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Mets Minor League Players of the Week: Week Three

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What minor league players put up the best numbers this past week, April 21st to April 27th?

Anthony Kay
Chris McShane

Hitter of the Week

Danny Espinosa

2019 Season: 20 G, 72 AB, .278/.342/.486, 20 H, 6 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR, 7 BB, 12 K, 1/3 SB, .298 BABIP

Week: 6 G, 24 AB, .375/.423/.750, 9 H, 3 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR, 2 BB, 3 K, 1/2 SB, .368 BABIP

Danny Espinosa (4/22/19)

Danny Espinosa was drafted by the Washington Nationals in the third round of the 2008 MLB Draft out of Cal State Long Beach. Considered a top 100 prospect in baseball, the Nats pushed Espinosa hard and he responded, performing well in the aggressive assignments they gave him. He made the majors in 2010 as a September call-up and was Washington’s starting shortstop in 2011. He hit .236/.323/.414 in 158 games that season, slugging 21 homers and stealing 17 stolen bases. His performance that year got him three votes for National League Rookie of the Year, which was good for sixth place behind winner Craig Kimbral, runner-up Freddy Freeman, Vance Worley, Wilson Ramos, and Josh Collmenter.

Espinosa spent the next few years playing up the middle for the Nationals, but his effectiveness was hampered by his low batting average, low on-base percentage, and high strikeout rate. After the 2016 season, Washington acquired Adam Eaton from the Chicago White Sox. His acquisition meant that the team was going to shift Trea Turner back into the infield, which meant that Espinosa was going to be the odd man out. Shortly before the new year, the team ended up trading him to the Angels in exchange for pitchers Austin Adams and Kyle McGowin. His tenure in Los Angeles was short. Though it started off with a bang- his first hit was a game winning home run- he ended hitting .162/.237/.276 in 77 games and was designated for assignment and eventually released in July. The Mariners and Rays both took gambles on him down the stretch, but he didn’t do anything of any importance for either team.

He bounced around in the minor leagues in 2018, signing with the Yankees over the winter and playing for the Blue Jays, Dodgers and Phillies at different points of the season. After spending the winter in Mexico playing for the Naranjeros de Hermosillo, he signed with the Mets this winter and his time so far in Syracuse has been much better than his time with Buffalo, Lehigh Valley, and Oklahoma City.

Despite the strong start to the season, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where Espinosa figures into the plans of the major league club. The Mets’ infield is already crowded with Robinson Cano, Jeff McNeil, and Amed Rosario juggling playing time at second base and short. Add the impending return of Jed Lowrie from the IL, and fellow Syracuse Mets infielders Luis Guillorme and Adainy Hechavarría as competition for possible future playing time if it becomes available, and it is hard to see a path to the majors for the veteran.

Pitcher of the Week

Anthony Kay

2019 Season: 5 G (5 GS), 24.1 IP, 13 H, 6 R, 5 ER (1.85 ERA), 11 BB, 29 K, .226 BABIP

Week: 2 G (2 GS), 11.1 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER (0.79 ERA), 5 BB, 17 K, .238 BABIP

Anthony Kay (4/23/19)

With the 31st selection overall in the 2016 MLB Draft, the Mets drafted Anthony Kay, a left-hander out of the University of Connecticut. Though Kay had a fantastic season with UCONN that year- he posted a 2.65 ERA in 119.0 innings, allowing 99 hits, walking 37, and striking out 111- and generally had an excellent collegiate career- he posted a cumulative 2.64 ERA in 286.0 innings, allowing 257 hits, walking 107, and striking out 268- the Mets had been interested in the southpaw long before 2016. Born and raised in Stony Brook, Kay attended Ward Melville High School in East Setauket, the very same high school that Steven Matz attended. Just as Matz had set all kinds of records and won all kinds of awards, Kay was following in his footsteps, setting 27 pitching records for the Ward Melville Patriots of his own. Looking to strike gold twice, the Mets drafted Kay in the 29th round of the 2013 MLB Draft. They offered him a six-figure signing bonus, but he chose to honor his college commitment to the University of Connecticut and attended college instead. Fast forward to 2016 and the Mets selected Kay once again, using the compensation pick that they received when Daniel Murphy signed with the Washington Nationals.

Kay did not sign until late and was one of the last high-profile draftees to sign with a team before the July 15 deadline. With a first-round slot value of $1,972,100, he and the Mets agreed to an under-slot $1,100,000 signing bonus. It was believed that the process took so long, and that Kay signed for under-slot value, because of concerns that showed up in his elbow during his physicals. Specifically, x-rays showed fraying in the UCL ligament in his left elbow that might necessitate Tommy John surgery. He did not suit up professionally for the Mets after signing, and sure enough, it was announced in October that he had undergone Tommy John surgery. He missed the entire 2017 season, but his recovery was without setbacks and he made his professional debut in 2018. He began the season with the Columbia Fireflies and posted a 4.54 ERA in 69.0 innings, allowing 73 hits, walking 22, and striking out 78. He was then promoted to the St. Lucie Mets mid-season and pitched 53.0 innings there, posting a 3.88 ERA with 51 hits, 27 walks, and 45 strikeouts.

Kay has a smaller frame and maximizes his delivery to get every ounce of velocity he can. There is effort in his arm action, but his delivery uses his lower half in an ergonomically efficient manner. He throws from a low three-quarters arm slot, hiding the ball well from hitters with his angle and leg kick. He repeats his release point well, giving him excellent control and the ability to command all of his pitches. His fastball sits in the low-90s, topping out as high as 95 MPH on occasion, and has a bit of sink and arm-side run. He is able to command the pitch well and can spot it to all four quadrants, working up and down to change the eye level of hitters.

Kay complements his fastball with a changeup and a curveball. The changeup sits in the low-80s and features excellent fade and tumble due to the fact that Kay is able to really bury it deep in his palm. His curve was a slurvy, high-70s bender with 11-5 drop. Coming out of UCONN, many evaluators considered the change an above-average pitch and the curve a below-average pitch. Since going professional and returning from Tommy John, his changeup has taken a step back while he has seemingly made progress on his curveball. Specifically, the changeup has been very firm and is missing the fade and tumble that made it an above-average pitch and the curveball has tightened up and may have progressed past being a below-average pitch at this point. If Kay is able to return his changeup to where it was pre-2018 while maintaining the gains on his curve, that will give him three viable average or better pitches.