Jake McCarthy Will Lead the League In Speed

Jake McCarthy's tools and environment enable a 2023 fantasy breakout.

Haven’t you heard?! Stolen bases are dying in MLB. In 1987 the MLB record was set for 3,585 stolen bases in one season and from then to now, we have seen about a 30% decline in swiped bags across the league. Don’t give up just yet, because MLB has finally made the changes necessary to give managers the right reasons to push their fastest players for more action and drama with runners on base. Bigger bases, pick-off rules, and the new regulations for defensive shifts are all reasons why we should see more speed across the diamond in 2023 and beyond.

So, whose fantasy ceiling got higher with these changes? Jake McCarthy is who! As a former first-round pick in 2018, the upside has always been clear with his unique speed, but McCarthy made big strides in his 2022 campaign with consistent at-bats in 99 games for the Diamondbacks. McCarthy ended the season in solid fantasy standing and came in at #97 in our very own Scott Chu’s (way too early) Top 200 Hitters for Fantasy Baseball 2023. Considering all of the changes to MLB rules, and the Diamondbacks rating sixth in MLB for stolen bases, McCarthy is a prime candidate to see a substantial jump in his fantasy value.

 

McCarthy’s Place Amongst His Peers

 

When looking at standard speed categories, McCarthy paces out to compete with the league’s best in stolen bases. Only Jon Berti, the reigning stolen bases leader from 2022, contends with his potential output. McCarthy was tied for 13th overall in stolen bases with 23 and was the only player in the top 25 with under 100 appearances. Amongst that same group, his OPS was only lower than nine other players, proving not only his ability to generate runs with his legs but also continue innings with his bat.

Top 25 SB 2022 with .750+ OPS

When diving further into the metrics you see exactly how much of an impact McCarthy can generate in all five fantasy categories. In his 99 appearances, McCarthy improved at the plate relative to his limited action in 2021. After all, he has to actually get on base to provide his upside. One of his largest upticks was Sweet Spot Percentage (SwSP%), where he found his 32.5% just below the league average. More consistent barrels, and more consistent launch angles, means more total bases and potential streaks of power.

There is plenty of evidence his speed directly contributes to his overall production and value, especially with the ability to extend singles into doubles and doubles into triples. See how easily he gets into third on this bullet to the left-center gap:

Along with his own capabilities as a stolen base threat and extending total bases, McCarthy can add bonus runs with his absurd sprint speed, averaging 30.1 ft/sec. This example shows his first base-to-home scoring speed on a hard-hit ball, played cleanly, and sliding into home without a tag attempt:

 

Bolting Around the Bases

 

McCarthy is a Bolt personified (anytime a runner’s speed exceeds 30 ft/sec). The speedster tallied 71 total Bolts and was one of eleven players to finish with an average sprint speed of over 30 ft/sec. The Bolt clearly defines his aggressive athleticism and the ability to break through that elusive speed barrier on a consistent basis. McCarthy is amongst the fantasy juggernauts in the top five Bolt leaders from 2022. When you consider Trea Turner as an #1 ADP favorite, Julio Rodríguez at #5, and Bobby Witt Jr. in the top 20, McCarthy is a true steal at his current place between 120 and 150.

Top 5 in Bolts 2022

Why not indulge in a little drama from last year, shall we? McCarthy looked to steal not only home, but crush the hearts of Dodgers fans and steal the hearts of Diamondbacks fans in one fell swoop. Stealing home is still one of the rarest and most exciting plays in the game, and to attempt it for a walk-off! While he fell just short, this close play is exactly what the game needs to bring fans to their feet.

 

The Environment for Success

 

The Diamondbacks had him sitting firmly in the top half of the order and that will continue with his ability to generate runs and contribute across all five categories in standard formats. After an offseason trade of Daulton Varsho to the Toronto Blue Jays for Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and their former #1 prospect Gabriel Moreno, McCarthy looks to be joined by fellow speedsters Alek Thomas and MLB top-three prospect Corbin Carroll in the outfield. When you consider a player of McCarthy’s caliber, alongside his environment on a young and hungry Diamondbacks team, his fantasy value relative to the draft position will be exceptional amongst comparable players.

In what will be the most drastic rule changes MLB has seen from season to season, this year promises to be a perfectly balanced playground for Jake McCarthy to flourish into a dynamic fantasy player. McCarthy has already found himself in rare air in his short career and enters a particular set of circumstances that will enable a breakout summer. The stolen bases are proven, but his improved approach at the plate with his 98th-percentile speed is nearly peerless across the league. In what will be his first full season, McCarthy has the opportunity to move from a late-round flier into a top-50 batter. Don’t let him fly under the radar in the desert, or you’ll be left snakebit.

 

Photo from Arizona Diamondbacks | Adapted by Chris Corr(@Chris_Studios on Twitter)

Andrew Abramo

Andrew Abramo is a Staff Writer at Pitcher List. He's a lifelong baseball and sports fan, as well as a PC and Nintendo Switch gamer, cat dad, and proud husband.

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