By David Heck, Special to CBS Local Sports
CBS Local Sports will be profiling one young player from each Major League Baseball team every day for the next 30 days as part of our “30 Players 30 Days” spring training feature.
Paul Goldschmidt, First Baseman, Arizona Diamondbacks
2011 season: 48 G, 156 AB, .250 AVG, 8 HR, 26 RBI, .808 OPS
Scouts have never been too fond of Goldschmidt. They see a big guy with big wholes in his swing, and one who doesn’t have a position to boot. But Goldschmidt has consistently put up quality numbers in the minors, which earned him a callup to the Majors last year. He performed decently well, so with few other candidates on the roster (an aging Lyle Overbay?), Goldschmidt will now get an opportunity to be Arizona’s full-time first baseman this season.
Goldschmidt’s greatest attribute is his raw power. At 6-foor-3, 245 pounds, he has smacked a combined 73 home runs over his last two professional seasons. And when those balls leave the park, they’re not just getting over the fence – of his eight homers in the Majors last year, seven cleared 400 feet. Goldschmidt also hasn’t fallen into the trap of being a strict pull hitter, like some offense-only first baseman, as he has repeatedly displayed the ability to go the opposite way with pop.
The clear issue with the 24-year-old first baseman is his propensity to miss. He made contact on just over 70 percent of balls that he swung at last year, which would have ranked as the sixth-lowest mark among qualified Major Leaguers. That’s not necessarily the kiss of death, but it’s not a great sign either – both Mike Stanton and Ryan Howard missed more often, but so did Carlos Pena and Mark Reynolds.
The good thing about Goldschmidt’s low contact percentage is that he at least seems to be aware of it. And to counteract it, he does something rather simple – he doesn’t swing very often. That leads to a lot of strikeouts, but with his contact rate, Goldschmidt would rack up K’s anyway. The other, more beneficial thing it leads to is a lot of walks. Goldschmidt’s probably won’t be a .300 hitter in the big leagues, but at least he can still post decent on-base percentages.
This year, Goldschmidt could continue to crank out a lot of homers, but he’s probably going to have a tougher time with teams having seen him last year and now possessing better scouting reports. As such, it wouldn’t be reasonable to expect much above the .250 average or .333 on-base mark he posted last year. As he gains more experience in the bigs, though, those numbers could improve. In the long term, Goldschmidt could be an Adam Dunn clone – a guy who generates heaps of homers, walks and strikeouts – without being quite as hapless on defense. On an up-and- coming Diamondbacks team, that would be a valuable player to have in the middle of the lineup.
Next up on April 1: San Diego Padres