COLUMBIA, S.C. - Former first-round draft choice Anthony Kay headlines the Fireflies 2018 Opening Day roster, released by the New York Mets on Friday. Kay was drafted 31st overall by the Mets in the 2016 MLB First-Year Player Draft and is expected to appear in his first professional game this season (Kay missed the entire 2017 season due to injury). The left-handed pitcher is the 14th-rated Mets prospect according to MLB.com and Baseball America.
Kay is not the only prospect in the Columbia dugout this season. Outfielder Quinn Brodey, who appeared in nine games for the Fireflies last season, is the 22nd-rated Mets prospect (Baseball America).
First-year Fireflies skipper Pedro Lopez manages a team that features 10 former top-10 round draft picks and three Mets Sterling Award winners (given annually to the best player at each Mets minor league level).
In addition to Kay and Brodey (Stanford, 2017 - 3rd round), the other former top-10 round draft picks include infielder Blake Tiberi (Louisville, 2016 - 3rd), right-hander Tony Dibrell (Kennesaw State, 2017 - 4th), outfielder Matt Winaker (Stanford, 2017 - 5th), righty Chris Viall (Stanford, 2016 - 6th), right-hander Marcel Renteria (New Mexico State, 2017 - 6th), righty Conner O'Neil (Cal. State Northridge, 2017 - 7th), right-hander Trey Cobb(Oklahoma State, 2017 - 8th) and righty Cannon Chadwick (Arkansas, 2017 - 9th).
Kay is a two-time draft selection of the Mets. The Stony Brook, NY, native was selected in the 29th round out of high school (2013) before deciding to play collegiately at 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 (263). Kay is one of the finest southpaws in the Mets system and possesses a terrific changeup. He has yet to pitch as a Mets farmhand after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his left elbow in October of 2016.
Kay highlights what could be a dominant pitching staff for the Fireflies this season. Six-foot-five right-handerNicolas Debora was a Mets Sterling Award winner after posting a 2.33 ERA with 56 strikeouts (54 IP) for the Brooklyn Cyclones (short-season A) last season. Chadwick and Stephen Villines are two other hurlers to keep an eye on. After being drafted out of Arkansas, Chadwick went on to post a Brooklyn-best 1.33 ERA and punch out 40 batters in 27 innings. Villines was nearly unhittable in 2017 and combined to strike out 40 and walk just one hitter while splitting time with Brooklyn and the Kingsport Mets (advanced-rookie).
Columbia's roster includes talent all around the diamond as well. Brodey is one of the most intriguing selections from the Mets' 2017 draft class. The Los Angeles native paced Stanford in the power department in the spring of 2017, leading the Cardinal in batting average (.314), home runs (11) and RBIs (51). The Mets selected the versatile outfielder - and former high school pitcher - in the third round last June. The 22-year-old went on to lead Brooklyn with 30 RBIs. It'll be a Cardinal reunion of sorts at Spirit Communications Park, as Brodey may be paired with his old Stanford teammate Matt Winaker in the outfield this season.
Infielders Rigoberto Terrazas (2017 Kingsport Sterling Award winner) and Walter Rasquin (New York Penn League-best 32 stolen bases in 2017) should form quite the duo in the infield this year. The pair ranked first (.348) and third (.330) respectively among all Mets minor leaguers in batting average last year.
2017 fan favorite Jay Jabs (infielder converted to catcher in 2018), Scott Manea (Shrewsbury, MA, native) and Dan Rizzie (2016 All-Big East 1st Team selection at Xavier) create a more-than-capable trio behind the plate.
Lopez will be joined in the Fireflies dugout this season by pitching coach Jonathan Hurst (a Spartanburg, SC, 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 season on Thursday, April 5 against the Augusta GreenJackets (San Francisco Giants). The four-game series continues through April 8 before the Fireflies welcome the Hagerstown Suns (Washington Nationals) to town for a three-game set from April 9-11.
*This initial roster includes 26 players. Moves are expected before opening day to finalize the Fireflies 25-man roster.
2018 Roster Breakdown
Pitchers (13): Joe Cavallaro, Cannon Chadwick, Trey Cobb, Nicolas Debora, Tony Dibrell, Anthony Kay, Conner O'Neil, Joshua Payne, Darwin Ramos, Marcel Renteria, Jake Simon, Chris Viall, Stephen Villines
Catchers (3): Jay Jabs, Scott Manea, Dan Rizzie
Infielders (6): Gio Alfonzo, Edgardo Fermin, Walter Rasquin, Rigoberto Terrazas, Blake Tiberi, Jeremy Vasquez
Outfielders (4): Quinn Brodey, Raphael Gladu, Wagner Lagrange, Matt Winaker
Top-30 Mets Prospects (2):
14. Anthony Kay, LHP
22. Quinn Brodey, OF
Sterling Award Winners (3):
Nicolas Debora, RHP (2017, Brooklyn Cyclones - 2015, Dominican Summer League Mets)
Rigoberto Terrazas, INF (2017, Kingsport Mets)
Wagner Lagrange, OF (2015, Dominican Summer League Mets)
States (13) / Countries (5) Represented (18): Arizona, California, Georgia, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Washington, Canada, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Venezuela
Returning Players (6): Quinn Brodey, Jay Jabs, Darwin Ramos, Dan Rizzie, Jake Simon and Blake Tiberi
Drafted, Signed out of High School: 1
Drafted, Signed out of College: 17
International Signings: 6
Undrafted Free Agent Signings: 2
2015 Draft Class: 2
2016 Draft Class: 5
2017 Draft Class: 12
Right-Handed Pitchers: 11
Left-Handed Pitchers: 2
Right-Handed Hitters: 6
Left-Handed Hitters: 6
Switch Hitters: 1
Majority of 2017 Season In:
Columbia (A) - 3
Brooklyn (short season-A) - 14
Kingsport (advanced-rookie) - 6
DNP or Injured - 2
Independent (Atlantic Lg.) - 1