Corbin Carroll, the Diamondbacks’ young, quiet superstar, is learning how to lead

The first thing to know about Corbin Carroll is that he’s ultra-competitive. And, yeah, most players are competitive, but with Carroll, it might go to another level. He was once told at a signing event that Jarren Duran’s signature was really good, so he paused to study a picture of the Boston outfielder’s John Hancock before continuing. He once lost a foot race to teammate Drey Jameson and, to this day, declines to talk about it.

The second thing you should know about Carroll is that he cares about the people around him. He’s worked with players at the Complex Leagues like Kristian Robinson on their swings and approaches, giving advice and often just listening. When his teammate and friend Dominic Canzone was traded to Carroll’s hometown of Seattle, he offered his parents as a resource. On the road, he takes the young players out for dinner to foster camaraderie.

“We try to take time away from the field for sure,” Carroll said. “Most of us young guys will go and grab a dinner together, and I feel like that’s important.”

The next thing you should know about Carroll is that he’s one of the best 10 or 15 players in the big leagues. As a rookie. He’s tied with Julio Rodríguez at 13th among qualified bats when it comes to park-adjusted offense, only two players have stolen more bases, and he’s tied with Cody Bellinger as a top-30 defensive outfielder. He’s had huge games going up against some of the best players in the league: A two-hit, two-RBIs, three-run, two-stolen base tour de force in that ridiculous 16-13 game against Ronald Acuña Jr.’s Braves (“that was a crazy game”) in July, the two hits and the lone RBI against the Cubs in a huge 1-0 victory last week, the two hits and a homer against Corey Seager and the Rangers in a big victory in late August. He looks comfortable rising to the occasion.

You should also know that Carroll’s dominance does not come without a lot of thought. He has 24 homers this year and has hit the ball hard, with “sneaky pop” for a guy his size.

“The sound off the bat is loud, especially from a guy that’s pretty small,” said D-Backs pitching strategist Dan Haren.

There’s the fact that only 37 out of 190 bats with 250 balls in play have hit the ball harder than Carroll — who’s listed at 5-foot-10 — this year, and of those 37, only Jean Segura, Randy Arozarena, Ezequiel Durán, and Seiya Suzuki are under six feet tall. Carroll has made a couple of decisions and adjustments to make the most of his bat speed.

“I haven’t done training specifically for bat speed, but I do use a little bit of a lighter bat,” he admitted. “Sacrifice barrel size in order to swing faster, maybe.”

He’s also made some changes to his mechanics, both obvious long-term changes as well as smaller, shorter-term changes. He once had more of a static, hands-by-the-ears approach, as this 20280 Baseball clip from his Perfect Game appearance in high school demonstrates:

Now, he’s whippy, dynamic, and energetic at the plate, and his hands are higher, ostensibly helping him hit the high fastball better.

“I don’t change things just to change things,” he said of the differences. “I have more movement now. Just trying to create some rhythm and timing. I’ve got a couple different thoughts about what I’m doing with my hands and with my lower half. That’s created a couple noticeably different swings this year — toe tap, leg kick, gone back and forth a few times this year. Whatever helps me feel most confident. I think of compromises I have to make, what am I giving up to gain something — and am I OK with that.”

The last thing you should know about Carroll is that all of this adds up to him being a leader on a surging team, even if it’s not obvious yet.

“Corbin is a special player,” said teammate and veteran Evan Longoria. “He’s pretty quiet and to himself but I do feel like when the time comes, he will be a great leader. He’s really fun to watch.”

“He leads by example,” said manager Torey Lovullo of his star. “He’s very quiet, just keeps to himself. I walked by the training room today, he was sitting there with Evan Longoria and they were cracking jokes and having a good time, yukking it up. So he does have a side of him that once he’s comfortable with the people around him, such as teammates or coaching staff, you get to see that side of him. Aside from that, he’s very private, very quiet, and wants to let his actions speak.”

“I just try to be myself,” Carroll says of his leadership. “Trying to go with the flow and be who I am and that’s enough.”

It makes sense if you take the long view. He’s competitive. He’s a great listener who cares. He shares his insight, and he puts effort into creating chemistry. He’s really good, and he thinks hard about his craft. Leadership is often thought of as verbal, something that is demonstrated through speech and speeches, but it doesn’t always manifest that way. Sometimes, it comes through an invite to dinner, a discussion of swing mechanics, or just an all-out determination to win big games that can spread through the lineup.

“There’s no successful team that just has one great player,” Carroll pointed out. “You need so much more than that to be even a competitive baseball team. Some of those intangibles and relationships really add to that. That’s something that helps us — we have a bunch of guys that played together in the minor leagues and are friends away from the field; that’s something that adds to our energy and charisma.”

Maybe he’s growing into that last item on the list of things to get to know about him or maybe he’s already there. To some, it’s obvious from the minute they meet him or watch him in a big game. Take the word of his newest teammate, who had only been playing with him for about a month when he offered this succinct take:

“Corbin Carroll is the man,” said Tommy Pham.

The Athletic’s Tyler Kepner contributed reporting to this story.

(Photo of Corbin Carroll: Brace Hemmelgarn / Minnesota Twins / Getty Images)

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