D-backs OF Jake McCarthy letting speed, power play in dynamic August

Aug 31, 2022, 8:08 PM
Jake McCarthy #30 of the Arizona Diamondbacks is congratulated in the dugout by teammates after sco...
Jake McCarthy #30 of the Arizona Diamondbacks is congratulated in the dugout by teammates after scoring on a Geraldo Perdomo double in the sixth inning against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on August 23, 2022 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Jake McCarthy has not only been one of MLB’s most productive rookies since the All-Star break, but players in the National League.

In the month of August going into its final day, McCarthy has driven in 18 runs, which ranks No. 13 in the NL and the most by any rookie. He’s gotten on base at a .384 clip (No. 12 in the NL) and has stolen an MLB-best eight bags this month.

D-backs hitting coach Joe Mather said the 25-year-old, who has been optioned and recalled twice this season, is taking advantage of his speed while showing he has power to be wary of.

McCarthy went 2-for-5 with a triple, a home run and five RBIs on Tuesday, rounding out a seven-day period in which he hit .400.

“I think he’s really fallen into a comfort level with who he is as a player,” Mather said Wednesday. “He knows the speed plays, and at times, it can bail him out. And at times, he can use it to his advantage. Last night, we saw the power … not that he’s necessarily a power guy right now, but it’s in there. And he knows he doesn’t have to try and do it. It’s going to show up when he needs to.”

A phrase Mather said McCarthy uses is to “hit the ball forward” by not dropping his hands and letting the power come to him as opposed to swinging for the fences.

Manager Torey Lovullo said Tuesday that McCarthy is playing relaxed since he was last recalled on July 11 from Triple-A Reno. Mather concurred, saying the rookie had a mindset of being patient and attacking the pitches he can handle.

“I think he feels like he doesn’t have to get five hits to stay here, and that’s just a good feeling,” Lovullo said. “He’s letting his ability take over, and he’s just being the best version of himself.

“That’s what I tell these players, you don’t have to do anything other than just be yourself out there. Control the zone, paying attention to your baseball concepts and just being a very good baseball player with a high baseball IQ. He’s doing a really good job of that.”

McCarthy told Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo Wednesday that he worked at driving the ball more in 2020 before he reached Double-A Amarillo.

He came back in 2021 and slugged. 500 across Double-A and Triple-A Reno, something he never did in the lower levels.

At no stage has he been a big home run hitter, but that power shows in his ability to find gaps. From there, his speed is a weapon, as it is for many of his D-backs teammates.

The Diamondbacks have assembled a young outfield corps of McCarthy, Alek Thomas, Corbin Carroll, Daulton Varsho and Stone Garrett. And they can move.

McCarthy and Carroll both have sprint speeds of at least 30 feet per second, while Thomas is at 29.3, according to Statcast.

“Baseball is a hard sport, you’re not going to have two or three hits every single game,” McCarthy said. “So when we aren’t necessarily driving the ball, I think being athletes will help on the basepaths, defensively, to just take pressure off one another so we don’t have to out-slug certain teams.”

McCarthy fits the mold of what the D-backs have built this season. They have found success being a patient, yet aggressive team by being patient at the plate and aggressive on the bathpaths.

Since the start of July, Arizona has the best walk-to-strikeout rate in the majors and the seventh-best walk rate. Paired with the best ultimate base running clip, per FanGraphs, the D-backs have equipped themselves to take advantage of opportunities to capitalize with their legs.

They are sixth in MLB in runs over that span despite being 17th in home runs. Having 37 stolen bases also helps.

Since his most recent recall, McCarthy has a .389 on-base clip with 11 swiped bags. Mather credits McCarthy’s mental work to find advantages in the game.

“Very consistent work and very low maintenance to just kind of know exactly what he wants to do every day,” Mather said. “He’ll come back and ask really good questions on pitchers right before he goes up just to make sure he’s got a pretty good idea how they’re gonna attack him.”

McCarthy said he got a boost from Lovullo telling him to be himself when he first got to the big leagues last August. Approximately a year later, he is utilizing his best tools to produce near the top of the order for the D-backs.

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