By Jerry Del Priore
Former first round draft pick Anthony Kay, whom the New York Mets selected 31st overall in the 2016 MLB First-Year Player Draft, is expected to make his professional baseball debut with the Columbia Fireflies (mid-level A) of the South Atlantic League.
The southpaw missed the entire 2017 season due to Tommy John surgery. The Mets drafted the Stony Brook, New York, native twice; first time in the 29th round out of high school (2013) before deciding to play collegiately at the University of Connecticut.
Kay was named a second-team All-American and American Athletic Conference Player of the Year in 2016. The 23-year-old left UConn as the program’s all-time leader in strikeouts with 263.
Kay, the 14th-rated Mets prospect, according to MLB.com and Baseball America, is one of the best southpaws in the New York’s minor league system and possesses a terrific changeup.
Kay is not the only promising hurler on the Fireflies’ pitching staff. Six-foot-five right-hander Nicolas Debora is slated to join him in the Fireflies starting rotation to begin the campaign.
The Mets bestowed Debora with its Sterling Award (top player at each minor league level) after posting a 2.33 ERA with 56 strikeouts (54 IP) for the Brooklyn Cyclones (short-season A) last season.
Cannon Chadwick and Stephen Villines are two other arms who have potential. After the Mets drafted Chadwick out of Arkansas, he shined at Brooklyn, posting a team-best 1.33 ERA and whiffed 40 batters in 27 frames. Villines was nearly unhittable in 2017 and combined to strike out 40 and walk just one hitter while splitting time with the Cyclones and the Kingsport Mets (advanced-rookie).
Outfielder Quinn Brodey, who appeared in nine games for the Fireflies last season, is the 22nd-rated Mets prospect (Baseball America). The 22-year-old Californian, which New York selected in the third round last year, went on to lead Brooklyn with 30 RBIs.
Infielders Rigoberto Terrazas (2017 Kingsport Sterling Award winner) and Walter Rasquin (New York Penn League-best 32 stolen bases in 2017) should form a formidable infield duo this year. The pair ranked first (.348) and third (.330), respectively, among all New York minor leaguers in batting average last year.
Manager Pedro Lopez will be joined in Columbia’s dugout this season by pitching coach Jonathan Hurst (a Spartanburg, South Carolina, native) and hitting coach Ender Chavez. Athletic Trainer Hiroto Kawamura, Strength and Conditioning Coach Tanner Miracle and Assistant Coach Derek Swartout-Mosher round out the coaching staff.
The Fireflies open the 2018 campaign on Thursday, April 5 against the Augusta GreenJackets (San Francisco Giants).