D-backs’ Corbin Carroll Shows His Shoulder Is Fully Recovered
With 21-year-old outfielder Corbin Carroll coming off an injury that was anything but minor, D-backs officials were unsure what to expect from him this season, particularly early in the year.
“To have a shoulder injury like that,” D-backs assistant general manager Amiel Sawdaye said, “you’re kind of holding your breath those first two weeks.”
Arizona can breathe easy now. Through 24 games at Double-A Amarillo, Carroll had hit .326/.458/.695 with nine home runs and eight stolen bases.
He posted two-homer games in back-to-back games on May 7-8.
Those monster numbers, even in a hitter-friendly home park, affirm that he remains a high-end prospect despite needing surgery to repair tears in his right (non-throwing) labrum and posterior capsule this time last year.
Carroll’s results are made all the more impressive by the fact that he missed most of the past two seasons, first due to pandemic, then the injury.
Last year, he tried to make the best of the downtime. After spending his days rehabbing at Salt River Fields, he would head to Chase Field to watch games from the scout’s section behind home plate, discussing situations with one of the organization’s top scouts.
“He didn’t get the physical reps but got the mental reps every day by going to Chase,” D-backs farm director Josh Barfield said. “I think that helped him stay engaged and stay connected and make the long layoff not feel quite as long.”
Barfield said the batted-ball data Carroll has compiled has indicated the strength in his shoulder is all the way back. He said that has been the case since his first live batting practice session of the spring.
Anecdotally, Barfield said he watched a series in April in which nearly every opposing pitcher was firing 95-96 mph.
“He was still able to handle velocity,” Barfield said. “He looks really good right now.”
Even better was the fact that Carroll managed to improve a weakness during his down year, strengthening his fringy throwing arm.
“You talk about Corbin always trying to find ways to get better,” Barfield said. “He worked pretty aggressively to get his arm stronger, and (the improvement) is considerably noticeable now.”
Dodgers’ Diego Cartaya Stays Focused Amid Hype
Diego Cartaya is flattered by his status near the top of prospect rankings. But the 20-year-old catcher is not impressed.
“I just think all that top prospect and all that just means you’re still a minor leaguer, you know,” Cartaya said this spring. “I just work hard like I’m any player. I don’t care about any rank or what prospect I am.”
Considered the top prospect in Venezuela when he signed with the Dodgers in 2018, Cartaya entered this season ranked as the No. 23 prospect in baseball—even though his actual playing experience as a professional had been limited.
After Cartaya spent part of 2020 at the Dodgers’ alternate training site, last year was the 6-foot-3, 219-pound backstop’s full-season debut. He played just 31 games for Low-A Rancho Cucamonga and returned to the California League to start this season.
“We were cautious with him,” Dodgers farm director Will Rhymes said. “He’s such an impressive young player.”
Cartaya’s offensive upside has been evident whenever he takes the field, but he said defense is his No. 1 focus this season.
“I want to get better at calling games, creating better relationships with my pitchers,” Cartaya said.
The Dodgers love to hear that.
“It’s great when a catcher values the relationships with the pitchers and how he handles a staff and takes ownership of that at such a young age,” Rhymes said. “He’s good at it naturally.”
But Cartaya said he doesn’t worry about being blocked by the Dodgers’ current tandem of catchers, Smith and Austin Barnes, whose defense is praised by Dodgers pitchers.
“Not really,” Cartaya said. “I’m just trying to be the best version of myself. I’m glad they’re doing a good job. They’re my team. I want the Dodgers to win.”
Padres Find Potential Draft Steal In Versatile Max Ferguson
The industry saw Max Ferguson’s batting average dip below .260 and his strikeout rate rise to near 23% and let the Tennessee junior slip beyond the first four rounds of the 2021 draft.
The Padres looked at Ferguson’s track record and an illness that cost him 15-20 pounds and believed they were buying low when he was still on the board for their fifth-round pick.
