This is a guest post contributed by Michael Pina.
First basemen in their mid-20s who hit for power and average while supplying gold glove level defense are like gold dust. First basemen in their mid-20s who hit for power and average while supplying gold glove level defense under an awesomely affordable contract for the next six seasons are like, well, whatever is 200 times rarer than gold dust.
Until 2019—when he holds a $14.5 million team option—the Arizona Diamondbacks have such a commodity in the palm of their hand. He goes by the name Paul Goldschmidt, and in just his second season playing full-time at the major league level is already an All-Star (and debatably should have been a starter). Let us look back at his remarkable season through its first 94 games in particularly scrupulous detail because a gem like this deserves it.
Paul Goldschmidt did not sneak up on anybody, but at the same time he is still quite a ways away from having his face recognized in households across the country. That could be for half a dozen reasons that are not his fault, from the small market he plays in, to the fact that Major League Baseball has had difficulty over the past few years marketing new talent not named Bryce Harper, to the difficult task that is correctly spelling his last name.
Two years ago he splashed on the scene in four playoff games, belting two home runs in 16 at bats, batting .438 and posting an OPS of 1.339. This was only four games, but it came against quality starting pitching in a National League Division Series, led by Zack Greinke and Yovani Gallardo.
That was the first time Goldschmidt served as a footnote for a national audience; two years later he is destroying baseballs on a nightly basis, entrenched in the top 10 of most major statistical hitting categories in the National League.
Right now he is second in total bases (196), 10th in batting average (.313), fifth in Wins Above Replacement (4.8), fourth in walks (49), fourth in runs created (76), sixth in runs scored (60), fifth in hits (110), first in RBI (77), third in slugging percentage (.557), fifth in on-base percentage (.395), third in extra base hits (44), and third in OPS (.952).
In 145 games last season he smashed 20 home runs. So far in 2013, through 90 games, he has hit 21, good for fourth best in the National League. He is also striking out at a slightly lower rate and walking at a slightly higher rate. All those numbers translate to an MVP candidate, and someone who shapes game outcomes with his bat.
In the field he has been consistent and arguably just as impressive. According to baseball-reference.com, he is first in Total Zone Runs (the number of runs above or below average the player was worth based on the number of plays made) among first basemen (7), first in range factor per game as a first baseman (9.83), and fourth in fielding percentage as a first baseman (.997).
Goldschmidt’s influence on Arizona’s offense has been exemplary, as they currently pace the National League West with a 50-45 record. Out of all teams in baseball, they are 10th in hits and ninth in walks.
No matter how they look to improve their team over the next four to five years, the Arizona Diamondbacks have one of their most important players locked into place, not even in his prime. A rare situation; one that everyone else around baseball is looking at with envy.