Diamondbacks: Should Paul Goldschmidt be the Second Overall Pick?

September 7, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt (44) reacts after striking out in the fifth inning against Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sport
September 7, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt (44) reacts after striking out in the fifth inning against Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sport /

With the exception of Mike Trout, Paul Goldschmidt is the most complete player in the game. He offers true five-category, fantasy baseball production. So why isn’t he taken with the second pick of the draft?

In a meaningless game on Oct. 2, Padres’ pitcher Clayton Richard walked Paul Goldschmidt in the fifth inning. The Diamondbacks’ first baseman then stole second base. Four pitches later, he stole third and in the ensuing chaos after Yangervis Solarte missed the ball, Goldschmidt trotted home to score.

Those few minutes encapsulated Goldschmidt’s value over every other first baseman.

This season there is no logical reason to draft anyone other than Mike Trout with the first overall pick, but perhaps Goldschmidt should be taken second.

He offers elite five-category (or six if you include OBP) production and has reliably produced year-on-year.

Over the last four years, Goldschmidt as scored 387 runs in 586 games. That’s a better rate than everyone in the first round except Mike Trout and Josh Donaldson.

Trea Turner, Jose Altuve, and Mookie Betts all hit leadoff for their teams but Goldschmidt is projected to score more runs that Turner and Altuve, with only Betts scoring a few more.

Goldschmidt will continue to hit third in the Diamondbacks’ order and will likely have two of the improving trio of Yasmany Tomas, Jake Lamb and Brandon Drury driving him in.

Home runs
Power numbers went through the roof last season with light-hitting middle infielders like Freddy Galvis hitting 20 home runs, yet Goldschmidt’s home run rate dropped.

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Home runs are the only category where there is any debate about whether Goldschmidt is elite.

He launched 24 home runs last season but his home run to fly ball rate dropped to 19%, down from an average of 21.7% over the previous three years. Also, he hit more infield fly balls in 2016 than in the previous three seasons combined.

Regression to the norm should put Goldschmidt back to 30 home run level.

Be careful not to be blinded by recency bias of Betts jumping from 19 home runs to 30, or Altuve increasing from 15 home runs to 24. The smart money is on neither matching 2016’s totals.

It is easy to dismiss RBI as a statistic of opportunity rather skill, but over the last four years, the only players to drive in runs more frequently than Goldschmidt are the elite sluggers David Ortiz, Edwin Encarnacion and Miguel Cabrera.

It is impressive that Goldschmidt did it for the Diamondbacks (ranked 15th in RBI), while the Red Sox, Blue Jays and Tigers all ranked in the top-5.

Although the Diamondbacks have lost their leadoff hitter Jean Segura, a full season of A.J. Pollock,  and his speed and on-base abilities, could be even better.

The RBI category is a big difference maker in the first round. The leadoff speedsters Altuve and Turner are unable to match the production levels of the sluggers. It is fair to expect Goldschmidt and the others to get at least an extra 25 RBI.

Stolen bases
In fantasy baseball drafts last season, there was much debate about whether to take Trout, Goldschmidt or Bryce Harper with the very first pick. The Diamondbacks’ All-Star was a popular choice due to his greater certainty to steal bases.

Over the last two seasons, Goldschmidt has 53 stolen bases, and even if he never matches 2016’s 32 bags, there is the likelihood that the 29-year-old will swipe at least 20 bases again this season.

The consensus projections expect Trout, Betts, and Goldschmidt to all steal a similar number with Turner and Altuve as the only two first rounders with more.

Harper and Kris Bryant might give you double-digits, but you won’t get more than a handful of stolen bases from Nolan Arenado, Manny Machado, and the other first rounders.

Batting average
Over the last four years, Goldschmidt has a .305 AVG (almost identical to Trout’s .306 AVG) which puts him firmly in the top-10. His batting average ranged from a high of .321 to a low, last season of .297, partly fueled by his lowest BABIP for three years. If .297 AVG is the floor, then you have an elite producer in the notoriously difficult batting average category.

There is little variation in batting average between the first rounders. Elite players have elite batting averages. At the top end is Altuve with .320 AVG. Trout and Goldschmidt should hit around .305 AVG. At the bottom, you have Bryant and Anthony Rizzo around .285 AVG, with everyone else in between.

On-base percentage
Fangraphs suggests that an OBP of .360 is very good. The equivalent of a .300 AVG hitter.

"OBP reads like batting average, but because it incorporates walks, OBP is about 60 points higher on average. So the equivalent of a .300 hitter should have a .360 OBP or so. Getting on base is an important skill, so you want to use OBP to determine if the player in question is a good offensive performer."

Over the last two seasons, Goldschmidt has an exceptional .423 OBP which is the second best behind Joey Votto but ahead of Trout.

Walks are a big part of OBP and in most points leagues, a walk is worth one point. It has the same value as a run or RBI. Last season Goldschmidt led the NL with 110 walks. That is the equivalent an extra 110 RBI.

Goldschmidt’s 15.6% walk rate is elite. Betts and Machado are below 7%.

Next: Who's on second for the Royals?

Remember the walk-steal-steal-run from the Padres’ game mentioned at the start of the article? It is likely that not one of the 32,811 spectators at Chase Field realized they were witnessing history being made. That second stolen base took Goldschmidt to 32 bags for the season, making him the only first baseman in history to hit at least 24 home runs and steal 32 bases.

He is single-handedly rewriting the roto-expectations for first base, but perhaps in 2017, he will finally be treated as a true five-category stud that he is and taken with the second pick in the draft.