When Paul Goldschmidt trotted onto the field in his August 1, 2011, major-league debut, fans and experts denoted the 6’3″ righty as potentially the next Jeff Bagwell. Goldschmidt shares a position with the former Astros slugger at first base, and plays essentially the same way.
Goldschmidt tallied a hit in his first MLB at-bat in the 5-2 win for the Arizona Diamondbacks over the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park. What nobody knew was that Goldschmidt, now 29 and in the prime of his career, would go on to win two Gold Gloves, two Sliver Sluggers, and appear in four All-Star Games.
The two-time MVP finalist was once only a fringe prospect for the Diamondbacks, who selected the native of The Woodlands, Texas in the eighth round of the 2009 MLB Draft, but the former NL home run leader has blossomed into the Bagwell clone we now know.
The former Texas State Bobcat is almost undoubtedly the most versatile player in the majors today. He can hit for power, hit for average, play exceptional defense, work the count, draw walks, steal bases… anything you want can come from number 44.
Goldschmidt is best described as a jumbo Mookie Betts — a player who has a knack for the fundamentals of hitting and also is a freakish athlete. It’s odd to see a player of Goldschmidt’s height and weight move like he’s half the size, but that’s another indication of his immense versatility. Paul is the most well-versed player in baseball.
On account of him leading the surging Arizona Diamondbacks from the cellar of the National League into bonafide pennant contenders, it should be noted that Goldschmidt could legitimately walk away with the NL MVP award. While the dominant Washington Nationals boast both Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper, in addition to Clayton Kershaw hitting his stride for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Goldschmidt is by leaps and bounds the best player on the D-Backs this season.
Goldy might suffer from the classic “player on the West Coast doesn’t actually get seen by voters out East” conundrum, but one way or another, he’s been the class of the National League. As the Diamondbacks are within a game of the lead in a division rightfully touted as the most competitive in MLB, voters have to look at his contributions to the widespread success Arizona is having.
Goldschmidt leads the National League in wins above replacement (WAR) at 3.6, while also setting the pace at a 3.1 offensive WAR, tops in the NL. The next-closest position player in WAR amongst the NL is Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto, nearly a half-win behind (3.2).
Goldschmidt’s on-base percentage (OBP) of .442 leads the NL, as the two-time MVP finalist has walked 47 times, another stat he leads in. He’s not only working the count and drawing walks this way, but his .324 average is good for top-10 in the NL, coupled with his 1.038 on-base-plus-slugging (OPS), which is second-best in baseball.
My favorite Paul Goldschmidt stats are the advanced metrics known as offensive win percentage (OW%), and Power-Speed (PSN). Both are extremely complex numbers, but I’ll simplify them here:
Power-Speed is, in short, a combination of home run hitting prowess and stolen base excellence. The bigger your PSN, the better. Offensive win percentage is your team’s hypothetical winning percentage if the player in question were to play every position in every game.
Goldschmidt’s OW% stands at .810, meaning the Diamondbacks would go 131-31 if Goldschmidt played each position and bat accordingly, one through nine. His Power-Speed is first in the game by a mile, standing at 13.9 (15 HR, 13 SB). San Diego Padres first baseman Wil Myers is next closest at a 9.6 rating.
If there were ever a time for a player to hit 40 home runs, 40 doubles, and nail 40 stolen bases, it’d be now. Alfonso Soriano is the only player to ever do that, accomplishing the feat in 2006 with the Nationals, but I believe Goldschmidt could join him there.
Goldschmidt’s status as a perennial MVP snub should end this season; he has earned this. The most versatile player is now the most valuable player.