Diamondbacks leaders value World Series experience for younger players
Nov 7, 2023, 7:30 PM | Updated: 7:52 pm
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PHOENIX — Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen said he and assistants Amiel Sawdaye and Mike Fitzgerald drove away from Chase Field together after Game 5 of the World Series last week. In the wake of a season-ending loss, Fitzgerald added some perspective to the D-backs’ run.
“His comment was like, ‘Man, we got like 20 playoff games and 75 at-bats for Corbin Carroll in his rookie year,'” Hazen said on Thursday. “What kind of experience could you ever want for these kids?”
The D-backs turned an 84-win regular season into a World Series appearance with a lineup consisting of four players under 25 years old: Corbin Carroll (23), Gabriel Moreno (23), Alek Thomas (23) and Geraldo Perdomo (24), along with starting pitcher Brandon Pfaadt (25).
Carroll, Moreno and Perdomo started in all 17 postseason games, while Thomas was in the lineup for 14. Pfaadt took the hill five times, at least once in every round.
And they stepped up in some of the biggest moments imaginable in baseball, many of which came on the road due to Arizona’s low seeding.
Thomas blasted a pinch-hit, game-tying home run in the eighth inning of Game 4 during the National League Championship Series off Philadelphia Phillies closer Craig Kimbrel, while Moreno later hit the go-ahead RBI single to even the set 2-2.
Carroll had a three-hit night in Game 7 to close out the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Pfaadt threw 10 scoreless innings across starts in Game 3 of the NLDS against the Dodgers and Game 3 of the NLCS.
“You have a number of young players who have playoff and October long-sleeve baseball experience and you can’t simulate that,” manager Torey Lovullo said on Thursday. “There’s no way you can get Corbin Carroll, Geraldo Perdomo, Gabi Moreno and Alek Thomas, 23-24-year-olds, and Jordan Lawlar this time and experience.
“So we’re one big step ahead of the game. When we step into spring training, they know what it’s like. … It’s 30 extra days of baseball. So that’s hard to prepare for. Now they know what it’s going to take throughout the course of the season.”
Hazen said the organization will follow up with each player, but he described the challenge of entering an offseason this late. Most of the league has been off for five weeks, so the ramp up and preparation ahead of 2024 will be different in Arizona. That’s a problem they’d sign up for every year, but the GM felt Lovullo had a tough job talking about 2024 right after a World Series loss with his players about to disperse for months.
“Veteran players that have done this millions of times I think have that clock,” Hazen said. “The young guys, it’s going to be on us to ensure that they prepare, don’t experience the hangover effect because the preparation changed going into next season. So that’s where I feel like if we do this right and continue to push growth from that young group, that’s where I feel like that 84 wins could be a low number.”
A characteristic used in the clubhouse and by team management all year was the makeup of this young corps, one that didn’t shy from the moment or flounder in road playoff games. Character is why the club signed Carroll to a long-term extension before seeing a full season of work.
The Diamondbacks have holes to address on the roster. The offseason is here, the General Managers Meetings began this week and free agents are able to sign with any team. But internal improvements will be counted on for the next steps to be taken as an organization.
Carroll is already a star player, but what other levels can he get to? What do the second and third years of Moreno starting in MLB look like? Can Lawlar — Arizona’s top prospect who finished the year on the MLB roster — become a star like Hazen believes he can?
“I still think with the group of 21-23-year-olds we have, both in the rotation and in the lineup and in the bullpen, that another big jump for this team will happen with continued development of that group,” Hazen said.