Well, to nobody's great surprise (though naturally, nothing is ever certain), Corbin Carroll won the National League Rookie of the Year award for 2023. He received every first place vote to finish with a maximum possible 150 points. Mets pitcher Kodai Senga came second on 71 points, getting 22 of the second-place votes, with five going to the Dodgers’ James Outman (20 points). In the American League, Gunnar Henderson of the Orioles won the award, with a unanimous vote. It’s the fifth time that both leagues have voted unanimously, most recently in 2017, when the awards went to Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger.
Carroll vs. the other candidates
Full disclosure: I wrote the rest of the article in advance of the official notification this afternoon. But if Corbin Carroll does NOT win the National League Rookie of the Year award, then a lot of people will have some major explaining to do. For he has clearly been the best in his class this year, by just about every metric. Let's simply compare bWAR, fWAR and their average for the three finalists announced in this category: Carroll, James Outman of the Dodgers, and Mets pitcher Kodai Senga:
- Carroll: 5.4 bWAR, 6.0 fWAR, 5.7 average
- Senga: 4.5 bWAR, 3.4 fWAR, 4.0 average
- Outman: 3.3 bWAR, 4.4 fWAR, 3.8 average
This is a decision which felt like it SHOULD be unanimous, though it's always hard to discount my bias in this area. But Carroll simply was the best, from an April where hit .309 with a .910 OPS, to the last. He was super-consistent, not having a single calendar month where Corbin had an OPS below .800. His longest hitless streak of the season? Two games. Carroll saw off challenger after challenger this year. First it was Outman who was his rival. Then the media collectively wet themselves over the Reds’ Elly De La Cruz, who ended up at just 0.8 bWAR. Then it was his team-mate Matt McLain, though his season ended after 89 games. Spencer Steer? Nolan Jones? Carroll outlasted them all.
Carroll in D-backs history
He is the best rookie position player in Diamondbacks’ history, and it’s not particularly close. Nobody has previously reached even 3.5 WAR by either metric. The previous best by bWAR was Ender Inciarte’s 3.3 in 2014, or by fWAR it was Christian Walker’s 3.2 in 2019, so Carroll is a clear two or more wins better than either. The only credible challenger for the position of best Diamondbacks rookie ever is likely Brandon Webb. In 2003, he put up 6.1 bWAR. fWAR viewed him less approvingly, though still a franchise best value for a rookie pitcher of 4.3. That averages out at 5.2 WAR, which is still half a win below what Carroll produced this season.
Of course, Corbin is the first D-back to have won the award. You could certainly make the case that Webb was robbed, an unfortunate victim of playing in a time when wins were still seen as a meaningful metric. On a mediocre D-backs team, Brandon only went 10-9, and lost the crown to Dontrelle Willis’s 14-6 record, despite an ERA almost half a run better, and a win and a half more bWAR. Adding insult to injury, Webb didn’t even come second that year: it went to Scott Podsednik for batting .314, despite being more than two bWAR below Webb. As a result, the previous best finish for a D-back in Rookie of the Year voting belongs to Wade Miley, who came runner-up in 2012 to some guy called Bryce Harper.
Carroll going forward
There are players for whom signing a long-term contract makes no difference, or even seems to act as an incentive (Paul Goldschmidt). But there are also those who then seem to focus instead on their TV show or their clothing line, and production fails to live up to pre-extension numbers. Last winter, with just 32 major-league games on his record, Carroll signed an eight-year, $111 million deal, keeping him under team control through at least 2030. But his first season has already gone a long way towards making that look like an excellent decision for the Diamondbacks. Estimating a value of $8 million per WAR, Carroll was worth $45.6 million in 2023, more than 40% of the contract’s total.
But, wait! There’s more! Due to his win, and having been on the roster for the whole season, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement rewards the D-backs with an additional draft pick. That comes after the first round has been completed. With Arizona scheduled to pick second from last, due to their unexpected run to the World Series, that’s definitely a nice bonus. In 2019, when Fangraphs looked at the value of draft picks based on their subsequent production, a #31 pick came out as worth $9.8 million. That’s based on a slightly higher WAR price ($9m/win) but the article will be over five years old by the time we get the bonus pick. So I’d put its 2024 value at a nice round $10 million.
Adding that to the direct production Carroll provided this year, means that in just the first season of this eight-year contract, Corbin has already been worth half of its entire cost. And he only turned 23 in August. I can’t wait to see what he does, in 2024 and beyond. Next stop: MVP mentions, I suspect. Potentially as soon as later this week.