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Entering the 2023 season, one of the season-defining questions facing the Diamondbacks was a simple one: Is Corbin Carroll already a star?
Based on how Carroll performed in a cup of coffee in the majors last year, it seemed possible. In 32 games, he slashed .260/.330/.500 in 115 plate appearances. He also graded out as the fastest man in baseball.
But, even when the Diamondbacks inked Carroll to an aggressive eight-year, $111 million extension this March, they knew that there were no guarantees about his future.
“I don’t have a crystal ball on these things,” general manager Mike Hazen told reporters. “I don’t know exactly where some of that will come down from a performance standpoint.
“But I do know some things, and I’ll tell you exactly what I know about the human being that we’re signing. That human being, I’m convinced of, goes to bed every night fixated on how he is going to be a better player the next day, and what he could do to help the organization and the team win.
“There will not be a day where the degree of preparation necessary to be a great player is not going to be there. And, if I gotta make bets in this job, that’s what I’m betting on.”
Suffice it to say that, with Carroll’s first full year in the majors now in the books, any questions over whether or not he is a star have been entirely eradicated.
In 2023, Carroll hit .285/.362/.506 with 25 homers, 78 RBI, 116 runs scored, 54 stolen bases and 6.0 fWAR. He became the first player in AL/NL history to reach 25 homers and 50 stolen bases as a rookie. He was an All-Star starter, and the best player on a team that went all the way to the World Series.
The icing on the cake of Carroll’s season came on Monday, when he was named the unanimous 2023 NL Rookie of the Year, netting the Diamondbacks an additional 2024 draft pick in the process.
When asked which moments of his 2023 season he’ll remember most, Carroll pointed to one that stood above the rest: leading a team-wide charge to the Chase Field swimming pool in late September to celebrate a playoff berth.
From that moment at the pool to Carroll being introduced at the All-Star game in his hometown of Seattle, there were no shortage of memorable moments in his rookie season. Narrowing the list down to 10 and ranking them seems like an impossible task, but let’s give it a try.
10. Carroll notches first two-homer game, grand slam in one swing
June 9, 2023
Entering play on June 9 against the Detroit Tigers, Carroll had never had a two-homer game or a grand slam in the majors. That changed with one swing on an elevated fastball on the outer edge of the plate. It was one of four Carroll homers this year in that quadrant of the zone.
At the time of the dinger, Carroll was on fire. He had four hits in his previous game against the Washington Nationals, including another home run. At the end of play on June 9, Carroll was slashing a pristine .307/.391/.575. He looked like an MVP candidate, and was accordingly showered with MVP chants on the Diamondbacks’ next homestand.
9. Carroll smokes pinch-hit, two-run triple to lead Diamondbacks to victory over St. Louis Cardinals
July 25, 2023
Things were not so good for the Diamondbacks in late July. Entering play on the 25th against the St. Louis Cardinals, they had lost five in a row and were just 5-13 in the month. When they needed a big hit, they seemingly never got it.
But, when the Cardinals led the Diamondbacks 1-0 entering the bottom of the eighth inning on July 25, Ketel Marte tripled and Jake McCarthy singled him home, tying the game at one.
It was an off-day for Carroll, but he was available off the bench. His time would come, but it had not come yet. The next batter, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., grounded out, advancing McCarthy to second. Christian Walker then struck out for the second out of the inning.
Carroll had been on deck to pinch hit for Evan Longoria, the Diamondbacks’ next scheduled hitter, but Lovullo opted to pull him back for youngster Dominic Canzone because he expected Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol to walk Carroll with first base open.
Instead, Canzone came to the plate and drew a walk of his own, opening the door for Carroll to pinch hit for the Diamondbacks’ next hitter, Emmanuel Rivera.
With third base still open, two outs and the light-hitting Nick Ahmed on deck, Marmol probably should have walked Carroll in that situation, too. Instead, Carroll smoked a center-cut changeup from Chris Stratton 410 feet to straightaway center for a go-ahead, two-run triple. The Diamondbacks went on to win the game, 3-1.
8. Carroll hits go-ahead, two-run homer in pivotal game against Cincinnati Reds
Aug. 24, 2023
After reaching rock bottom on Aug. 11 with nine consecutive losses, the Diamondbacks began to heat up again in late August.
From Aug. 24-27, they played a pivotal four-game series at home against the Cincinnati Reds, a team with whom they were in direct competition in the NL wild-card race.
In this particular game, the Diamondbacks trailed 2-1 heading to the bottom of the eighth when Carroll smoked a two-run homer off Reds lefty Alex Young. The dinger gave the Diamondbacks a 3-2 lead, and they went on to win the game by that very score the next inning.
The win was critical for the Diamondbacks. In theory, had that win been turned into a loss, both they and the Reds would have finished the year 83-79. Given that the Reds had the tiebreaker, it is conceivable that the Diamondbacks would have missed the playoffs entirely had Carroll not come through.
7. Carroll introduced as All-Star starter in hometown of Seattle
July 11, 2023
For as many great moments as there were in Carroll’s rookie season, none were more poetic than when he was introduced as an All-Star at T-Mobile Park, the ballpark where he grew up attending games as a kid from Seattle.
Carroll was voted in by fans as an All-Star starter, becoming the first rookie to do so since Aaron Judge in 2017. Carroll also became the second Diamondbacks outfielder ever to start the midsummer classic, joining Luis Gonzalez in 2001.
