SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Corbin Carroll is healthy. That’s important to note right out of the gate. MLB Pipeline’s No. 19 overall prospect played only seven games at High-A Hillsboro last season before suffering a right shoulder injury on a swing that required season-ending surgery in May.
Second important note: Carroll is headed to Double-A Amarillo. Arizona locked in its Minor League assignments late this week and officially informed the 21-year-old outfielder he was making the jump. Of course, he says he knew that was coming after he went 10-for-23 (.435) with five extra-base hits and three steals in that short stint at High-A.
Before he officially moves to the Texas League for next Friday’s Opening Day, Carroll spoke to MLB Pipeline from Arizona Minor League camp about the initial shoulder injury, the rehab process and his reaction to heading to the Minors’ second-highest level.
Dykstra: You might know where this first question is going. How is the shoulder?
Carroll: Shoulder is great. I’ve had a fairly full spring. The medical team has done a really good job in the sense of monitoring me, communicating with me. I feel like at this point I’ve got a good understanding of what it’s going to take every week going into the season on a maintenance basis.
Dykstra: At what point did you feel fully back?
Carroll: Fully back? Probably when I dove for the first time. That was kind of the last step – sliding, diving, that kind of stuff. So doing that for the first time would probably be it.
Dykstra: Is that something you did on purpose – making something a diving play just to test the shoulder?
Carroll: It actually came out in a big league game for the first time. A ball hit with a little side spin on it, and I dove for it. That was the first one. And then that same game, that was also my first time diving back into the bag. That first time I got on first, there were close to 10 pickoffs. So I got a good test of it.
Dykstra: And everything’s still intact. Good to hear. Take me back to the moment you got injured. It seemed like such a freak thing. What happened there?
Carroll: That’s definitely how I describe it, as freak. It felt completely normal before. I had no signs leading up to anything like that. It was on a Monday, so we planned a whole series first versus Everett that first week, and then Monday would be the off-day. But Eugene, sharing the field with the University of Oregon, had something going on. So had a doubleheader Monday and then we had Tuesday, Wednesday off to go travel on Thursday. And it was that last at-bat on Monday.
Dykstra: And you were off to such a hot start. What allowed that to happen in just a week?
Carroll: I really trust my process. Whether that’s with the swing and my playing progression, or even with my injury, just trusting that process. It just made it a lot easier looking back. There wasn’t anything, [where I thought], ‘Oh, I wish I’d done this. I wish I’d done that. ‘ So I’d say there are some similarities there. Just trusting my process and trusting that I’m doing what it takes for me to be at my best when I’m on the field. When I’m out there, it’s more about going out there and doing. I like to go through all my thinking and planning and preparation before I get out there. Then once I’m out there, it’s more about the confidence piece, and then it’s going out there and executing.
Dykstra: What was that progression like? When could you start throwing, swinging, hitting those benchmarks?
Carroll: So I could have started throwing, I think, in October, but ended up taking off until January with the throwing. That was a decision made, again, with the medical team, like ‘Hey, as a baseball player, you throw a lot. Some time off isn’t really going to hurt you. ‘
That’s actually one of the things I feel like that’s improved the most for me going into this year. I just feel like my arm strength’s in a much better spot than where it was before the injury. I’d give that credit to some rehab stuff. I tried to make sure that I did it on both sides as I was going through. Then on top of that, I’ve been doing what our pitchers – some throwing drills that they do that I’d go through probably four times a week. I’d give a credit to that working on my mechanics and some added arm strength, just from working through some of those muscles that maybe weren’t being focused on as much before the injury.
Having that understanding now, there’s some stuff I’m going to take away from that, that I’m going to keep doing on a weekly basis.
Dykstra: One thing I was fascinated to hear was you spent some time with D-backs scouts at Chase Field, right?
Carroll: I was with Jeff Gardner. He was our advanced scout, advanced analytics. He would be with our Major League players every day and then be sitting behind home with me every night. He was gracious enough to let me come into his workspace. It was really, really great for him to let me do that. But it was a really neat look at the preparation piece of it and into some of the different approaches that our hitters were having toward their pitcher and seeing how they executed that. Just some of the finer details that I think I definitely wouldn’t have had if I didn’t have access to that. So, I’m super grateful to him for letting me barrage in there, and also to Josh Barfield, in my case, for brainstorming with me about different things that I can do during this time to help me get better.
Dykstra: So was that your idea? Or did they come to you with it?
Carroll: So I was just in rehab one day, and they both came and we had probably a 15-minute conversation about some of these different avenues that I specifically was looking into and some of their ideas as well. I think it gave me such a well-rounded perspective of, hey, this is rehab, but this is really time that I can choose to use to grow. I already had that mindset going into it. But their perspective, obviously, as decision-makers with all the information that they have was really valuable and helped me to see some perspectives that I was not looking at it through. I think just the combination of all that makes me really feel like that time was being well-used.
Dykstra: In terms of implementation then, what something you’re doing differently now to stay relaxed but also aggressive?
Carroll: Let’s say an example that came up in some of the spring games – ball to the wall, automatic double. I just needed to get to the ball quickly and make a strong accurate throw to the cut and not have to do anything beyond that. Just a good, accurate throw. Not 110 percent. Just realizing that some things are sure things, and there’s nothing you can do about it as an outfielder. It’s less about maximizing the spectacular play, but more about minimizing the plays that take away from the game.
Dykstra: You recently had it confirmed that you’re headed to Double-A. That’s a level you haven’t seen yet. You only really had a week of High-A at this point. What was your reaction to that assignment?
Carroll: That was pretty cool. They let me know pretty early on in the spring that that was going to be the case. It was pretty much as soon as I got back here [last year]. I got the word that I was injured, and the player development director came up to me, like, ‘Hey, you’re not going back to High-A.’ I guess I showed enough in that week.
I’m so excited. I’ve got a bunch of really good friends on that team. I think it’s just going to be a pretty impressive team. We’ve got some great arms. We’re a well-rounded team. At this point, I love these guys that I’ll be playing with. The guys I was drafted with in ’19, I’ve played with for a couple years now and got to know pretty well. So I think it’s going to be really fun.
Dykstra: What do you think is going to be the biggest challenge you’re going to face in Amarillo? Double-A is where a lot of players say they start to feel close to The Show.
Carroll: That’s a good question. I’ve got my mind open. If I say something is going to be a challenge, then I might create a challenge out of something that really is not going to be. So I have a very open mind. Matching my confidence with the experience that I’ve had that is very different the last three years – playing for half the season, going through the alt site year, going through this injury now. I’m just excited to play.
Dykstra: Finally, comps aren’t always fair from outside observers. But when you look at yourself, who do you think you could be or who do you think you want to be as a Major Leaguer?
Carroll: I’m not going to answer who I could be. Who I want to be, I think the easy answer being in our division is Mookie Betts. The undersized guy who does it all, shows up in every aspect of the game, seems to really have a positive impact on his teammates that can elevate their game as well. That’s exactly what I want to do. I’ve never been just all about me. It’s always been about the team. I like putting people before myself. I’d say something. It’s pretty obvious, but yeah, I like that one.