The Mets selected Anthony Kay, a left-handed pitcher out of the University of Connecticut, with the thirty-first overall selection in the 2016 MLB Draft, having previously selected him in the 29th round of the 2013 MLB Draft and out Ward Melville High School in East Setauket, and failed to sign him. The Mets selected Kay after developing into the ace of the Huskies’ staff over his three seasons of college ball, posting a 3.49 ERA with 56 strikeouts and 40 walks in 67.0 inning as a freshman, a 2.07 ERA with 96 strikeouts and only 25 walks in 100.0 innings as a sophomore, and a 2.65 ERA with 111 strikeouts and 35 walked in 119.0 innings pitched as a junior. At the time of the draft the Mets believed they had selected a pitcher with a track record of success in one of the better conferences in college baseball, the makings of a solid three-pitch mix, and, with a little luck, the ability to move through the minor league system quickly.
Their hopes of a quick ascent to the big league roster took a hit shortly after the draft, when a post draft medical showed that Kay had fraying in the UCL ligament which needed Tommy John Surgery to repair it. The Mets ultimately negotiated Kay’s signing bonus down to an under-slot $1.1 million dollar signing bonus and later used the savings to buy eleventh round selection Cameron Planck out of his commitment to Louisville. Having formally entered professional baseball, Kay underwent Tommy John Surgery on October 4, 2016, effectively ending his first two professional seasons before they began.
Kay missed the entirety of the 2017 season recovering from Tommy John, and returned to action as a very different pitcher in 2018. Primarily a pitcher who relied on his changeup as his best secondary pitch as an amateur, Kay’s curveball emerged as the better of the two offerings upon his return to action in 2018. The Mets assigned Kay to the South Atlantic League to start the 2018 season and make his professional debut, and he generally struggled to acclimate himself, posting a 4.54 ERA in 69.0 innings, allowing 73 hits, walking 22, and striking out 78. He was promoted to the St. Lucie Mets midseason and pitched 53.0 innings there, posting a 3.88 ERA with 51 hits, 27 walks, and 45 strikeouts.
Kay was promoted to the Binghamton Rumble Ponies to start the 2019 season, and the left-hander was outright dominant. Relying on his curveball, the southpaw posted a 1.49 ERA in 66.1 innings, allowing 38 hits, walking 23, and striking out 70. His resurgence rolled on through June, when he was promoted to the Syracuse Mets. Owing partially to his own stuff, to the quality of Triple-A hitters, and to the new “juiced” International League ball, Kay posted a 6.61 ERA in 31.1 innings, allowing 40 hits, walking 11, and striking out 26.
On the smaller side, Kay maximizes his delivery to get every ounce of velocity he can. He throws from a low three-quarters arm slot, hiding the ball well from hitters with his angle and leg kick. There is effort in his arm action, but his delivery primarily generates power from his lower half, making it otherwise clean, repeatable, and free of red flags. He repeats his release point well, affording 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, with a bit of sink and arm-side run. He generally is able to command the pitch, spotting it to all four quadrants of the strike zone. He complements the fastball with a curveball and changeup, the former of which has been better as a professional while the latter was better in college. His curveball, a high-70s offering with slurvy 1-7 drop and high spin rate, projects as an average offering, while the changeup, which sits in the low-to-mid-80s, lags a bit behind, as it is much firmer and lacks as much fade and tumble as it had while at UCONN.
Simeon Woods Richardson
When he started high school, Simeon Woods Richardson didn’t exactly fit the image of a baseball player. Entering his freshman year, the right-hander stood 5’4” and weighed 125-pounds, a far from an imposing presence on the mound. Furthermore, his low-to-mid-70s fastball wasn’t exactly lighting up the radar gun. Between 2014 and 2015, his freshman and sophomore years, Woods-Richardson underwent a massive growth spurt, growing about eight inches and gaining almost 40 pounds. With the additional size and weight came additional velocity on his fastball. Further growth through his junior and senior years has turned the youngster into one of the better high school pitchers available in the 2018 draft class. He posted impressive numbers both on the mound and at the plate for the Fort Bend Kempner High School Cougars and the Mets surprised him on the first day of the 2018 MLB Draft by selecting him with their second-round pick, the 48th pick overall. Woods Richardson and his family expected to be selected in the 2018 but being selected so early came as a complete surprise- the young right-hander was having dinner with his family at a local Buffalo Wild Wings his agent called to tell him that he had been selected.
