Jake McCarthy’s D-backs could force the organization into a tough call
The Arizona Diamondbacks front office has a tough decision to make regarding the future of the outfield.
There are only three daily positions, and usually a fourth outfielder in platoon who hits left-handers at a high level. Meanwhile, the D-backs have five outfielders competing for those four spots: Corbin Carroll, Alek Thomas, Daulton Varsho, Stone Garrett and Jake McCarthy.
McCarthy is one of four left-handed hitters in the outfield. On top of that, it’s not as touted as the other three. Varsho ranked 4th among Arizona prospects in 2019Thomas was in the top three in 2020 and 2021 and Carroll was No. 3 in all of baseball this year.
McCarthy’s highest rank in the system was 23rd. As a result, he must do more to stand out from the rest.
How did he do
In September especially, he did a lot to help his cause. In 38 plate appearances, McCarthy is hitting .412 with two home runs, 10 RBIs and five stolen bases.
Overall, he is second among outfield D-backs with 40+ plate appearances in wRC+ – an offensive metric taking into account running environment and stadium factors – and second in fWAR.
Among MLB hitters with at least 250 plate appearances, he’s tied for 31st in wRC+ ahead of All-Stars Trea Turner, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Giancarlo Stanton, to name but a few.
Overall, he cuts .305/.365/.484 with 25 extra hits and 17 interceptions on 18 attempts. His 2.5 fWAR is third among NL rookies and seventh among all rookies.
Not only can McCarthy hit, but he’s also one of the fastest players at major tournaments. Only Carroll is faster on the D-back in terms of average sprint speed.
The pressure McCarthy puts on opposing pitchers makes him incredibly valuable. He’s in baseball’s top 20 this season in stolen bases (17) although he’s tied for 267th in games played (80).
Having speed in the 99th percentile makes McCarthy a prime candidate to top his expected stats, as he’s more likely to beat a dribbler against an infielder than most baseball players.
Prowess Against Left-Handed Throw
Teams try to avoid carrying too many left-handed hitters, especially in the outfield, because of the difficult left-left confrontation. In 2022, left-handed batters hit just .226 in 11,274 plate appearances against left-handers.
This data tends to translate to at least one outfield position used as a platoon, with a right-hander to face left-handed pitchers.
Aside from his large numbers in a limited sample, this is how Garrett separates himself from the pack going forward.
However, McCarthy handles left-handers exceptionally well and better than against right-handers.
In 72 plate appearances, he hits .323 with a .912 OPS against lefties. The only two left-handed hitters with higher OPS against lefties are Nathaniel Lowe and Yordan Alvarez.
In 201 plate appearances against right-handers, McCarthy hits .298 with an .826 OPS. Although he is still good, he is among the elite against lefties.
The D-backs have a good problem on their hands. Although they can only provide daily spots for three, they have five outfielders competing for playing time.
Although his offensive production hasn’t been great so far, Thomas is one of the best defensive outfielders in the league. The elite defense is great no matter where you can find it, but Thomas playing an elite center field is great value for the Diamondbacks. As a result, he will be a roster lock barring injury.
Carroll hasn’t disappointed at all since his call, slashing .275/.341/.500. MiLB’s No. 3 overall prospect, according to MLB.com, will also be a lock next season.
That leaves Varsho, Garrett and McCarthy for the final daily slot. At this point, Varsho has burst into the power department, with a career-high 24 home runs. He also became one of the best defensive outfielders in the league.
Garrett is hitting .405 with three home runs in his first 42 plate appearances. Although still a small sample, it is a right-handed bat. That alone creates a unique character for the 26-year-old.
McCarthy has done a lot to split up, but will that be enough to secure a day-to-day role in the future? What if recent No. 2 overall pick Druw Jones flies over the system?
Only time will tell. Either way, there may be some pressure on the D-backs to make a decision as soon as possible.