Right-hander Kevin McCarthy was a 16th round pick in 2013 of the KC Royals. I’m sure you are thinking “well, he’s been around” especially since he was drafted out of college (Marist). But he really has not.
McCarthy had a second knee surgery (the first coming at Marist), causing him to miss all but two games (four innings) in 2014. Thus, the 2015 season was his first full year of professional baseball.
“If I was told in the beginning of the year that I would finish in Double-A with a fall league invite,” McCarthy said, “I wouldn’t have believed it. But I just couldn’t be happier with how everything has worked out.”
McCarthy started the 2015 season with Low-A Lexington, but after posting dominant numbers (12IP, 10H, 3R, 2ER, BB, 8K) in six games with two saves, he was off to High-A Wilmington (where I had a chance to watch him pitch). He stayed with the Blue Rocks until the end of July, also posting dominant numbers (33IP, 24H, 7R, 6ER, 2HR, 5BB, 23K). Opponents hit just .205 against him and he was 4-for-5 in save opportunities.
Then it was off to Double-A NW Arkansas for McCarthy, where he struggled a bit, but had a chance to experience the postseason (the Naturals lost in the Texas League Championship).
“They [his mechanics] were a little out of whack in Double-A,” McCarthy said. “I was jumping out, landing on my heal instead of waiting back and landing flat.”
However, the season wasn’t over for McCarthy. With about a week or two off, he was off to Arizona to participate in the prestigious Arizona Fall League. While he may not be considered a “prospect” by scouts and those that make up a team’s “top 30” lists, McCarthy may have put himself on the map.
“I hope so,” he said.
Outside of his first relief appearance and another on October 28th, McCarthy has been a reliable cog for West Division Champion Surprise. His two bad outings looked like this (combined): 1.1IP, 7H, 10R, 2HR, BB, K. In his other seven relief appearances (6.2 innings), McCarthy allowed just one hit while striking out five. He has four straight scoreless outings going into the final three games of the regular season (and then Saturday’s AFL Championship).
McCarthy was kind enough to answer some questions as his season was winding down.
- Were you surprised when you were selected for the AFL?
“I was. The whole year happened so fast after being in rehab for the previous year and a half. I just felt honored that they decided to send me to the AFL.”
- Are you working on anything while in the AFL?
“Slider, controlling it more, especially for strikes. I no longer have the high set hands. I got called for a balk in NWA because I set them over my head, so they wanted me to get more comfortable with the new set position I have.”
- Are you feeling more comfortable yet?
“Yes, feeling a lot better. Working with [pitching coach] Carlos Reyes down here has been great. He was down here in Arizona during my rehab stints [following knee surgery] so we already have a great relationship.”
- Have you had a chance to work with former Blue Rock and Royal Jose Rosado (Surprise’s other pitching coach)?
“Yeah, Rosey is the man! He really knows his stuff.”
- How cool is it to be playing with and against some of the game’s top young talent?
“It’s awesome. The guys are great. And our team became close very quick and it’s just been a lot of fun.”
- Was it weird at first playing with guys from different organizations?
“At first it was a little strange, but everyone warmed up pretty quick.”
- Have you learned anything from your Surprise teammates?
“Definitely. Found out the hard way that with this level of competition, you can’t rely on your fastball. Just hanging in the bullpen with some of the more experienced guys and listening to how they read hitters and find holes in their swings is something I want to learn better. Hopefully it can help minimize the big innings.”
- Is there a guy in the AFL that has impressed you the most or someone I should keep an eye on?
“[Catcher] Gary Sanchez and [reliever] Dean Kiekhefer (14.1IP, 10H, 4R, HR, 0BB, 13K).”
- Do you like throwing to Gary (I have seen him a lot over the last two years)?
“Yeah. He receives the ball great and is just real positive when I’m out there.”
- Have you gotten to do anything cool or see anything while in Arizona?
“Not this time around, but back in rehab, I did go to see Sedona and the Grand Canyon, which was pretty sweet.”
- Are you feeling the effects of the long season, especially with it being your first full season?
“Yeah, this was a long year. Arm and body just feel tired. Looking forward to a little break.”
- Any plans for your time off?
“Just spend time at home with the family and a Disney trip in the beginning of January. My siblings and I are taking our nephew to see Mickey. I’m very excited. I love Disney. Then my plan is to come out to Arizona early just to get most of my throwing program done in some warmer weather.” SIDE NOTE: McCarthy is from NY.
- Are you more excited about Disney than your nephew?
“I might be.”
- What are you most looking forward to about Disney?
“I’m a big ride guy.”
- What’s your favorite?
Thanks again to KMac for taking the time to answer my questions!
Hopefully you can see him pitch in the AFL Championship on Saturday, as MLB Network will be broadcasting it live at 3pm ET.