'I'm not happy with it': Diamondbacks' Corbin Carroll still looking for offensive solutions

After another poor offensive result, this time a meek popout to third, Corbin Carroll could hardly bring himself to walk back to the Diamondbacks’ dugout. He trudged along, head down, letting his bat swing beside him. When he got there, he lightly kicked the back bench, then sat down, drank a cup of water and chucked it on the ground.

It’s not a particularly unique reaction — players often show some frustration after disappointing at-bats. Christian Walker has been one of the better hitters in baseball for three seasons and still regularly screams at himself after strikeouts. But this is Carroll. And since he arrived in the major leagues 20 months ago, Carroll and disappointing at-bats have rarely gone hand in hand.

Arizona Diamondbacks center fielder Corbin Carroll (42) tosses his bat after an RBI single against the Chicago Cubs during the eighth inning at Chase Field in Phoenix on April 15, 2024. All players are wearing number 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson Day.
Arizona Diamondbacks center fielder Corbin Carroll (42) tosses his bat after an RBI single against the Chicago Cubs during the eighth inning at Chase Field in Phoenix on April 15, 2024. All players are wearing number 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson Day.

But through three weeks this season, Carroll’s results have not been where he wants them. He’s hitting .225/.345/.296 with just three extra-base hits in 71 at-bats. He’s only had one other stretch in his career in which he has exhibited so little power. That was last summer, when he had a .222 slugging percentage from July 28 to August 18. Inevitably, this slump feels magnified — at least on the outside — because it’s April and there’s nothing else to go off.

“I'm not happy with it,” Carroll said plainly, summing up his start.

There are some positive signs. Carroll is striking out less and walking more than he did a year ago. In both of those areas, his results have been among the game’s elite hitters. When he swings, he’s whiffing just 13.8% of the time, down from 21.5% last year.

The flip side is that his average exit velocity is down from 90.0 mph to 83.1 mph. Only 3% of qualified hitters have hit balls softer, on average.

Pluses and minuses of his approach

“There were stretches last year where I was definitely frustrated,” Carroll said. “But I also think that this is a little bit different in the way that I've been able to take some walks, I haven't expanded the zone too much. It's more just pulling it out, getting something in my zone and not missing it.”

Carroll does not necessarily think his approach is coming at the expense of hard contact. He did focus on cutting down his strikeouts in the off-season, he said, but only in the way that every hitter wants to limit strikeouts. It is not the same issue as, for example, the Phillies’ Nick Castellanos, who has publicly pinned his early struggles on an aversion to strikeouts.

“The way in which it's related is if I'm taking a split-second longer to make a decision, I'm gonna be later so that contact point's gonna be deeper,” Carroll said. “(But) the contact point being deeper, to me, has felt more mechanical than anything.”

Right now, those mechanics are where Carroll is focused. Over the weekend, he ditched a toe tap against right-handed pitchers to try to catch balls further out in front.

That change hints at an unusual split for Carroll. Whereas he has hit righties much better than lefties throughout his career, this season has been the opposite. His OPS in 34 plate appearances against lefties is .875. In 50 plate appearances against righties, it’s .475.

Since eliminating the toe tap, there have been encouraging signs. Carroll’s first at-bat with the new approach came against Cardinals’ reliever Andre Pallante in the fifth inning Sunday. He pulled a 103.3 mph ground ball to right field for a single.

Recent positive signs for Carroll at the plate

In the four games since then, Carroll has hit six balls over 100 mph, five of which came against righties. In the first 14 games of the season, he hit just eight balls that hard.

Manager Torey Lovullo cited one of those hits — an opposite-field single past a diving Dansby Swanson on Tuesday — as a sign that Carroll could be getting right offensively.

“When you are feeling less than 100% … you work the ball the other way, back it up and then you start to catch it more out front as you're feeling more and more comfortable,” Lovullo said. “So I have no problem with him getting those opposite field base hits.”

Still, when Carroll is at his best, Lovullo looks for him to rope line drives into the right-center field gap, as he did countless times a year ago.

In the meantime, Carroll is helping the Diamondbacks win in other ways. His walk rate has enabled him to get on base at a healthy clip. His eight stolen bases are the second most in baseball. He’s made a handful of nice defensive plays, like an improbable sliding catch to save a run against the Cardinals.

Put it all together and Carroll — amid one of the worst offensive stretches of his career — is still on pace to be worth more than four wins. He just knows he can be so much more.

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Corbin Carroll still searching for offensive solutions