Minor-League Monday: Paul Goldschmidt

Do you ever wonder if those guys picked in the last few rounds of the draft ever amount to anything? After helping Kyle Drabek lead their high school team to a national championship, Paul Goldschmidt was selected in the 49th round of the 2006 draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Goldschmidt, not surprisingly, decided to head to college and Texas State. He had a great career there, and his legendary power gave him a better chance his second time in the draft. Nonetheless, Goldschmidt had to wait until the 8th round of the 2009 draft to be selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Eighth-round picks aren’t expected to do a whole lot, but Goldschmidt broke the mold along with a few baseballs immediately after signing. A quick sign, Goldschmidt played in 74 games in 2009, hitting a ridiculous .334/.408/.638, but he was a college player in rookie ball. Goldschmidt followed that up with an impressive high-A campaign in 2010 when he hit .314/.384/.606, but he did it in the California League, a place known for lots of offense.

Scouts were not impressed. Baseball America ranked him 11th in the not-very-strong Diamondbacks organization. Their opinion was that he had massive raw power, but he struck out a lot and was going to have to play first, at which he was merely adequate. John Sickels was afraid of the 161 strikeouts and Cal League performance as well. Kevin Goldstein was similarly skeptical, noting the strikeouts, all-or-nothing swing, and his prior beneficial hitting environments.

Goldschmidt headed out to the more offensively-challenging Southern League, but he hasn’t stopped mashing. In 63 games, Goldschmidt is outdoing himself. He’s hitting .344/.465/.687, and he obviously needs to be challenged more. Scouts have begun to change their mind on Goldschmidt as a result. It’s not surprising, but their earlier skepticism wasn’t unwarranted. The low minors sees tons of prospects with huge power that flame out at higher levels against tougher pitching (I’ve heard the hardest jump is from A-ball to AA for hitters), and if you want to be a first baseman, you have to mash. It also helps that Goldschmidt answered scouts’ biggest fear–his strikeout totals. After striking out 27 and 31% of the time in his first two seasons, he has only struck out 19% of the time this season, and his walk rate has gone from 9-10% to 18% this season (part of this is people refusing to pitch to him; I don’t blame them).

Most scouts will tell you that they won’t change their opinion of a player over a couple months’ worth of games, but if they do, it’s because the player A) does incredibly well and B) shows a reason/change for why he’s dominating. Goldschmidt has done both by continuing to hit better pitching and by simultaneously cutting down on the strikeouts. The next challenge for Goldschmidt will be finding a place on the Arizona roster, but while Juan Miranda has done reasonably well (.244/.350/.463), he’s 28 and probably isn’t going to roadblock Goldschmidt if he continues to hit at an epic pace. With Arizona’s park and Goldschmidt’s power, he could be a 40-homer guy in the bigs.