School: University of Connecticut; Class: Junior
Position: LHP; B/T: L/L
Height: 6–0; Weight: 187
Previously Drafted: New York Mets, 29th round, 2013
Background: A three-year member of the Huskies’ starting rotation, Kay, a 6-foot, 187-pound southpaw out of East Setauket, New York, began his collegiate career by making 18 appearances as a true freshman, throwing 67.0 innings with 56 punch outs and a whopping 40 free passes. But the slight-frame lefty’s control took a tremendous leap forward the following season as he more than halved his walk rate in 100+ innings of work, averaging just 2.25 walks and 8.65 punch outs per nine innings to go along with a 2.07 ERA.
Kay earned a spot on Team USA that summer. Making four appearances, three of which came in relief, he threw 9.1 innings while posting an impressive 13-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. To put that into perspective a bit, A.J. Puk, likely one of the top three picks come June, finished with a 9-to-2 KK/BB in 12.0 innings pitched.
This season Kay’s more or less maintained status quo, fanning a career high 108, walking just 35, and posting a 2.46 ERA in 113.1 innings.
For his career, he’s averaged 8.36 K/9 and 3.21 BB/9.
Projection: OK, now for some perspective. Consider the following:
Between 2011 and 2015, there have been 12 instances where southpaws have tallied 100+ innings, a strikeout rate over 8.5, a walk rate less than 2.8, and an ERA under 3.0: Brandon Finnegan, Alex Wood, Andrew Heaney, Danny Hultzen, Nathan Kirby, Austin Gomber, Ty Blach, Sean Gilmartin, David Starn, Seth Varner, Mat Batts, and Joe Bircher.
Of those 12, five of the players – Finnegan, Heaney, Hultzen, Kirby, and Gilmartin – were first round picks. And a sixth, Gilmartin, was grabbed in the second round.
Anyway, Kay has been as solid and steady as any pitcher over the past two seasons as he’s posted a 204-to-60 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 213.1 innings. He’s shown a solid-average ability to miss bats, particularly for a left-hander, with a strong feel for the strike zone.
Kay doesn’t have top of the rotation potential, but he does have the making of a good #3-type arm.
Ceiling: 1.5– to 2.0-win player
Floor: 1.0-win player
Risk: Low to Moderate
Grade: First Round