A Conversation With Arizona Diamondbacks Prospect Corbin Carroll

© Michael Chow/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

Corbin Carroll is obsessed with baseball. He’s also immensely talented at the game he grew up playing in the Seattle area. Drafted 16th overall by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2019, the 21-year-old left-handed-hitting center fielder is ranked 14th on our recently-released Top 100 Prospects list.

In the words of our prospect team, Carroll possesses “a blend of physical gifts and heady baseball acumen,” and is expected to “produce at an All-Star level for much of his career assuming a return to full strength.” Most notable in his tool grades are his running ability, which is 70/70 present and future, and his hitting ability, which is 70 future.

Carroll, who missed all but seven games of the 2021 season due to a shoulder injury, discussed his approach and hitting mechanics over the phone Wednesday afternoon.

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David Laurila: Let’s start with a self-scouting report. Who are you as a player?

Corbin Carroll: “In my eyes… that’s good question. I’d say I like to view myself as a spark plug, someone who is getting the team going and will go the extra step to do whatever it takes to score more runs than the other team. I think that translates in terms of some tangible skills on the field, and maybe to some intangible ones, as well.”

Laurila: With intangibles in mind, do you see yourself as a team leader?

Carroll: “I wouldn’t say ‘team leader.’ I’m never the point-the-fingers, look-at-me guy. It’s more so that I’m willing to do whatever it takes. I feel confident, prepared, and ready for whatever that role is.”

Laurila: You’re a plus-plus runner. Do you identify as a ‘speed guy’?

Carroll: “I think it’s really easy to look at guys and slap a single label on them; that’s kind of what the human brain navigates towards. But while speed is an important part of my game, I’m more multi-dimensional than that. I’d like for each of my tools to speak for themselves, as opposed to me being identified by just one.”


Laurila: You reportedly watched a lot of games with a Diamondbacks scout (Jeff Gardner) while you were out with the injury. Did you learn anything about yourself from watching other guys hit?

Carroll: “For sure. One thing is that a lot of guys seem to have this sort of smooth looseness at the plate. That was definitely something that made me pause and think, because I’d always been someone who likes to feel a little bit tighter than the average [hitter]. Now, kind of going back into that process, the thought of feeling a little bit looser, and more relaxed, has helped me.”

Laurila: What do you mean by “a little bit tighter”?

Carroll: “Just a little bit more… kind of wiry? Just a little bit more tone to my pre-pitch movements. I’m kind of twitchy. Even when I’m thinking loose, I still have that twitchiness, so it’s an important reminder to… I’m never someone who can really under-do something, but where I get chapped is when I’m overdoing it. An example would be getting too tight and over-gripping the bat.

“I’m really big into the idea of flow state. That’s something I feel I’m able to achieve a good majority of the time now. When I’m in that state, it’s not really a conscious effort of having to do something to try and slow the game down. It more comes naturally, along with maybe some breathing.”

Laurila: What is your approach when it comes to attacking pitches? Are you basically hunting fastballs middle and adjusting from there?

Carroll: “As an organization, we do some stuff with the idea of a hot zone. My understanding of that hot zone — where that hot zone is — doesn’t actually correlate to where I’m thinking. I’m thinking, ‘drive the ball to left-center field; look middle, middle-out.’ If you’re looking at the plate as seven balls — ‘one’ is on the left side, and ‘seven’ is on the right side — I’m kind of looking at balls three and four. I’m looking to drive those to left-center field, and I’m not someone who is totally worried about getting the ball in the air. I know I can hit the ball hard, and when I hit the ball hard, good things will happen. I’m just trying to be as consistent as possible, hitting the ball as hard as possible.”

Laurila: How would you describe your swing? What does it look like?

Carroll: “I’d say it’s adaptable. What my swing looks like… my hands are pretty high to start. I’m kind of moving the bat in a circular fashion. I’ve got a little bit of hip movement that kind of coordinates with that hand movement. As the pitcher is starting his deal, I’m timing that up and moving my bat from bat-circles into a more linear fashion of movement. As that’s going on, my front leg is coming up. I’m coiling into my backside. That front foot is tapping. From there, I make my move forward.

“And I try not to think. I do my thinking beforehand, trying to prepare as well as I can. But in that moment… that’s where the idea of flow state is so important to me. I’m not having to think, just being able to react.”

Laurila: Was everything you just said about mechanics the same when you first signed, or have you changed anything?

Carroll: “When I signed, I had a bit of a leg kick. I’d been a leg-kick guy since as long as I can remember. Part of that may have been me being a smaller-stature guy and having to try and do a little bit extra to generate some power. That’s something I entered pro ball with, and it’s funny, because there was no conscious decision to switch to a leg tap. It was just after we got shut down in spring training… and even a little bit during spring training. Some of my hitting coaches would ask, ‘Hey, like where is this leg tap, or toe tap, coming from?’ I didn’t even notice I was doing it, to be honest. I had no idea before they told me.

“Going into that coronavirus shutdown, I kind of just kept it going. I recognized that it was working into my swing. I like the feeling it gives me. Balance is really what it is. I feel like it’s a position that I can sit in and really gauge the pitch from, and develop that adjustability from.”

Laurila: A generation ago — given your size and speed — there’s a good chance you’d have been told to slap the ball to the left side and run. I’m guessing that’s something you’ve never really tried to do?

Carroll: “You’re right. I am a smaller guy — I’m 5-foot-11, 180 pounds now — but again, I hit the ball pretty hard. I feel like there’s more that I can do to help the team win than slap the ball around and hit singles. I feel like I’m a more complete hitter than that.”

Laurila: Any final thoughts?

Carroll: “A question that can be interesting is: ‘What is your why?’ By that I mean, ‘Why do you play?’ Baseball is my love. Baseball is my passion. Baseball got taken away from me last year, and I was at the field for as long as I could be, every day, trying to get back there. I would go to Chase Field every night to watch the games. There is nothing I’d rather do. After this last year, I realized that if I wasn’t playing, I’d be coaching or maybe doing something in a front office. I’ve caught the bug. I’m obsessed with baseball.”





David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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Goms
4 months ago

Really excited for him this year. Hoping for good things!