The game was played less than a week after Carroll suffered what he initially thought was a season-ending shoulder injury. In reality, an MRI showed no structural damage, and he was back in the lineup the next day.
6. Carroll hits walk-off knock on a pitch nowhere near the strike zone
July 8, 2023
All walk-offs are memorable, and this one was especially notable given that it came against one of the best closers in the game in Pittsburgh Pirates righty David Bednar.
It is hard to blame Bednar too much, though. In a 2-2 count, Bednar threw an offspeed pitch down and in off the plate. Somehow, Carroll yanked it down the right-field line anyway for a walk-off hit. It was the lowest pitch that Carroll turned around for a hit all year.
5. The first walk-off hit of Carroll’s life leads to four-game sweep of Colorado Rockies
June 1, 2023
At least by his own recollection, Carroll had never had a walk-off hit of any kind, professional or amateur, prior to this two-run, walk-off knock against the Colorado Rockies on June 1.
As with his walk-off hit against Bednar that came roughly a month later, Carroll reached well beyond the outer edges of the strike zone to get to the pitch. Only one time all year did Carroll connect for a base hit on a pitch that was farther outside than this Pierce Johnson heater.
Unlike the walk-off against Bednar, though, this one came with the Diamondbacks trailing with two outs in the inning. An out of any kind would have ended the game. Carroll’s two-run single, however, netted the Diamondbacks a win — and their first sweep of the season.
4. Carroll becomes first rookie ever to post 25-50 season, notching 25th homer and 50th stolen base in same game
Sep. 20, 2023
As of Aug. 27, Carroll had already become the fourth player in AL/NL history with 20-plus homers and 40-plus stolen bases in his rookie season. He still had more history to make, however.
Entering play on Sep. 20, Carroll had 24 homers and 48 stolen bases. He was closing in on a 25-50 season, a feat no known MLB rookie has ever accomplished.
In the first inning against the San Francisco Giants, Carroll singled, stole second (No. 49) and scored on a Christian Walker RBI single.
In the third, Carroll singled again and stole second again. There it was: his 50th stolen base. This time, Giants catcher Patrick Bailey’s throw sailed into center field, allowing Carroll to take third.
To reach that elusive 25-50 season, however, Carroll still needed to hit his 25th homer. Four innings later, he checked that off the list as well. In the seventh, Carroll molly-whopped a first-pitch Ryan Walker slider 403 feet over the right-field fence.
In a conference call with reporters on Monday, Carroll called it a moment he will never forget.
3. Carroll torches two-run dinger in Game 1 of Wild CArd series, sparks comeback
Oct. 3, 2023
For as incredible as the Diamondbacks’ postseason run was, it sure did not start out that way. In Game 1 of the Wild Card Series, the Milwaukee Brewers offense tagged D-backs rookie Brandon Pfaadt for one run in the first and two more in the second.
But, with the Diamondbacks trailing 3-0 in the top of the third, Carroll deposited a center-cut Corbin Burnes changeup into the second deck for a two-run homer. “At that point, we all exhaled,” Lovullo said after the game. “We collectively got our feet underneath us.”
At 444 feet, it was the second-longest homer of Carroll’s career.
Seconds later, Marte ambushed the first pitch he saw to tie the game. The Diamondbacks went on to win, 6-3, scoring six unanswered runs to finish the game. It all started with Carroll’s homer.
2. Carroll ties Game 1 of World Series with two-run triple
Oct. 27, 2023
There were really two extraordinary Corbin Carroll moments in Game 1 of the World Series.
The first was a two-run triple with one out in the third inning that erased an early Texas Rangers lead. Rangers center fielder Leody Taveras misplayed it off the bat, allowing Carroll to reach third base.
The next hitter, Ketel Marte, rolled over the top to the first baseman. That is when the second moment extraodinary moment happened. Going on contact, Carroll appeared to be a dead duck the moment the ball was hit, but his speed proved too much for the Rangers’ infield.
Just like that, Carroll had used his bat and his legs to turn a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 Diamondbacks lead — on the World Series stage, no less.
1. Carroll takes over Game 7 of NLCS to send Diamondbacks to World Series
Oct. 24, 2023
After hitting .412/.565/.824 in the first two rounds of the playoffs, Carroll went just 3-for-23 in the first six games of the NLCS against the Philadelphia Phillies. But, when the Diamondbacks needed him most in Game 7, he delivered in every possible way. Carroll either scored or drove in all four runs that led the Diamondbacks to the fall classic.
In the first inning, Carroll singled and advanced to third on another hit by Gabriel Moreno. He then scored on a fielder’s choice groundout by Christian Walker, giving the Diamondbacks a 1-0 lead.
After the Phillies countered with two runs of their own, Carroll once again came through with a game-tying, two-out RBI single that scored Emmanuel Rivera from second. Moreover, he got himself into scoring position by stealing second, enabling him to score on a single on another single by Moreno. The Diamondbacks took a 3-2 lead as a result. In the seventh, Carroll tacked on one more run with a sacrifice fly.
Carroll finished the game with three hits, two runs scored, two RBI and two stolen bases. He was the first player ever to post those marks or better in a winner-take-all postseason game.
It was only fitting that Carroll also recorded the final out that landed the Diamondbacks in the World Series for the second time in franchise history.
Top photo: Rob Schumacher/The Republic
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