When Prince Fielder bolted for the Detroit Tigers this week and after Albert Pujols left for the Los Angeles Angels earlier in the off-season, it meant that now Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt has a chance to be the power first baseman in the National League. Now, he will still have competition, but I would have to give him better than average odds to lead NL first basemen in home runs in 2012.
Of course, there is still the Cincinnati Reds Joey Votto. He hit 29 HR, 103 RBI, and .309 in 2011. He is now the mark to go after. I believe he underachieved in 2011. I look for him to improve on those numbers in 2012.
The other contenders:
Matt Morse, Washington Nationals: 31 HR, 95 RBI, .303 in 2011
Carlos Pena, Chicago Cubs: 28 HR, 80 RBI, .225
Those above I see are the five guys that Goldschmidt has to compete with when it comes to balancing power and average. Pena only hit .225, but I think he is a much better hitter than that, especially given the power he can provide. James Loney from the Los Angeles Dodgers could also hit this list. His power numbers were down in 2011. He only hit 12 HR in 2011.
Goldschmidt hit 8 HR, 26 RBI, and .250 in just 156 at-bats in just 48 games. If you project that out over a full season of 162 games, you figure he will be the guy and will probably see action in 140-150 games. Just based on last years numbers that is approx 25 HR and 80 RBI. As he grows though, I think the power numbers do too. He easily could be a perennial 35-40 HR guy with 100-110 RBI depending on how much manager Kirk Gibson sends Lyle Overbay out to spell Goldschmidt over the next year at least as Goldschmidt continues to learn. The main area to work on will be the average, but as you can see from above with other first basemen, there are really only a few guys in the position that can produce big numbers in all three categories. If Goldschmidt can consistently stay over .280 and provide those power numbers at the same time, you’ve got yourself a true star.