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Tampa Bay Rays: 5th Rounder Joe McCarthy Looks To Come Back

By Robbie Knopf

How about three draft picks in the first five rounds for the Tampa Bay Rays who recently faced injury issues? People didn’t see Chris Betts catch much this year because of an elbow injury, Brandon Lowe suffered a broken fibula a few days ago, and now here is Joe McCarthy. McCarthy was a potential first or supplemental rounder entering the season, but he required back surgery in January and didn’t look the same after he returned. From the Rays’ standpoint, however, they saw a guy with an advanced bat that was suddenly signable in the fifth round.

McCarthy hit just .225 with a .292 on-base percentage in his 26 games for the University of Virginia this season, but even at his worst, he walked 20 times against 15 walks. No one was pitching around him, but it didn’t matter. The left-handed McCarthy excels at making hard contact to all fields and drawing his walks. His pitch recognition is excellent and he has a legitimate chance to walk more than he strikes out at the major league level. For that to matter, however, he will need to start hitting for more power.

McCarthy has solid speed, and if he was a centerfielder with his hitting profile, it would be difficult to do anything but smile. Instead, his range isn’t good enough for center and his weak arm limits him to left field or first base. If he doesn’t hit for power, it will be difficult for him to profile as a starter at either position. On the other hand, it isn’t as though he lacks strength. We are talking about a guy who is 6’3″, 215, and the key for the Rays will be to make adjustments to his stroke to tap into his raw power.

Of course, there is always the concern that by trying to help McCarthy hit for power, they mess with his hit tool. Before we even get to that point, we need to see if ever hits the ball with the same authority now that back surgery is in his past. There is certainly risk that will come with McCarthy, and that won’t subside even once he proves his health. However, we see the Rays going for bat after bat realizing that they can’t be worrying about players being prototypical at their positions. If McCarthy becoming a left field version of James Loney wouldn’t be enough, then that would mean that the Rays are getting improved results on offense.

If Joe McCarthy’s back injury doesn’t prove to be a long-term concern, then the Tampa Bay Rays drafted a safe major leaguer with their pick in the fifth round. We will see about McCarthy’s health and what happens with his power, but the Rays are feeling good that this type of guy fell into their laps this late in the draft.

Click this link to read our other 2015 Tampa Bay Rays MLB Draft profiles.

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