Paul Goldschmidt’s Glowing Projections

If over a beer and a ball game, a buddy said, “Paul Goldschmidt will outhit Jason Heyward in 2012″, I would have assumed he had had one too many. With the release of Bill James‘ 2012 projections, the SABR legend said just that as the Diamondbacks first baseman is projected to produce a wOBA of .382.

Having scouted Goldschmidt in July, I came away believing he would take advantage of lesser pitching, but struggle with top flight velocity. If Goldschmidt hits to his wOBA projection, then I greatly undersold his overall hitting ability and he’s on the cusp of becoming one of the top-25 hitters in terms of wOBA in all of baseball based on final 2011 leaderboards.

Goldschmidt video after the jump

This type of production would make Goldschmidt one-of-a-kind as no hitter with a .382 wOBA or higher in baseball last year struck out as much as the Diamondbacks first baseman (25.6%) is projected to in 2012. Back in September, I wrote a piece on power projection using metrics and an obvious conclusion to come from it was that more contact equals more opportunity for power. Whether prospects or big leaguers, this holds true.

In fact, only Curtis Granderson (24.5%), Alex Avila (23.8%) and Matt Kemp (23.1%) struck out at anything close to a comparable rate. Mike Morse (21.9%) and Alex Gordon (20.1%) are the only other two who struck out at a 20% or above clip to post such gaudy wOBA totals. This leaves 17 other players who posted a .382 wOBA or above who struck out at a less than 20% rate or 77% of the total number of players.

Additionally, Goldschmidt’s projected walk rate (13.8%) would have placed him 10th amongst all big leaguer hitters with only Indians Carlos Santana posting a comparable walk rate with close to the same number of plate appearances entering his first full season. The remaining eight players on that list each have at least 2400 plate appearances with legitimate superstars Evan Longoria and Joey Votto bringing up the rear in terms of career plate appearances.

In researching this piece, I stumbled across Carlos Pena‘s career walk and strikeout rates which are almost identical to what Goldschmidt is expected to post next season. With a walk rate of 13.9% and strikeout rate of 26.4% respectively, Pena has posted a career .239/.352/.486 line at the big league level across six organizations and nearly 5,000 plate appearances. At this point, Pena has a legitimate shot at 300 career home runs (258 currently) and 1,000 runs batted in (730 currently) – Not bad for a player many believed was essentially finished as a productive player in his mid-twenties.

However, Pena’s career wOBA (.359) includes only one season of production at or above the .382 Goldschmidt is projected to produce – a .430 mark in his career season where Pena challenged the 50 home run plateau. This means Goldschmidt’s expected power production will need to be quite a bit better than what Carlos Pena was able to produce at an equivalent age.

Fortunately for Goldschmidt, this question deserves an answer of at least a maybe as Pena’s slugging percentage of .500 as a 23-year old in Texas came from a miniscule 72 plate appearances. At 24, Pena’s slugging percentage of .448 fell well below that initial mark.

It’s not as if Goldschmidt’s 177 plate appearances are that much better of a sample size to draw conclusions from, but both his walk and strikeout rates did improve considerably during September-October after his first month in Arizona. However, his better ratios seem to have come at the cost of power production leading to nearly an identical wOBA.

For me, the most fascinating part of a player projection is what exactly needs to go right in order for a player to match that projection. In the case of Goldschmidt, I’m struggling to find a way to fit the puzzle pieces together and explain how his ascent to one of the game’s more dangerous hitters is possible. However, even if he winds up more Carlos Pena than consistent middle-of-the-order threat, I doubt Goldschmidt would complain considering Pena’s career earnings stand at about 40 million and counting.

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Mike Newman is the Owner/Managing Editor ofROTOscouting, a subscription site focused on baseball scouting, baseball prospects and fantasy baseball. Follow me onTwitter. Likeus on Facebook.Subscribeto my YouTube Channel.

30 Responses to “Paul Goldschmidt’s Glowing Projections”

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  1. joeiq says:

    Bill James ALWAYS overestimates rookies who had a good first partial season. By a wide margin.