“I think his best baseball’s in front of him,” Padres general manager A.J. Preller said last July. “. . . From our standpoint, we’re super excited to have a guy we can play all over the field—left side, right side. He was a very good second baseman, an outfielder and one of the better athletes we saw in college baseball.”
The 22-year-old Ferguson already had started at second base, shortstop, first base and center field in the Padres’ system, and he was leading the minor leagues with 26 steals through his first 25 games at Low-A Lake Elsinore, including five in one game and three other games with three swipes.
Ferguson, who has plus speed, had been caught stealing just three times.
“He’s got the green light,” Lake Elsinore manager Eric Junge said. “He’s off to the races and wreaking havoc. He’s a good baserunner, so he’s fun to watch.”
The 6-foot-1, 180-pound Ferguson was giving himself opportunities on the bases because he had walked 33 times against 22 strikeouts. The lefthanded hitter was batting .232/.449/.268 with three doubles and no home runs—after he hit 12 last year in college.
Ferguson was only beginning to get his feet under him after playing below weight for much of his junior year and even last summer after the draft. Still, Ferguson admits that he wants to focus on hitting the ball in the gaps moving forward.
“Last year I was hitting too much stuff in the air,” Ferguson said. “I don’t look like (6-foot-7, 240-pound) James Wood, so that’s not going to be a super successful thing for me. (My approach is) just getting back to who I am—hitting hard line drives.
“Home runs are a happy accident.”
Trimmer Sean Roby Showing Potential For Giants
Early this season, third baseman Sean Roby was using eye-popping power at Double-A Richmond to show the importance of health in a player’s tool set.
A more fit body almost assuredly was a reason for that strong start.
After weighing in at 265 pounds in 2020, Roby committed to a new weight-training program after last season and entered April in the 225-230 range.
“Everybody always uses the cliche, ‘He came into camp in the best shape of his life,’ ” Giants farm director Kyle Haines said, “but I think Sean definitely came (into camp) in arguably the best shape we’ve ever seen him.”
The Giants’ 12th-round pick from Arizona Western JC in 2018 hit six homers in a five-game span from April 10-16. Through 23 games he was hitting .268/.351/.573 with eight homers.
“My body feels really good,” Roby said.
That was a phrase you wouldn’t have heard from Roby very often over the previous three years. Nagging injuries to his hip, knees, shins and ankles prevented his career from blossoming.
The trimmer body benefited Roby, 23, both physically and mentally.
“It helps out a lot, actually,” Roby said. “There are days when your body’s not feeling good. That’s just in the back of your mind: ‘My legs are kind of tight today. I’ve got to get work on my legs.’ And you’re just worried about stuff that you shouldn’t be worried about.”
Roby, a righthanded hitter, understandably could have been concerned after three months with High-A Eugene last season. Through July, he was hitting .188 with nine homers.
He responded in the final two months, hitting .320 with 10 homers. That finish inspired him to work harder in the offseason.
“I just got tired of being so tight, my legs hurting,” Roby said. “I finally talked to myself about it. I just said, ‘I’m just going to work hard this offseason, just get my body in shape and not have to worry about injuries as much.’ “
Said Haines: “We’ve always believed in Sean, and hopefully this is the year that he can put everything together.”
Rockies Expect Big Things From Hunter Goodman, No Matter His Position
Early in his career, 22-year-old Hunter Goodman has shown loud all-fields power.
“He’s got bat speed, bat strength,” Rockies farm director Chris Forbes said. “He’s got a pretty sustainable approach. He’s going to have some strikeouts—there’s no doubt about it—but he’s got a pretty good idea what he’s doing there. I think he’s got a lot of passion for hitting, too.
“Hunter is a guy who can be on or out in three pitches. And I actually like that part about him. He goes up there to hit, not just hang out.”