He had a commitment to the University of Texas but elected to sign with the Mets and play professionally after receiving a $1.85 million bonus, roughly $400,000 over slot value. The 17-year-old right-hander made his professional debut with the GCL Mets and was impressive in the 11.1 innings he pitched there. He did not give up a single run, allowed 9 hits, walked 4, and struck out 15. He was promoted to the Kingsport Mets to end the season and in 6.0 innings posted a 4.50 ERA, allowing 6 hits, walking 0, and striking out 11. All in all, in his debut season, Woods Richardson posted a 1.65 ERA over 17.1 innings, allowing 15 hits, walking 4, and striking out 26. He was given an aggressive assignment in 2019, being assigned to the Columbia Fireflies to start the year. As one of the youngest players in the South Atlantic League, Woods Richardson posted a 4.25 ERA in 78.1 innings, allowing 78 hits, walking 17, and striking out 97. The right-hander was recently promoted to the St. Lucie Mets, but did not actually make a start there.
At 6’3”, 200-pounds, Woods-Richardson has a solid frame for a pitcher. He is athletic and does not have much, if any, room to fill in. He throws from a high three-quarters arm slot, and gets good extension with his stride, falling off the mound and whipping his arm to generate velocity. When his arm gets too deep and he drifts, he loses command of his pitches, but he generally is able to pound the zone and command his pitches. He is an intense competitor, highlighted by his propensity to work fast, attack hitters, and throw inside, brushing them back when necessary.
When he was drafted, there was some confusion about how hard Simeon Woods Richardson threw. According to the right-hander himself, he could touch as high as 97 MPH. According to scouting services, his fastball topped out as high as 95 MPH, and according to in-person reports, his fastball was backing up into the high-80s-to-low-90s all throughout the spring. In reality, as demonstrated throughout the 2019 season in Columbia, the right-hander’s fastball sits in the low-to-mid-90s, sitting 92-94 MPH. The pitch has a high spin rate, which makes it appear to rise to batters, making it more difficult to hit. In addition to his four-seam fastball, he also throws a two-seam fastball with sink and tailing action that sits in the high-80s that features tailing action with generous sink.
Complementing his fastballs are an assortment of secondary pitches, a curveball, slider, and changeup. The curveball is his best secondary pitch, a big 11-5/12-6 bender that sits in the low-70s. When the he is able to consistently get on top of the pitch and give it more consistent 12-6 action, it has plenty of break and changes hitters’ eye levels. The changeup sits in the high-70s and is projected by scouts and evaluators to become an average pitch with more use. The slider, which sits in the high-70s, has sweepy, lateral break, is his least developed pitch and is rarely used.
Simeon Woods Richardson wasn’t a divisive prospect necessarily, but since day one, there was misinformation abound, some of it intentional from camps that stood to gain something from it and some of it unintentional. I don’t want to come off as haughty and make an appeal to authority or anything like that, but how many people out there have actually seen Simeon Woods Richardson pitch? I don’t mean have seen a few GIFs, or watched a game or two on Columbia’s MiLBTV feed- which is one of the best, as an aside. I am one of the handful of people that actually saw Woods Richardson pitch in person and kind of, sort of knows what to look at. I wasn’t impressed. He wasn’t bad, I don’t mean it like that, but given the hype surrounding him the prior summer and over the winter, he didn’t blow me away like you’d want a guy with his helium to do. I saw a pitcher with reliever mechanics that was mostly physically maxed throwing 91-94 with a good curveball. There’s nothing wrong with that, and I think barring injury he will make it to the majors someday, but it’s not like Woods Richardson is the next coming of Pedro Martinez, popping in fastballs close to 100 MPH basically anywhere in or out of the zone that he wants.
