The cancellation of the Minor League season was a worst-case scenario for prospects around the game of baseball, but the lack of games doesn’t mean 2020 needs to be a lost year.
Corbin Carroll, one of several prospects in the D-backs’ 60-man player pool, is making the best of his situation and adjusting on the fly at Arizona's alternate camp at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale.
“I’ve had a couple of at-bats off of big leaguers and Triple-A guys and that’s something that I would not be getting at this time,” Carroll said. “I’d probably be in [Class] A right now. That’s definitely been eye-opening for me -- realizing that it’s the same game, it’s the same pitching and it’s the same velocity. The biggest thing that I’ve realized is that the misses get better, there’s a lot more balls that look like strikes right up until the end, and then they look like balls and vice versa.”
For Carroll, a 19-year-old who has yet to make his full-season debut, the step up in competition could have exposed flaws in his game. Instead, he’s adjusted.
Carroll no longer needs to wonder what it’s like to face stiff competition. He’s starting to understand that one day he’ll be ready to play at the highest level.
“He’s very comfortable no matter what situation you put him in,” said Josh Barfield, the D-backs’ director of player development. “I think it’s only going to accelerate his process because when he does get to the big leagues, it’s going to be like ‘Oh I’ve been here before. I’ve done this.’ It takes a lot of the wondering, ‘Oh can I play here? What is it like?’ He’ll have a pretty good idea going in.”
Evaluating prospects is about projection and with Carroll, there’s plenty to like. Whether it’s his natural skillset or the stats he put up last year in his professional debut, he has the look of a future Major Leaguer.
A left-handed hitter, projected by one scout as a “top-of-the-order, table-setter type offensive player”, Carroll, who also grades out as a 70-grade runner and a plus defender, began his career with an eight-game hitting streak and hit .299 with 18 stolen bases over 42 games.
“He’s an extremely, extremely talented kid,” Barfield said. “He’s got big tools in a little package, but he can do it all. He can hit, hit for power, he’s got really good control of the zone, well-above-average runner, but the thing that sticks out the most is his work ethic and makeup.”
The 16th overall pick from the 2019 Draft, Carroll arrived with lofty expectations. He was able to live up to them both in terms of production and, perhaps more importantly, in how he carries himself as a professional.
“I was at one game where he broke his bat and he sprinted to the dugout to get another one,” a scout said. “The coaches were like, ‘Take it easy man.’”
That drive is what gives the D-backs the confidence that Carroll will continue to develop his game, rather than rest on his laurels. He wants to be an everyday Major Leaguer.
“Going into the offseason, I knew there were plenty of things I needed to work on,” Carroll said. “I feel like nothing really changed in terms of my motivation. There was no sense of entitlement or thinking I’d made it after a good year. I knew it was just the beginning, took that into the offseason and worked really hard.”
Carroll continued that work back home in Washington -- where he worked out with his dad and several others -- once the season was put on hold. He has continued to improve his game in the player pool.
Of course game reps are important, but Carroll, always seeking the positives, is using the current state of things to improve certain aspects of his game.
“It’s a really great way to experiment and see what works and what doesn’t and have that freedom to just go out there and play ball and not have that true in-game sense of this really matters,” Carroll said. “Because when I’m going out there and playing a game, there’s one thing on my mind and that’s winning.”
At some point in the future Carroll will have the opportunity to play in games again, and when he does he’ll continue his climb toward the Majors. For now, he’ll continue to train.
“Those are the kind of guys I always bet on long term,” Barfield said. “He’s going to be extremely fun to watch.”