May 27, 2024

The Arizona Diamondbacks were hosting the Kansas City Royals in May 2022, and D-backs ace Zac Gallen couldn’t help himself. He had watched a 21-year-old phenom make his presence felt over the field against his team for two straight days and wondered what it would be like to have a talent like that on his side.

“I saw Bobby Witt Jr. play and I joked with our front office, ‘Hey where’s our guy that’s young, comes up and plays like that?'” Gallen recalled. “They immediately said, ‘Just wait, he’s on his way.'”

Four months later, Corbin Carroll arrived in Arizona — and he hasn’t stopped proving his front office right since. Now, under the bright lights of the MLB postseason, the rest of the baseball world is about to see what Gallen and his D-backs teammates have seen for just over a year now.

Carroll was called up to the big leagues for the final month, getting his first taste of the majors and giving Arizona a look at what was to come when he slugged .500 with an .830 OPS in 32 games.

This season Carroll took his game to new heights. After signing an eight-year, $111 million deal during spring training, he blew past Witt’s rookie numbers and became the first player in major league history to amass at least 25 home runs, 10 triples and 50 stolen bases in a single season. Add 30 doubles and stellar outfield play to his résumé, and Carroll is the runaway favorite for National League Rookie of the Year. He has risen to the occasion early in his first postseason as well, putting up an otherworldly 1.655 OPS.

As Carroll makes his October introduction to a national audience with every hard-hit ball, dash around the bases and incredible play in the field, we asked five of his teammates to describe what it’s like to witness the emergence of MLB’s next superstar outfielder on a daily basis.


The work ethic

The first thing Carroll’s teammates pointed to was an approach to the game that far exceeds his age. The D-backs outfielder is often the first to show up and last to leave, but this goes even further: Carroll has already mastered the mental side in a way that impresses even a 16-year MLB veteran he’s sharing the clubhouse with this season.

Evan Longoria: “He’s so regimented. Everything he does, every day. He has a plan. He prepares the right way. I think of myself at that age, I had none of that. He’s had that from the time I met him. That’s part of what makes him so successful. Sticking to that routine. That’s not easy when you’re young in this game.”

Gallen: “In 2021, we were losing 110 games and he was coming to the field, watching our games. He’s learning the game while we’re losing like that. He’s so committed. Stomaching that season with us and taking what he learned into his career.”

Longoria: “Watching him develop, he overcame any adversity very quickly. He was getting breaking ball after breaking ball and then went into the cage and worked on hitting those and the slump was short lived.


The tools

Carroll was selected with the 16th overall pick in the 2019 MLB draft and rose to the No. 2 spot on ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel’s 2023 preseason prospect rankings, but in large part because of his unassuming frame — Carroll stands just 5-foot-10, 165 pounds — his dynamic skill set on the diamond still has a tendency to sneak up on you. The advice from his teammates as you take in the speedy outfielder for the first time this October? Don’t be surprised by anything he can do — in any aspect of the game.

Tommy Pham: “He’s a great player. He has every tool. I guess he could improve his arm strength? He covers so much ground. He can hit. He hits line drives everywhere. And the speed is so elite. He turns singles into doubles and doubles into triples. He’s the best baserunner in the game right now.”

Christian Walker: “Watching him play is so exciting. He’s never too far down and he never gets too high on himself. He’s just always in it. He’s so intentful in every moment. You can tell that by talking to the guy. He’s so smart and super talented. That’s a great combination. He’s the total package.”

Longoria: “When I first signed, I went over to Salt River [Arizona’s spring training facility in Scottsdale] to hit in mid-January, and he was there. The pop was electric. I knew he could run.”


The leadership

Carroll has played a grand total of 187 regular-season games and already been anointed the face of his franchise, rewarded with a nine-figure contract and put in the spotlight as the breakout star for a pop-up National League contender. That kind of adoration so quickly could go straight to a player’s head, right? Not in this case, as Carroll prefers to let his game do the talking. Well, on the baseball field, at least.

Alek Thomas: “We grew up in the system together. To see him have this year he’s having is unbelievable. He goes out there, younger than me, and acts like he’s been around for 5-6 years. He leads by example.”

Pham: “He was raised by a good family. You can obviously see that … He’s a little shy but I’ll try to joke with him in the outfield when there’s a pitching change. I’ll say things like, ‘Hey Corbin, I think that girl really likes you in the outfield stands.’ Then I’ll tell him, ‘When I was your age I was a little faster than you.’ I tell him stuff like that, [trying] to get a smile out of him.”

Thomas: “We play video games. That’s the one thing I’m better than him at. He gets so mad whenever I beat him. We go at it in Fortnite.”


The big stage

The Diamondbacks started the playoffs by first rolling into Milwaukee for a wild-card sweep of the Brewers that included two comeback victories, earning the team the nickname of “The Answerbacks,” and then handing Clayton Kershaw the worst start of his entire career in their National League Division Series-opening win. Carroll has been at the center of it all, posting an incredible .500/.571/1.083 slash line while providing his first signature October moment — and leaving his teammates wondering where this postseason ride will go next.

Thomas: “You want a moment? How about hitting that changeup 450 feet in [NL wild card] Game 1? That was a defining moment for the series because we were down.”

Longoria: “The national viewership deserves to see a player like him in big moments like this.”

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