Towards the end of last season there was no bigger story for the Diamondbacks than the success of first baseman Paul Goldschmidt. Goldschmidt played in only 48 regular season games and 4 postseason games and put up some staggering numbers. He hit .250 during the regular season with 9 doubles, 1 triple and 8 home runs. He also drove in 26 runs and walked 20 times. In the playoffs he did even better, with a .438 average, 2 home runs and 6 RBIs. Goldschmidt hit the grand slam in Game 3 against the Brewers which kept the Diamondbacks in the game. While no one can argue he has great potential, if there is one facet of his game which concerns me, it is his strikeouts. Goldschmidt struck out a staggering 53 times in those 48 games during the regular season. This is nothing new to the franchise as this problem arose with Mark Reynolds, Justin Upton and Chris Young. Upton, Young and the rest of the team worked hard on strikeouts as they went down significantly last year, but they are still cause for concern.
The one good thing about strikeouts is it’s a problem which is easily improved. It takes more time in the batting cage and seeing as many pitches as you can, working with the hitting coach on making your swing more fundamentally sound. I have high hopes the team has addressed this and it will be a major focus during spring training.
With the power Goldschmidt has, the most logical place in the lineup would be hitting in the No. 4 or 5 spot, behind Upton. He will need to provide some protection for Upton so pitchers will not just walk him to face the rest of the Diamondbacks lineup. If Goldschmidt can provide this kind of protection for Upton it will positively effect the entire lineup, allowing everyone to get pitches to hit. The team has shored up the majority of its other weaknesses with the strikeout rate being the last key to continued success.
Providing protection for Justin Upton may be a lot of pressure to be put on a young player, but Goldschmidt appears up to the task. Not only did he step up and have key hits in the playoffs and regular season, but he did not commit a single error at first base. In his first full season in the majors–if he can cut down on the strikeouts and continue to be an asset at first base–the Diamondbacks will be poised to take the NL West crown once again.