How Corbin Carroll compares to the other MVP/ROY seasons
Only two times in MLB history has a player made the All-Star Game, won the Rookie of the Year, won the Most Valuable Player award, and a Gold Glove all in the same season. Even removing winning the Gold Glove, it has still only been done twice.
Those two players are Fred Lynn and Ichiro Suzuki (Ichiro was a vastly underrated player and will go down as an all-time great). Something that continues to tie these players together is the fact that they all play/played in the outfield.
In 2023, another outfielder is making a case to be the third player in that exclusive list. Corbin Carroll has led the Arizona Diamondbacks to the best record in the NL through mid-June and he has been elite in the field, in the box, and on the bases.
But how does his season compare to the two who have already accomplished this feat?
The 1975 season of Red Sox outfielder Fred Lynn
A 22-year-old Lynn got a cup of coffee in the 1974 season, playing in 15 games and he started scorching hot. Going 18-for-43 with six extra-base hits; his first experience in the MLB could not have been better.
In his full rookie season at the age of 23, Lynn played in 145 games, leading the American League in runs scored (103). He also lead the entire MLB in doubles (47), slugging (.566), and OPS (.967). Putting up 6.6 offensive WAR and 0.9 Defensive WAR for a total of 7.4, he beat out John Mayberry and Jim Rice by a fair amount to win MVP.
His slash line ended up as .331/.401/.556, with 85 extra-base hits, 21 of which were HRs. He also added 105 RBIs and 10 stolen bases, which gave him an OPS+ of 162. While it was his only MVP season, it was not his strongest, as in his 1979 campaign, he put up a 1.059 OPS and finished fourth in MVP voting.
Crazily enough, he did not get the ROY unanimously. His teammate and aforementioned third-place finisher in MVP Rice jot half a vote to share the award with Lynn.
The 2001 season of Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki
Ichiro’s rookie season comes with the caveat that he played professionally in Japan before making the jump to the MLB. However, several media members believed that he wouldn’t produce in his transition to the bigs. The doubters were quickly silenced by a record-setting season.
The generationally talented contact hitter tied the MLB lead in batting average (.350) and had the sole lead in plate appearances (738), at-bats (692), stolen bases (56), and hits (242), which was then the ninth-highest total for a single season.
His playstyle took the league that was dominated by Barry Bonds and high HR totals by storm. In total, in 2001, he slashed .350/.381/.457 with 50 extra-base hits (8 HRs) and 69 RBIs. With an OPS+ of 126, the more analytical-inclined voters of the 2020s may not have voted for him as the MVP.
With an offensive WAR of 6.2, defensive WAR of 1.0, and total WAR of 7.7, his value was clearly there, but the second-place Jason Giambi was fantastic with a 9.2 WAR and 38 HR with a league-leading 1.137 OPS.
Perhaps if Ichiro was not a rookie, or if his and Giambi’s seasons happened today, voting would have gone differently, but history has the Japan native as the MVP.
The 2023 season of Diamondbacks outfielder Corbin Carroll
The latest candidate to join the elite club is looking well on the path to doing so. While he may not get the Gold Glove, he will certainly be in contention for the award as he is in the 90th percentile in outs above average.
Carroll seems to be the mix of the two club members before him, the base running and contact tool of Ichiro but the ability to find gaps and hit the ball over the fence like Lynn. Being an essential lock for the All-Star game, Carroll just needs to complete the easier-said-than-done task of continuing his production for a full season.
So far, through 63 games, he is slashing .313/.397/.589 with a .986 OPS, 33 extra-base hits (13 HRs), and 19 stolen bases. His 168 OPS+ leads the National League and the rest of his key stats rank within the top-15.
Percentile-wise, he is also elite, as he boasts a full-red circle baseball savant page other than arm strength. Average exit velocity (75th), max exit velocity (91st), hard hit percentage (56th), spring speed (99th percentile), and barrel percentage (65th) are just a few of his best.
Having already put up 3.4 WAR, he is making the case that he has a better season than either Lynn or Ichiro had in their first years, but he has some tough competition for MVP.
Ronald Acuña Jr. is leading a first-place team of his own, the Atlanta Braves, with a 3.5 WAR, 13 HRs, and 28 stolen bases. While Carroll is a better defender in reaction and range, one good stretch or slump from either of the two outfielders may give the other the edge in end-of-the-year voting.
If Carroll maintains his production and can make up a little ground in terms of stolen bases, he seems to be a surefire pick for MVP.