That pattern finally stopped toward the second half of the season after McCarthy, called up July 11, not only played well enough to earn a stable spot with the Diamondbacks, but to be considered among the best first-year players in the game.
“After you get sent down a few times, you stop worrying about everything that can go wrong and you just go out and play,” he said. “And for the last three months of the season there, I was able to play every day and play at a pretty high level. It was kind of nice, but it was about gaining momentum and just realizing that, ‘OK, I belong here.’”
McCarthy finished last season with a .283 batting average. He hit eight home runs, had 43 runs batted in and stole 23 bases on 26 attempts.
His fourth-place finish in the NL Rookie of the Year balloting is the best by a former Wahoo since Zimmerman finished second 16 years earlier.
“He really got to the point where he matured and where failure didn’t hurt him as much,” said Pavin Smith, a UVA Baseball Hall of Famer who played in 75 games last season for the Diamondbacks. “Instead of freaking out when you get out, he was just very calm and collected. It definitely paid off.”
Patience has long been part of McCarthy’s story.
McCarthy came to UVA from his hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania, with visions of contributing to College World Series teams, something his older brother, Joe, did in 2014 and 2015.
But in the sixth game of his freshman season, McCarthy tore ligaments in the big toe of his right foot while colliding with the outfield wall at Disharoon Park. The injury required surgery, and he was sidelined for the rest of the year. In 2018, he missed 37 games for a wrist injury.