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Diamondbacks need Corbin Carroll to become star they think he can be – The Arizona Republic

The Diamondbacks are an organization filled not so much with Corbin Carroll believers as with Corbin Carroll zealots. From executives to coaches to scouts, they seem uniform in their belief that Carroll will not just be good but that he will be great.

With his promotion to the majors on Monday, the time has come to start to find out if they are right. In many ways, it feels like they better be. It feels like they need to be.

For the past month or so, the Diamondbacks have begun to take on a new identity. They have all but entirely moved on from their erstwhile core and ushered in a new, energetic and athletic group of position players.

With Josh Rojas, Daulton Varsho, Alek Thomas and Jake McCarthy, it is no longer necessary to squint to see the makings of a competitive team. For the most part, these players are talented and versatile. They are smart and highly competitive. They work hard and care about winning. They are far from finished products, but they are promising — and they feel like they do things to contribute on a nightly basis.

What none of them appears to be is a superstar.

That is something the Diamondbacks don’t just need — it is something Carroll has the potential to be, that is, at least, according to his biggest advocates.

One team executive expressed his affection simply: “I love Corbin Carroll.” Another said he ought to find a new line of work if Carroll does not turn out to be good. An evaluator put it thusly: “He’s a real dude.”

All of which is to say: Whether Carroll knows it or not, whether he feels it or not, whether it matters or not, he is under tremendous pressure.

The Diamondbacks’ front office has worked for the past five-plus years to restock the farm system. It has committed itself to player development in a way that perhaps no previous regime has, shying away from deals that favor the short term over the long term. If the Diamondbacks are going to become relevant again, they will do so on the shoulders of this group of young players.

And, it seems, that starts with Carroll. Those who have watched him regularly describe a player who can nearly do it all. He routinely hits balls hard, doing so with a sort of effortless, controlled and efficient swing. He hits for more power than would be expected from his undersized frame. He has good speed and is a smart baserunner. He can defend. His only subpar tool is his throwing arm, though team officials say he worked to strengthen it when he was down last year following shoulder surgery.

Those who know him rave about his makeup, saying he has natural leadership ability, a drive to succeed and the intelligence to know what he doesn’t know. This is a player who was so eager to make something of his lost season last year that he spent most of the summer sitting in the scout’s section at Chase Field.

These are many of the same ingredients found in impact players.

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Year in and year out, the best teams in baseball are littered with such players. The Los Angeles Dodgers have a clubhouse filled with them. The New York Mets have two atop their rotation. The St. Louis Cardinals have one on each infield corner, one of whom, of course, played for the Diamondbacks the last time they reached October.

The Diamondbacks have struggled to replace Paul Goldschmidt’s impact. Off and on, Ketel Marte has delivered. More recently, he has appeared to lack the sort of athleticism — the kind of quick-twitch explosiveness — that allowed him to find his way onto MVP ballots in 2019.

Right-hander Zac Gallen might be the closest thing the Diamondbacks have now to that kind of player. If he continues to pitch the way he has lately, Gallen might even sneak onto some Cy Young ballots this year, just as he did two seasons ago.

In baseball, it is not unusual for stars to emerge somewhat unexpectedly. To a certain extent, Marte and Gallen did just that at various points in their careers. Maybe the Diamondbacks will have more such players ascend. Maybe Varsho or Thomas can find more consistency. Maybe Rojas can hit for more power. Maybe McCarthy’s recent hot stretch is legit. Or maybe Emmanuel Rivera or some other lesser known prospect emerges.

But it feels like the Diamondbacks are going to need Carroll to be at the front of the pack.

Whether it comes together for him right away is not important. For most young players, it takes a while. But Carroll embodies the reason fans care about prospects. He represents hope. The time has come to see if he can begin to deliver on it.

Reach Piecoro at (602) 444-8680 or nick.piecoro@arizonarepublic.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickpiecoro.

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