Anthony Kay has never necessarily been exciting, but since day one he has gotten it done. At UCONN he was a durable, dependable workhorse that didn’t post eye-popping numbers but was consistently good. Since his time back since Tommy John surgery, Kay hasn’t posted eye-popping numbers, but his success has ranged from decent to good. His upside was never the highest, but there is value in being able to pitch every five days and give your offense a chance to win, and Kay has shown the ability to do just that. There have been injury problems and growing pains, but it happens. How many times over the years have we said about the Mets, or the fans about their respective teams said that they would’ve finished with better records if there were more dependable pitchers in the back end of the rotation? With a decent fastball for a left-hander, a solid curveball, and a changeup that looked pretty good in college and could still return to form as a professional, Kay isn’t necessarily going to wow you, but his sum is better than his individual parts, and he’s going to keep your team in the game as a result.
The surface-level stat line is surely impressive; a nearly 6:1 K:BB rate as the youngest player in Single-A is pretty crazy. That said, I don’t think the sum total of the package is nearly as exciting. The velocity reports that we heard pre-draft- up to the mid 90s and hitting 97- still haven’t consistently shown up in pro ball. The breaking pitches are interesting, but there’s a clear lack of a third pitch with the changeup not developing. The mechanics are also extremely relieverish, and there’s not a ton of projection left in the frame. Yes, at 18, there’s still ample time to improve on these flaws, but that also means ample time to hit other developmental road bumps, particularly for a pitcher. All-in-all, it’s a profile that looks like a reliever to me, albeit a back-end one.
I was very wrong on Kay at the start of the season, and he dominated Double-A for a good month too long before the Mets finally promoting him. We talked on the pod about why that was problematic, because Kay has one excellent pitch- his curveball -that he could just spam to Double-A hitters, and there’s nothing to be learned from that. Now in Triple-A, the road has been much more rocky, as hitters are good enough to manage Kay’s best weapon. The velocity is fine for a lefty and the changeup is ok, but there’s also a bit of an injury history here (hence the pre-season bearishness). I think he’s got a chance to be a good back-end starter which absolutely has value, but projecting him to a higher-upside role is a stretch.
Simeon Woods-Richardson has always been a pitcher I’ve liked, but there’s still a good amount of risk in the profile. The Mets pushed Woods-Richardson aggressively to start the season and he proved to be up to the challenge for the most part, posting a 4.25 ERA and 2.55 FIP in 78.1 innings pitched in the South Atlantic League while being almost four years younger than the average player in the league. His 11.14 strikeouts per nine innings and 1.95 walks per nine innings rates are extremely impressive for anyone, let alone a pitcher with as little pro-experience as he has. Had he pitched for the St. Lucie Mets after being promoted to the Florida State League last week, he would have been the youngest pitcher in the league by almost two full years, and would have been the second youngest player overall after the Ray’s Wander Franco. While the start to his pro career has shown promise, ultimately I have my questions about his ultimate role ends up being in the big leagues. Age relative to level is less indicative of future success than it is for hitters. His velocity has been more 91-94 than the touching 97 reports that were floating around last season. While I don’t think it’s necessarily impossible that he adds a tick or two to his fastball as he gets older, there’s still a lot of effort in the delivery to get to 91-94, and his frame lacks projection and is already close to physically maxed out. Woods-Richardson complements his fastball with a good curveball, and a changeup that still needs considerable work. At present, Woods-Richardson is a very talented young pitcher, but the high-effort mechanics and lack of a third pitch make me think he’s destined to be a reliever, albeit probably a pretty good one.
Anthony Kay’s breakout this season has been one of the most positive developments in the Mets system in 2019. He emerged as the consensus top pitching prospect in the system in 2019, and thoroughly dominated the Eastern League before being promoted to Triple-A in the middle of June. Things have not gone quite as well for Kay in the International League, and a few of the underlying reasons have raised some concerns. Kay’s dominance in Double-A was largely due to the swings and misses he got on his curveball, which was arguably too advanced for the level. He’s gotten fewer swings and misses on the pitch in Triple-A, and has seen his strikeout rate fall by two strikeouts per nine innings as a result. Kay’s repertoire consists of an average fastball from the left side, a changeup that he never really got a feel for after Tommy John and a legitimately plus curve. Ultimately, I think Kay’s repertoire adds up to more of a back end of the rotation starter than mid or top of the rotation starter, which is definitely a good profile to have around but lacks upside.