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  2. Barkey Walker says:

    I get that people lose track of words like “unique” meaning one of a kind, and am somewhat confused when someone gets confused that “singular” is a synonym for unique, but “one-of-a-kind” is so obviously a superlative, how did you make this mistake? Being more or less one of a kind is like being more or less dead/pregnant. Similarly, there is only one way of being one of a kind, and no-hitters are not one of a kind–there has been more than one.

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  3. ecp says:

    I ignore James’ projections as generally ludicrous.

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  4. Mike D says:

    Not that its relevant to Goldschmidt, but the BJ projections will be updated when we get closer to spring training (only three months away!)

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  5. Detroit Michael says:

    The “Bill James” projections are made by Baseball Info Solutions, not Bill James.

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  6. Keystone Heavy says:

    Am I’m the only one that has his doubts about Heyward?

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  7. jonnyp07 says:

    Mike – With all that said in your article where do you project Goldscmidt for 2012 ? If he even gets in the ballpark of BJ’s power projections he’s a steal where these early mocks have him going.

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  8. Matt says:

    Bautista: .383 wOBA
    Goldschmidt: .382 wOBA

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  9. Paul says:

    Couple things. If all I had to go on was the video embedded here, I’d be VERY pessimistic, and would be going right along with the Balboni comps.

    But there’s more to the story. The AZ announcers raved about how Goldshmidt got there and immediately started working with Don Baylor, how intelligent he is about hitting, and his drive to improve. That improvement was evident during his time there.

    In cases like this I would think investing in would be a really good idea, because you can access the archived full games and watch all his ABs (and skip to only his). I was shocked by how advanced his pitch recognition was. And Tim Lincecum was shocked by his power. If you want to know how he bests Carlos Pena, it’s because he has massive natural RF power and fantastic pitch recognition. Compared to Pena, who has always tried to jerk everything, and still after several years at the MLB level is still one of the most obvious guessers in the game.

    James’ projection for next year is high, but I’ll be waiting for the all the “Where Did Paul Goldschmidt Come From?” articles over the next few years.

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    • Mike Newman says:

      Very good points Paul, but a couple of things to consider.

      If there was a tool for “old player skills”, Goldschmidt would be at least a 70 on the 20-80 scale. In general, this is not really a great recipe for sustained success at the big league level.

      From the little I’ve heard from contacts about Goldschmidt, he completely revamped his hitting mechanics prior to 2011 with the DBacks. I know a few months seems like plenty of time to make that kind of change, but it’s very difficult in actuality.

      Walks and smarts will allow him a good floor. I’m just not sure what the top end ceiling is going to look like.

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  10. dirtbag says:

    This guy is one of the most intelligent players in the league and has an absolutely off-the-charts work ethic.

    If anyone is going to outhit his projections, it’s Goldschmidt.

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    • philosofool says:

      That analysis is terrible, as he only selects players with 225-150 PA. Why? Play time doesn’t generate comps…

      When you expand the list to include guys with any number of PA > 200, you get Adam Dunn, Fred McGriff, and Larry Hisle on the list too. It’s not a list of amazing players, many sucked, but some of the comps are certainly very favorable.

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      • shoewizard says:

        You missed the point.

        There are only two players in history with a K rate over 28% that have managed amass 3000 PA’s in the majors, or more or less 6 full season.

        Rob Deer and Russel Branyan.

        Drop the PA requirement to 2000 and the list expands to 6 guys.

        Drop it to 1000 and you get all of 16 guys

        Fnally , drop it to just 500 pa’s, you get 33 guys, but only 17 of whom produced a positive WAR in their careers.

        The very simple point is that Goldschmidt is going to have to drop his K% to under 25% to have more than a hail mary’s chance at a decent major league career. Because when guys strike out 28%, 30% etc, they usually don’t get the chance to stick around when they slump. They get sent back down

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  11. Nick Andopolis says:

    ‘then I greatly undersold his overall hitting ability and he’s on the cusp of becoming one of the top-25 hitters in terms of wOBA in all of baseball ‘

    Ding ding ding

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