ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Luis Gonzalez: Corbin Carroll will be the best Diamondbacks player to put on uniform

Feb 17, 2024, 3:02 PM

SCOTTSDALE — Corbin Carroll has spent a lot of time this offseason at Salt River Fields, working at the Arizona Diamondbacks’ facility.

Be it on the heels of the World Series finale or two days before Christmas, Carroll was here, as general manager Mike Hazen said.

“I would come down at two o’clock in the afternoon, and he’s the only guy in the gym,” Hazen said Friday. “That’s something to me, that translates into year-over-year performance for a player. He’s certainly talented, that’s not of any debate, but I think that to me is a separator at this level.”

The GM isn’t the only one with that experience.

“Late in the afternoon, all the guys were gone and he was still here,” D-backs legend Luis Gonzalez told Arizona Sports’ Wolf & Luke on Thursday. “I walked in and asked him what he was still doing here. He said, ‘Just trying to get better.’ I kind of scratched my head and I walked out and I said if this guy is trying to get better, he couldn’t get any better than what he did last year. So I mean, it just goes to show you how valuable he is to this team.”

Gonzalez, one of two Diamondbacks with their jersey number retired, a franchise icon with the walk-off hit in Game 7 of the World Series to capture Arizona’s lone title, then made quite the prediction.

“This guy will ultimately be the best player to ever put on a Diamondbacks uniform,” Gonzalez said.

Woah.

The most accomplished Diamondbacks player ever was Randy Johnson, who signed with the infant franchise as a 35-year-old free agent and won the next four NL Cy Young awards. His 50.9 rWAR is over 10 higher than Paul Goldschmidt for second (39.9) on the leaderboard.

Johnson is the franchise leader in starts (232) and innings pitched (1,630.1) even with 11 MLB seasons played before his D-backs debut. He played five elite seasons in purple and teal (1999-2002, 2004).

The D-backs saw Carroll’s work ethic and potential as something to bet on last spring, signing him to an extension through 2030 and counting on him becoming a franchise cornerstone after he spent a month-plus in the bigs.

The jury will be out for a long time.

Carroll had about as strong a first full season anyone could ask for, winning NL Rookie of the Year, making the All-Star Game, finishing fifth in the NL MVP race and earning a spot on the All-MLB first team. He is one of nine players in Arizona history with 20 home runs and 20 steals in a season, while he and Eric Byrnes are the only two of such players who stole 50 bags.

The speed demon with power to go 440 dead center dominated the first three months with a .926 OPS. He took his lumps after the All-Star break with opponents adjusting, but the rookie finished the year strong entering the postseason.

He gave the Brewers and Dodgers fits to start the playoffs 7-for-17 with a couple home runs and six walks en route to Arizona reaching its first World Series since Gonzalez’s single off Mariano Rivera.

Now Carroll is 23 years old with a full season and playoff run under his belt. What does an improved version look like?

“I have no idea. I don’t know. Last year was not the expectation,” Hazen said. “I’ve said that a million times, young players in this league don’t do that. It’s a tiny minority of players that step in and do what he did. So I don’t know what’s next.”

Manager Torey Lovullo said he doesn’t want Carroll to try to be better than he was last year but keep a consistent approach and process.

“I want him to take things in stride,” Lovullo said. “Yes, there are things inside of his game that he can get better at. We’ve always talked about the minutia. The small parts of his game, the left-on-left, the bunting. Last year, we talked about that and he improved during the 2023 season. So I know that that’s a goal of his, to continue to grow.”

Carroll’s career certainly has the potential to go on a path to becoming the greatest from a D-back of all time. He could win the franchise’s first MVP. He could be a consistent star for the D-backs for a decade-plus, something that has not been done before. Gonzalez and Goldschmidt were Diamondbacks for eight years each.

The debate is not particularly relevant to the 2024 season but perhaps something to keep in the back pocket if he builds off of Year 1.

More relevant is that he’s — and the team for that matter — quickly become someone the Valley rallies around, a value Gonzalez expressed excitement for with the No. 7 jersey an increasingly popular sight.

“It’s so exciting to go around the city now and see everyone wearing the No. 7 jersey around just as they do in basketball wearing (Devin) Booker and how they did with (Larry) Fitzgerald and guys like that. So it’s an exciting time for our team,” Gonzalez said.

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