some point?
Anthony: Yeah, I definitely feel like my command has been getting a lot better especially with the changeup and curveball. I’m still working on it with the fastball a little bit, but I feel like the curveball and changeup have definitely been a lot better over the course of the year.
MMO: That’s good. I know a lot of people will talk about Tommy John Surgery at this point and be like “you’ll miss a year, but you’ll come back potentially stronger than before,” but did you ever have a fear about not coming back the way you wanted to. Were you personally affected by having to sit out a whole year?
Anthony: Yeah you definitely have to be mentally tough considering the fact you have to sit out a whole year which is definitely not fun. It also definitely creeps into your mind a little bit that you might never come back the same way you were before, but you just got to trust the process, the rehab program, and that you will be better than before.
MMO: I know this was your first year, so how did you adapt to pro ball in comparison to how you dealt with pitching in high school and college?
Anthony: For the most part, I was just trying to get my feet wet since I haven’t really pitched at that level before. It wasn’t really trying to adjust. I watched a lot of hitters and went to a bunch of games the whole year so I didn’t really adjust too much, it was just going out there and pitching.
MMO: How much do you incorporate scouting reports and analytics into your game plan at this point in your career?
Anthony: It’s definitely a big part of the game right now and I look at the scouting report before the game, but at the end of the day when you’re having trouble on the mound you’re going to go to your best stuff. I’d rather pitch to my strengths than pitch to the hitter’s weaknesses.
MMO: Yeah, of course, that definitely is the best way to go about that. Since it was this year, what was that very first appearance like for you? I have to imagine it was surreal, but do you remember any specifics about it?
Anthony: It was awesome. I remember I was pretty nervous going into it, since I hadn’t pitched in two years, so I was definitely a little bit nervous, but once I got out there it was awesome being out there.
MMO: When I was doing some research before this, I noticed that you went to the same school as Steven Matz. Have you guys spoken about that at any point so far?
Anthony: Yeah, we talked when I was going through the rehab process. He kind of just told me to be patient and trust everything and know that it will all come full circle and I’ll come back better than ever.
MMO: He went through Tommy John Surgery as well so that must have been pretty helpful, right?
Anthony: Yeah any type of advice I could get from anyone who had already been through it was definitely helpful.
MMO: Being a Long Island native, what was it like being the drafted by the Mets twice? Did you expect it at all or were you given any sort of indication that was going to happen?
Anthony: No, but it’s extremely cool to be drafted by your hometown team. It was just a surreal moment. I had my friends and family with me and it was just a once in a lifetime moment.
MMO: Being a Long Island native myself, that would be a dream come true for me, so I can’t even imagine how awesome it must have been having it happen to you not once, but twice. Give me a little bit of a scouting report on yourself as a pitcher.
Anthony: I’m going to use my fastball a bunch, I have a good changeup. I’m still working on the curveball a bit in terms of getting it consistent, but I’ll slip that in there. For the most part, though, I’ll mostly go with the fastball and the changeup.
MMO: What would you say your goals are for the remainder of this season and even going into next year would be?
Anthony: Just staying healthy I think is the main key. Obviously, pitching well while healthy is the ultimate goal, but for the most part, it’s just to stay healthy and limit the walks and keep the ball in the zone.
MMO: Having missed a whole year, are there any techniques that you didn’t use in the past to try and stay healthy that you have incorporated since and still do now?
Anthony: Yeah, we do bands beforehand and we do a lot of stuff after we pitch also with the goal of being able to bounce back each and every start, but it’s nothing crazy that I didn’t do in college or anything like that.
MMO: Who are some players you have gotten to play alongside that you would say Mets fans should be watching out for?
MMO: For sure. I know for the last couple of days you have gotten to watch and be in the same clubhouse as David Wright, what’s that been like?
Anthony: Yeah, it’s awesome, he’s definitely a true professional in the game and having a Mets legend like him around is pretty cool.
MMO: Have you gotten to speak to him or gotten any advice from him while he’s been there?
Anthony: Not really, I haven’t really been able to talk to him a whole lot and I’ve kind of been letting him go about his own business. Just having him around the clubhouse has been incredible, though, and it would be incredible to see him take the field for the Mets again at some point.
MMO: Who was your baseball idol growing up?
Anthony: Well, one guy I always loved to watch pitch was Andy Pettite because he was a true bulldog on the mound and awesome to watch pitch.
MMO: Is there any adjustment that you can clearly tell you made this year and how do you think you accomplished it?
Anthony: Not really, I mean my number one goal is to be consistent. I feel like my mechanics are all over the place after missing so much time so really the goal right now is to be consistent as much as possible.
MMO: What have you been doing to try and help with that?
Anthony: I’ve just been throwing a lot of bullpens. I’ve been working with coach Valdez and coach Hurst in Columbia.
MMO: How helpful so far have those guys been in your career so far?
Anthony: They’ve been very helpful for me and it’s definitely good to always have an extra set of eyes on you at all times and they both pitched in the big leagues so it’s definitely good to have those guys behind you at all times helping you out.
MMO: Was there a point in like middle school or high school where you realized you were a lot better than everyone else your age? I know a lot of players say they realized it around then and I know Michael Conforto‘s dad said that he realized his son was better than the average player when he broke a glass window with a whiffle ball when he was in middle school.
Anthony: Nothing like breaking a glass window with a whiffle ball, but I got pulled up the varsity team during my freshman year of high school and I think that was kind of the point where I realized that.
MMO: Who in the Mets organization has had the biggest impact on you far?
Anthony: I don’t think it’s really just one or two people. I think it’s kind of more a bunch of people helping me out and that combination of all of them working together to keep me healthy. If I had to pick one person, I’d probably say Debo (Jon Debus), who’s the rehab coordinator. I spent around a year working with him and he was huge for me through the rehab process.
MMO: Going back to the rehab a little bit, did you ever have to force yourself to sit down and take it as a day-by-day process and not wander off into the mindset of, “oh, I need to start throwing today, or I need to get back on the field and start a rehab assignment?”
Anthony: Yeah, that probably happened almost every day. I was so eager to try and get back out on the mound. I really had to just sit back and wait a little bit. The rehab gets a little tedious, but you just have to try and take it day-by-day.
MMO: Has there been a point so far where you went out on the mound and were able to just forget about the surgery and the injury history as if it never happened yet, with this is your first year pitching after it?
Anthony: I’d probably say that it was the last start in Columbia that I made. I think it was against Asheville. It was probably my best outing of the year and it was the best I felt this season. I mean, I never try and worry about everything, though, it’s just pitching.
MMO: That’s good for sure. Who would you say is the funniest player you’ve been around so far?
Anthony: Probably David Peterson. That kid’s a clown.
MMO: Moving into some lighter hearted questions, what’s your favorite movie that you like to watch on your downtime?
Anthony: Any comedy really, for me. I’m personally a big (The) Office fan. I’ve probably watched that show six or seven times through. Whenever I can’t really find anything on Netflix, I just end up watching that in the end.
MMO: Being a Long Island native, where is/was your favorite place in the area to go?
Anthony: There are so many great places to go on Long Island. I’d probably say Sea Point, which is probably about 10 minutes from my house.
MMO: Nice! What do you like to do when you get some free time?
Anthony: I’m a big video game guy, so whenever I got free time I’ll use my Playstation. I always bring it on the road for when we have downtime. It definitely helps to wind down with that.
MMO: Awesome, what games do you play?
Anthony: I play a lot of Fortnite and MLB The Show, and since Madden (19) just came out I’m pretty big on that right now.
MMO: Well, thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me and I wish you all the best in your career going forward!
Anthony: Thanks man, I appreciate it!