D-backs’ Corbin Carroll already growing in promising 1st full rookie year

May 31, 2023, 7:37 AM | Updated: 11:25 am

Corbin Carroll #7 of the Arizona Diamondbacks reacts after hitting an RBI single in the top of the ...

Corbin Carroll #7 of the Arizona Diamondbacks reacts after hitting an RBI single in the top of the eighth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on May 23, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Diamondbacks defeated the Philles 4-3. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Corbin Carroll was 16 games into his first full MLB season. The Arizona Diamondbacks star had plenty of flashes through those two-and-a-half weeks to earn that label and was hitting .271.

But one key part of any hitter’s game at the plate was missing. He wasn’t generating walks at all, an uncharacteristic streak for someone who was pretty darn good at that before then.

His first came in contest No. 17. D-backs manager Torey Lovullo saw someone trying to prove himself in a big way, a mindset that matches up given the offseason hype surrounding Carroll.

“I just think he was trying to show you, ‘Hey, watch me. Watch what I can do,'” Lovullo said Friday. “He was just trying too hard to hit every pitch in the zone.”

Lovullo credited Carroll and other D-backs hitters in tightening up their pitch selection on what to swing at, an impressive adjustment of focus from young players like Carroll. And the results for him have been great.

“I think Corbin is a perfect example of one person that has done that very, very well,” Lovullo said.

Since the 17th game, Carroll is piling walks up to the point where, coming into Wednesday, he leads the team in that department by four, even after giving his teammates a 16-game head-start.

“I think there’s was an awareness that was created to the entire group,” Lovullo said. “I think Corbin takes all that coaching very well. Trust is a huge word inside of this culture.”

Looking at that 17th fixture again that was conveniently on April 17, since then Carroll’s got a base-on-balls percentage of 15.6%, the 13th-best in baseball, per Fangraphs.

Of course, as former Suns head coach Monty Williams would say, this is not a time to get happy on the farm about a six-week sample size. But it indicates tremendous growth from the 22-year-old, making tweaks to such a high degree of success.

On the D-backs’ recent nine-game road trip, Carroll had nine walks, plus 10 hits across his 42 plate appearances.

Carroll on Tuesday made it sound fairly simple. It was an answer lacking complexities, coming across with a mature tone and also an admission (accompanied by a smile) of how it was “probably the longest I’ve gone without walking in my life.”

“Just didn’t read too much into it,” he said. “Still felt like my swing felt good, most of the swing decisions felt good, just maybe a combination of pitchers attacking the zone and expanding a little more than I wanted to.”

It has been needed for a young team still trying to generate more walks. Arizona entered Tuesday 25th in BB% at 8.0%, nearly a full percentage point below the league average. The discipline has been there on the other side of the spectrum, with a strikeout percentage of 20.2%, 2.5% above the league average and tied for the fourth-best mark in MLB.

Carroll, like Lovullo, nudged at how it was a team-wide adjustment in process, looking at Arizona’s single walk as a team after its opening series of the season, a four-game set versus the Los Angeles Dodgers.

“I think early on it was a combination of things but they were just in the zone a lot. … Just trying to find my pitch, not putting the pitcher’s pitch in play, kind of chasing more the heart of the plate than the shadow, just being a little more selective,” Carroll said.

Tuesday was just Carroll’s 84th game for the D-backs, so his answer could become deeper in a few years’ time, but he noted that the “adaptability piece is huge” in regards to how fast adjustments come from both sides in the majors.

It’s a glowing positive for Arizona that Carroll can not only recognize the importance of that but has shown the innate ability to apply it.

It’s part of what already allows him to, at times, play like a star. The day-to-day impact he makes on the Diamondbacks sure feels like it’s coming from one.

In Tuesday’s win over the Colorado Rockies, Carroll stole bases on consecutive pitches to reach third base, so a sacrifice fly with one out scored him. Two innings later, he clobbered a solo homer. Arizona ultimately didn’t need those insurance runs, but there are going to be plenty of nights in the future where that multifaceted, self-generated offense from Carroll singlehandedly produces enough scoring to eke out a win.

Speaking of winning, as long as the D-backs (32-23) keep doing that at this rate and Carroll’s play doesn’t drop off, he will be under serious consideration for an All-Star spot. He’s on pace for a 25/25 season of homers and steals, done only three times ever by an MLB rookie. In the National League, he ranks second in stolen bases (16) and is top-10 in OPS (.893), as well as top-20 in both doubles (13) and batting average (.285).

Much was made going into 2023 about Carroll’s chances of securing Rookie of the Year. But his start to the season suggests the expectations should have been set even higher.

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