Mets prospect Anthony Kay, whose dominance so far in 2019 has put him in the conversation to jump to the majors this season, is becoming impossible to ignore. And along with his on-field success comes a demeanor that seems built for the place he grew up.
"He's one of my favorites, if not my favorite," UConn pitching coach Josh MacDonald told SNY Tuesday about where Kay falls among the many players he's coached during his career.
MacDonald -- who said he has been texting with Kay "two-to-three times a night" as he has dominated in Double-A Binghamton -- coached Kay during his time at UConn, after which the Mets selected the Long Island native in the 2016 MLB Draft.
"You're not gonna find (many) more people as competitive as Ant," MacDonald said. "I'd like to think that when I played I was like that. When I coached, I'm like that. It was a real ideal match, I think, for both of us to have eachother as player and coach."
MacDonald, while noting Kay's ability to take criticism and how that could help him in New York, talked about the "edge" that tends to be present with those who grow up in the northeast.
That edge and ability to take criticism included a high school start where MacDonald came to watch Kay (after he committed to UConn), only for Kay to get hit hard for one of the only times that season before shaking it off right afterwards. That demeanor is something MacDonald thinks will make Kay an ideal fit for the Mets.
"He always had that sort of -- failure is not gonna define him," MacDonald said. "And that's the thing I think that probably makes him best-suited (for New York). I think those are always the best kind of guys, when they're playing in the city. Everybody's gonna fail. I feel like some people when they're in New York and they fail -- Evan Roberts is ripping you and callers are calling in to Francesa -- in some parts of the country, that's just not how it is. It is in New York. I think it would be second-nature for him.
"Just a winner," MacDonald added. "He's gonna want the ball. And he's certainly not afraid of the moment -- at least for us he wasn't. I think he's one of these guys who -- he's going out there to win the game."
MacDonald then talked about the "shift" that has gone on in baseball, especially at the amateur level, where tons of focus has been on velocity, spin rate, and other peripheral stuff. As far as Kay goes, MacDonald noted that he's able to simplify his mindset when on the mound and not get "bogged down" if something is wrong (such as his velocity being down one night) and let that derail a start.
"He's just gonna worry about winning that game," MacDonald said.
So what will the Mets be getting pitching-wise when they promote Kay?
"Style-wise, I would say he's very much a classic lefty -- that fastball, changeup," MacDonald said. "I think he tried to model himself after (Andy) Pettitte," though MacDonald noted the obvious difference in stature between Pettitte and the 6 foot tall Kay. "Jimmy Key was like (Kay) too -- a little lefty that really seemed to know how to pitch. He (Kay) is really more of an older school kind of guy. Right now I would say stuff-wise in the big leagues, Eduardo Rodriguez for the (Red) Sox -- 93 to 96 (MPH on the fastball) with a good changeup. That's kind of what Ant can do, I think, when he's on."
With all the talk about the Mets' rotation (they're about to get Jason Vargas back) and their hope to get back in the pennant race, MacDonald talked about whether it's important for a prospect to go through Triple-A or if it makes sense for certain prospects to jump straight to the majors.
The gist from MacDonald? Pitchers only have so many bullets. Use them wisely.
"Pitchers are ticking time bombs," MacDonald said, talking about both the worry of injury and eventual ineffectiveness. "Whether we like it or not. ... There's a point where they just can't do it anymore. ... Most of them, once you're over the hill, that's what you are. If you've got a kid down there right now, and he can make an immediate impact on your club's playoff run, I think (not using him) is probably a hard pill to swallow."
MacDonald added that he understands the concern a club could have about promoting a guy too soon, but suggested Kay could potentially help give the Mets the jumpstart they need.
"Maybe it's him," MacDonald said. "The kid from right around the corner."