When Jason Vargas on the Injured List and Steven Matz unable to make his start due to injury, the Mets needed to find a starter. Instead of recalling Corey Oswalt or Chris Flexen or making a 40 man move to call-up Hector Santiago or Casey Coleman, the Mets opted to make a trade for Wilmer Font, a 29 year old reliever with a career 6.39 ERA.
When the Mets are making trades to acquire relievers for emergency starts, you get the sense of just how poor this Mets Major League ready pitching depth is. You also see how desperately the Mets need one of their pitching prospects to step up and force their way to the Majors.
Fortunately for the Mets, Anthony Kay has not just been the organization’s best starting pitcher this year, he has arguably been the best pitcher in Double-A this year. In eight starts this year, Kay is second in the Eastern League in ERA while leading the league in complete games and shutouts. He’s second in the league in wins, fifth in the league in strikeouts, and third in WHIP. More than the numbers, he has been dominant.
We saw that again last night. In a complete game seven inning shutout (second game of a doubleheader), Kay allowed just three hits and one walk while striking out eight. In the game, only one batter would reach as far as second base, and Kay would retire 11 of the last 12 batters he faced.
Anthony Kay was masterful today for the @RumblePoniesBB: 7 innings 3 hits 0 runs 1 walk and 8 strikeouts. A complete game shutout.
Kay has a fastball with movement that can get up to 95 to go with a superb changeup and a decent curveball. He has been amazing this year. pic.twitter.com/k3OD62E1gZ
— Yehuda Schwartz (@yaschwa30) May 15, 2019
When you have a complete game shutout, there are a number of areas where you can draw your attention. When it comes to Kay and his development, the main focus from yesterday should be his issuing just one free pass. In his brief professional career, Kay has had control issues walking 3.5 per nine and 4.2 over his first six starts of the season.
Recently, Kay has had better command. In his last two starts, he has pitched seven innings and issued just one walk. He has gone from throwing strikes 60 percent of the time to throwing strikes 70 percent of the time. His pounding the strike zone has permitted him to befuddle hitters and go deeper into games. When he is pounding the strike zone like this, you really take note of his stuff.
The first thing which stands out is his curveball. According to Baseball America, it has an average spin rate of 3,000 RPM. That’s Seth Lugo territory. In addition to a high spin rate on his curveball, Kay has an excellent spin rate on his fastball. His fastball typically sits in the lower 90s, but he is able to ramp it up around 96 MPH. Combine that with a change-up with a 10 MPH difference than his fastball, and you have the makings of what could be a very good starting pitcher at the Major League level.
Before even discussing him at the Major League level, the Mets first need to see Kay in Syracuse. He needs to work with Mickey Abbott to further hone his delivery and control. The Mets need to see him against a higher level of competition to make a better evaluation of whether he is ready to pitch at the Major League level. Considering how Kay has been dominating in the Eastern League and the Mets not having a Triple-A pitcher they want to slot into their rotation, it would seem the time is now to send Kay to Syracuse.
Once Kay is in Syracuse, the Mets can get a much better read of how he performs against better competition, and they can better determine if he is going to be a part of the 2019 Mets pitching staff in some capacity. Considering the depth, the Mets should find this out sooner rather than later, which is why Kay’s next start should be in Syracuse.
When analyzing the Mets acquisition of Wilmer Font, it is important to start with who Font is before turning to what exactly the Mets parted with to obtain him. When it comes to Font, the Mets really obtained a duplicative asset who wasn’t of much, if any, value.
Font is a 29 year old reliever with a career 6.39 ERA, 1.493 WHIP, 4.0 BB/9, and a 7.7 K/9. He has a career -0.3 WAR He has never made more than 19 appearances or pitched more than 44.0 innings. Last year, he pitched for three teams. That’s the way it usually goes for players with tantalizing talent who cannot translate their success to the Major League level.
He certainly tantalized the Rays last year with a 1.67 ERA (with peripherals which screamed regression) in nine appearances for them last year. Of course, the real Font returned this year. In 10 appearances for the Rays, he had a 5.79 ERA with a 3.2 BB/9. With him being out of options, it would appear it was only a matter of time before Font was designated for assignment than being a trade asset.
As we know, the Mets would step in and make a trade for Font. Despite having Corey Oswalt and Chris Flexen, two pitchers with comparable stats to Font, the Mets made the trade for Font. Instead of signing Hector Santiago, and touting him as a former All Star, the Mets made a trade for Font. Instead of calling up Casey Coleman, a pitcher with better results at the Major League level in his career, and who was showing he was capable of being that three inning reliever Font truly is, the Mets swung a trade.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with that. The Mets were well within their rights to prefer Font over the pitchers they already had. Certainly, F0nt’s ability to be plugged in right away helped his case. While that may be the case, the point to remember here is Font is a bad Major League pitcher with no value whatsoever.
The Mets then traded an asset for Font. The asset was an 18 year old pitcher named Neraldo Catalina.
Now, not much is known about Catalina other than his age and the fact he signed for $150,000 out of the Dominican Republic. Yesterday, Mets Minors had a write up on him. Basically, Catalina is a power arm with a strong build who was going to debut stateside this year.
There are any number of potential outcomes with Catalina. He could be like any number of teenage pitchers who sign out of the Dominican Republic who don’t pan out to be anything. It’s certainly possible he could be nothing more than a footnote listed in the transaction portion of Font’s Baseball Reference page. He could also pan out to be like Jeurys Familia, who had signed for $100,000 out of the Dominican Republic back in 2007.
But that’s the thing, Catalina has the potential to be anything. He’s an asset, and it’s why the Mets used their bonus pool money to obtain him. After all, if the team didn’t think he was worth anything, they wouldn’t have given him anything.
It’s the same exact situation with Felix Valerio. Does anyone really know what the Mets had in Valerio? Probably not, but the problem is the Mets are included in that group of people. As reported by Fangraphs, the Mets don’t scout beneath full-season ball. This means players like Valerio, who played in the Dominican Summer League, aren’t scouted by the Mets. Considering short season affiliates have not yet started their seasons, the Mets supposedly revamped front office has not had the opportunity to self scout players like Valerio or Catalina.
To make matters worse, the Mets are trading players of whom they have little to no knowledge for players who are out of options and are on the brink of getting cut. It was Catalina for Font, and it was Valerio for Keon Broxton, who has been terrible. Yes, the Mets also gave up Bobby Wahl and Adam Hill in the Broxton deal, but that’s also the point. They included Valerio in a deal where Wahl and Hill should have been sufficient.
Should fans be up in arms over losing Catalina? Maybe. We honestly don’t know. He could be great,and he could be terrible. With him not pitching one inning in the Mets organization, no one can know anything for certain. But that’s also the point here. The Mets don’t know what they have in these players, and they are trading them anyway.
They’re doing it because they’ve become very short-sighted in their win-now mentality. That’s odd considering that mentality which does not extend to signing Craig Kimbrel or Dallas Keuchel or to guaranteeing a rotation spot to Gio Gonzalez over a terrible Jason Vargas. The Mets are also doing it because they’re playing the odds that even if Catalina does eventually succeed it will be so remote in time that no one is going to immediately link Catalina to Font or the Mets.
In the end, Catalina is a symptom of a problem. This trade is an example of the poor depth the Mets built this past offseason. It’s a further indication the team not only is unaware of the value of their assets, they also don’t understand the value of bottom of the roster players on the trade front. Mostly, it’s another sign of how the team is more than willing to do away with organizational depth and talent instead of actually spending the money which was required to build the team into the “Come get us!” team the Mets advertised themselves to be.