Arizona outfielder Corbin Carroll’s historic 2023 season had a certain congruence. It opened with the Diamondbacks’ acknowledgement of his potential and concluded with the industry recognition of his reality.
Carroll capped his remarkable season when he became the 14th unanimous winner of the National League Rookie of Year award.
It was a 10-month tour de force. Carroll signed an eight-year, $111 million contract in March that was the largest ever awarded to a player with his limited — 38 days — major league service time, and then validated the deal with a power/speed season unique in major league history.
Carroll had 25 home runs, 54 stolen bases, 30 doubles and 10 triples. He is the first player to reach all those plateaus in the same season, benefitting in part of the rules implemented this season that rewarded speed and athleticism on the bases. He became the first rookie with 25 homers and 50 steals, and he led rookies in runs (116) and extra-base hits (65).
For all that, Carroll said he was most proud of what the award meant for the Diamondbacks. In an attempt to curtail service time manipulation, the latest labor agreement between owners and players stipulates that a team will receive an extra draft choice if one of its players finishes in the top three of the Rookie of the Year voting and top five of the Most Valuable Player or Cy Young voting while accruing a full year of service time.
“That’s probably what brought the most weight to chasing something like this for me,” said Carroll, who turned 23 on Aug. 21. “Not for the personal fame or attention but that ability to benefit my team. I’m hoping to be here long enough where that draft pick is hopefully a star player on the Diamondbacks alongside me. Just being able to reward the front office’s belief in me in this way is really special.”
Carroll is the 14th unanimous choice in the National League in the 74-year history of the BBWAA voting. Frank Robinson, Mike Piazza, Albert Pujols, Kris Bryant and Corey Seager also were unanimous choices. Carroll was the first NL unanimous choice since Cody Bellinger in 2017, and the first rookie with even 20 homer/40 stolen base season since unanimous AL winner Mike Trout in 2012.
Carroll also joined a club that includes his idol, Ichiro Suzuki, who won the American League Rookie of the Year award with Seattle in 2001. Carroll took it one step further than Ichiro, who was one vote short of being a unanimous choice. Cleveland’s CC Sabathia received the other first place vote.
“He inspired a Seattle kid,” said Carroll, who is listed as 5-foot-10 and 165 pounds. “His style of play. His ability to do everything well while not trying to go outside himself.
Carroll grew up in Seattle during Ichiro’s time with the Mariners, and the family had partial season tickets to Mariners’ games. His mobile phone locks to a picture of Ichiro.
“I think he probably viewed how he wanted to be perceived as a player similar to how I do,” Carroll told the Seattle Times during the playoffs. “He wasn’t OK with having weaknesses. He wanted to attack everything and make everything a strength. So maybe we’re similar in that way — but I would love to play defense like him and have his arm, his bat-to-ball skills and all those things. But maybe some similarities in the ability to play small ball and just trying to make the right play.”
Carroll is expected to finish high in the NL MVP voting also, where Ronald Acuna Jr. and Mookie Betts are the favorites. Carroll received a $750,000 bonus for winning the award, per terms of the collective bargaining agreement.
Carroll was the ringleader on an Arizona team that surprised many after making the World Series following an 84-78 regular season while winning postseason series over Milwaukee, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Philadelphia, all without home field advantage. Carroll hit .273 with two homers, 10 RBIs and five stolen bases in 17 playoff games.
“I would say anywhere from impressive to magical,” manager Torey Lovullo said when asked about Carroll’s season on the eve of the playoffs. “He just got after it every single day. He improved. He made adjustments, the league adjusted to him, and he adjusted back and he just never took his foot off the gas pedal. That’s his personality and he fits into what I want this organization and I want our team to be known as. He’s going to be a trendsetter here for a long time.”
Carroll credited his success on the bases to Diamondbacks first base/outfield coach Dave McKay, who is considered a master at finding ways to help base stealers get an extra edge. The two spent considerable time together in the minor leagues after Carroll was Arizona’s first round pick in the 2019 draft.
“I think we went three months straight of five days a week, four days a week,” Carroll said. “He doesn’t have to do any of that. But that’s who he is. He’s a teacher and just loves the game more than anyone. I hope some of that has rubbed off on me. I think it has.”