Goodman hit .300/.419/.517 with two home runs in 22 games in the Arizona Complex League last year after the Rockies drafted him in the fourth round out of Memphis. Through 26 games games this season for Low-A Fresno, Goodman was hitting .267/.308/.5125 with six homers and seven doubles.
He played more outfield than catcher his first year at Memphis and didn’t catch exclusively until his final collegiate season. Forbes said Goodman’s catching is exponentially better than when he began his pro career.
The innate ability to manage a game will take time, and Goodman’s Fresno teammate Braxton Fulford is a more advanced catcher.
Goodman does not project to catch regularly in the majors, so in addition to having Goodman catch, the Rockies have introduced him to first base this season. As he gains experience, he should become serviceable there. Continuing to catch will also help him develop at the plate.
“He’s got a plan, and he’s got a feel for what the pitcher’s trying to do,” Rockies assistant farm director Jesse Stender said. “And I think part of that is the catcher’s background. He just has an added level of intelligence and (awareness of) the thought process that goes along with pitching.”
AROUND THE DIVISION
* Padres outfielder Joshua Mears had three two-homer games through his first 13 games at High-A Fort Wayne and 31 homers through his first 130 games as a pro. He also struck out 198 times while batting .248/.362/.521.
* Padres lefthander Ethan Elliott, a 10th-round pick in 2019, has retired for personal reasons. He had shoulder trouble at the end of a 2021 season in which he posted a 3.06 ERA in 70.2 innings as he rose from High-A to Double-A San Antonio.
* Dodgers lefthander Darien Nunez had season-ending Tommy John surgery after three appearances with Triple-A Oklahoma City this season. The 29-year-old made six appearances with the Dodgers in 2021, posting an 8.22 ERA. In 4.2 innings at Triple-A this season, Nunez allowed four runs on five hits.
* Dodgers outfielder Stefen Romero was activated from the injured list in late April and joined Triple-A Oklahoma City. Romero, 33, signed a minor league deal with the Dodgers in February after playing five seasons in Japan. He was in big league spring training but opened the season on the injured list.
* Rockies righthander Chris McMahon and lefthander Evan Justice are expected to be out until about mid June and late June, respectively, with shoulder inflammation. McMahon’s soreness arose in spring training. Justice went to High-A Spokane and threw in the bullpen, but his shoulder flared up before he ever got into a game. The 23-year-old McMahon, a 2020 second-rounder out of Miami, began his pro career last year at High-A Spokane. He went 10-3, 4.17 in 22 games (20 starts) and averaged 9.4 strikeouts and 2.5 walks per nine innings. After the Rockies took Justice, 23, in the fifth round last year out of North Carolina State, he made three scoreless one-inning appearances in September in the Arizona Complex League.
* Rockies righthander Luke Taggart racked up two saves in five games for Spokane, striking out 12 in nine innings while allowing two hits, three walks and zero earned runs. He has a 91-96 mph fastball that averages 94, an 82-84 mph slider and a lightly used 86 mph changeup. Taggart, 24, was not drafted in 2021 out of Oklahoma, where he spent one year, following four years at the University of Incarnate Word in San Antonio.
* D-backs shortstop Jordan Lawlar, like Corbin Carroll, showed he has recovered well from a shoulder surgery last year, hitting .301/.443/.542 through 23 games. D-backs farm director Josh Barfield said the organization has been impressed with another aspect of Lawlar’s game. “I don’t think we realized he was that good a basestealer,” Barfield said. Lawlar had 15 steals in his first 17 tries. “We knew he was fast, but he gets really good jumps and reads,” Barfield said. “It’s been a pleasant surprise.”
* The D-backs gave quick promotions to a pair of strong Double-A performers in outfielder Dominic Canzone and righthander Drey Jameson. Canzone hit .368/.467/.737 in 45 plate appearances; Jameson logged a 2.41 ERA with four walks and 23 strikeouts in 18.2 innings. Both players struggled in their initial showings at Triple-A Reno.