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2023 SnakePit Awards: MVP - Corbin Carroll

Dammit, I have to write ANOTHER article about him? :)

Texas Rangers v. Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images

I wrote about Carroll when he won the BBWAA Rookie of the Year award. I wrote about him when he won the SnakePit Rookie of the Year award. We will be writing about him again as the Player Review series comes towards its close in a couple of weeks. So what the heck am I going to find to say about him this time, as the 23-year-old phenomenon became the youngest ever winner of the award. Actually, I’m just going to presume that’s the case: scanning the list of previous winners (below), Justin Upton is probably the only one who came close, doing so in 2011, after his age 23 season, one more than Carroll. After three pitchers in a row, it’s also normal service being resumed with a position player as MVP.

But actually, it is kinda worth going further down that rabbit hole and comparing Carroll’s campaign to that of Upton. As well as being older, Upton had considerably more major-league experience. Despite his young age, it was his FIFTH season in the majors, having debuted in August 2007, at the age of just nineteen. [Only two other D-backs have debuted before even being able to drink: Edgar Gonzalez and Byung-Hyun Kim] So through the end of his MVP campaign in 2011, Upton had appeared in 581 games, and was a full four years removed from qualifying as a rookie. So far, Carroll has played in less than one-third as many games, just 187.

But in terms of overall production, the two outfielders really weren’t so far apart. For example, only four points of batting average separated them, Upton at .289 and Carroll at .285. By bWAR, Carroll this year was worth 5.4 bWAR; Upton in 2011 was worth 5.5 bWAR. Here’s how the pair stack up across a selection of the statistical categories.

2011 Justin Upton vs. 2023 Corbin Carroll

  • BA: .289 vs. .285
  • OBP: .369 vs. .362
  • SLG: .529 vs. .506
  • OPS: .898 vs. .868
  • OPS+ 141 vs. 134
  • HR: 31 vs. 25
  • RBI: 88 vs. 76
  • SB/CS: 21/9 vs. 54/5
  • bWAR: 5.4 vs. 5.3
  • fWAR: 6.3 vs. 6.0

Overall, I’d just give the edge to Upton in the battle of the two young players. His offensive output is partly countered by Carroll’s clear advantage on the basepaths. Both systems also seem to give J-Up the nod when it comes to defense, which I will admit, came as a bit of a surprise to me. This is probably just selective memory, remembering certain times when his efforts in the field seemed a bit lackluster. Though over his six years here, Upton’s dWAR was negative every season, so it’s a criticism not entirely without merit. It is perhaps the area where Carroll could most obviously improve in 2024, with probably about half an extra win available, simply by getting up to average in the field.

The other potential difference is sustainability. It’s an area where Upton struggled during his time in Arizona. There were weeks or even months where his play was MVP quality. But he seemed prone to extended slumps. 2011 was his best in Arizona, and over his six years here, Upton averaged 2.9 bWAR per 650 PA. Solid production to be sure, but not the output we expected from a #1 draft pick, who was getting sections of ballpark named after him at age 22. Early days yet, obviously, but Carroll’s production so far has been close to double that, at 5.6 bWAR/650 PA. I don’t know about you, but if he averages only three wins per season for the rest of his contract, that’s going to feel like a disappointment.

Speaking of contracts, that’s perhaps also worth comparing, as both players signed a lucrative long-term contract going into their age 22 season. In March 2010, Upton agreed to a six-year deal worth $51.25 million - at the time it was the second-largest given out in team history. [How times change!] He had rather more experience under his belt at that point than Carroll, who signed an eight-year, $111 million contract extension this part March. The Upton deal ended up good value all told, the player being worth 19.5 bWAR over those six seasons. But most of that was earned elsewhere, Upton being traded to Atlanta in January 2013 - little more than a year after winning his MVP award here.

Hopefully, the Carroll contract will go in a different direction, with the player remaining here in Arizona for its duration, and also producing at the level we’ve seen from his this year. Or, ideally, better still!

Previous winners

Here are all the award winners for this year, in both regular and, where appropriate, post-season categories.

The 2023 SnakePit awards

This brings to an end the SnakePit Awards for the 2023 season - and just about wraps up your regularly scheduled SnakePit content for the year, with just a couple of player reviews standing between now and the end of 2023. Thanks to everyone who took part in what ended up being the finest season of D-backs baseball in SnakePit history, and here’s to an even better one in 2024. World Series or bust! Or, at the very least, more post-season categories for these awards...