- Paul Goldschmidt is one of the game's best, but he's on his way to a historic 2017 if he keeps up his current clip.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but Paul Goldschmidt just had himself another big week. In Arizona’s six games last week, Goldschmidt had seven hits, including three homers, six RBI, more walks (nine) than strikeouts (eight), and a stolen base. He hit .304/.448/.696 for the week, which actually lowered his batting average and OBP for the season. Still, there’s no shame in a .317/.459/.592. slash line with 10 homers, 32 RBI and nine steals through 171 plate appearances. In fact, Goldschmidt is performing at a level that we’ve never seen from a player like him.
It has been 11 years since the majors had a player hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases in the same season. In 2006, Alfonso Soriano hit 46 homers and swiped 41 bases in his only season with the Nationals. He also had 41 doubles that year, making him the only player in MLB history with 40 or more homers, steals and doubles in the same season. Matt Kemp came up one homer shy of joining the 40/40 club in 2011, and he’s the only player to approach it since Soriano earned his membership. At the very least, Goldschmidt should be able to put his name alongside Kemp’s, but the 40/40 watch will be on in the desert all season.
All told, four players are in the 40/40 club. Jose Canseco inaugurated the club in 1988, when he hit 42 homers and stole 40 bases. Eight years later, Barry Bonds matched those exact numbers, and somehow finished fifth in NL MVP voting. Two years after that, Alex Rodriguez belted 42 homers and stole 46 bases in his third full year in the majors. That was good enough for ninth in the AL MVP race. It took eight more years for Soriano to become the fourth and most recent member of the 40/40 club. Canseco was the only one of the four to win his league’s MVP. If Goldschmidt is the fifth, he’ll likely have better luck in the MVP voting than Bonds, Rodriguez and Soriano.
What makes Goldschmidt unique, though, is his position. Canseco and Bonds were outfielders their whole careers, and Soriano had just moved to the outfield from second base when he had his 40/40 season. Rodriguez, meanwhile, was a 22-year-old shortstop when he joined the 40/40 club. Goldschmidt is a first baseman in his age-29 season. First basemen simply don’t do this sort of thing, let alone one who will turn 30 in the final month of the regular season. In that vein, Goldschmidt is on pace for a season the likes of which we have never seen.a
Dating back to 1901, there have been 75 instances of a first baseman hitting 40 homers in a season. Just twice did one of those first basemen also steal at least 30 bases. Both of those seasons belong to Jeff Bagwell, who went 43/31 in 1997 and 42/30 in 1999. In only 15 of the 75 instances did a first baseman manage to steal 10 bases to go with his 40-plus homers.
Even if Goldschmidt weren’t hitting for elite power, he would be trending toward a rare class. Since 1901, there have been 43 30-steal seasons by a first baseman. Of those 43, 36 occurred between 1901 and 1922. Modern-day first basemen just don’t pilfer bags the way Goldschmidt does. If he reaches the 30-steal mark again this season after swiping 32 last year, he’ll join Bagwell as the only first basemen to play since 1930 with multiple 30-steal seasons. That he’s doing that while also pushing the 40-homer plateau is truly special.
Heading into play Monday, Goldschmidt is on pace for 41 homers and 37 steals, rounding down to the nearest whole number. If we drop the steal threshold to 37 from 40, we get five such seasons in MLB history. In addition to his 42/40 season, Bonds hit 40 homers and stole 37 bases in 1997. Goldschmidt has a great chance to be the sixth player to reach both of those marks in a single season, and the first to do so from a position that doesn’t traditionally provide speed on the bases.
Hitters to watch this week
Mark Reynolds, 1B, Rockies
There’s no greater bargain in the majors thus far in 2017 than Mark Reynolds’s $1.5 million deal with the Rockies. Technically, it was a minor-league contract that would be worth $1.5 million if Reynolds spent the season in the majors, and it’s safe to say he’ll get all of that money. Through 153 plate appearances, he’s hitting .326/.399/.630 with 12 homers and 33 RBI. We know better than to expect the batting average and OBP to remain a strength, but it’s worth noting that he slashed .282/.356/.440 in 441 plate appearances with the Rockies last year. He wouldn’t be the first player in MLB history to agree with the thin air in Denver.
Carlos Correa, SS, Astros
Now this is the Correa we expect to see on a regular basis. The 22-year-old shortstop saw a six-game hitting streak come to an end on Monday, but he is back in the good graces of his fantasy owners. He went 10-for-22 with two homers, two doubles, 10 RBI and four walks against three strikeouts. Going back to April 25, he has hit safely in 16 of Houston’s 20 games, slashing .359/.433/.603 (28 H, 9 BB, 47 TB, 75 AB, 85 PA) in that time. After a dreadful start to the year, he’s up to .288/.369/.468. Those rates aren’t likely to level off anytime soon.
Lorenzo Cain, OF, Royals
With the Royals sitting in last place in the AL Central at 16–21 and a run differential of -37, Cain could be the most sought after player on the trade market this season. The Royals offensive struggles certainly haven’t been his fault. The 31-year-old centerfielder is hitting .305/.404/.406 with eight doubles and nearly as many walks (20) as strikeouts (25). He is a perfect 10-for-10 in stolen base attempts, and has been the only consistent bat in Kansas City’s lineup. Should the Royals fall further out of the playoff race early this summer, they’ll likely listen to offers for all of their players. Cain would be an easy sell to any contender looking for offensive help, and a move from Kansas City couldn’t do anything but improve his fantasy value.
Khris Davis, OF, A’s
Slug-first, slug-second, slug-third, slug-always players tend to run hot and cold. Davis takes that tendency to another level, and he has been on a decidedly latter run of late. He has two hits in his last 24 at-bats, and is 11-for-76 dating back to April 20. We’ve seen this from Davis time and time again, and this bad run doesn’t differ from the ones that came before it. It’s likely just a matter of time before he snaps out of it and is launching balls over the wall with regularity. That's exactly what he did in his first at-bat on Monday. Still, that knowledge only makes it slightly easier to stomach these cold spells.
Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Tigers
Cabrera is mired in the middle of what is on pace to be, far and away, the worst season of his career. He’s slashing .238/.319/.396 with four homers in 113 plate appearances. Just twice in his career has he had a strikeout rate higher than 20%, and those were his first two seasons in the majors. Cabrera has fanned in 24.8% of his trips to the plate this year. His .158 isolated slugging percentage would be the worst of his career by nearly 40 points. According to weighted runs created plus, he has been 9% worse than the average MLB hitter this season. These just aren’t traits we associate with one of the greatest hitters of his generation. The party eventually ends for everyone, and Cabrera is 34 years old, but it’s hard to believe that he has lost it entirely.
Amed Rosario, SS, Mets
The Mets are 16–20, 7.5 games behind the Nationals in the NL East. Noah Syndergaard and Yoenis Cespedes are out for the foreseeable future. There’s a whole lot of baseball left this season, but at this point, it is far more likely that the Mets are out of realistic playoff contention in mid-August than they are in the thick of things. As that gets closer and closer to reality, the calls for Rosario will only get louder.
Mets shortstops, Asdrubal Cabrera and Jose Reyes, rank 20th in the majors in wOBA and 24th in fWAR. They’re getting little from the position, and neither Cabrera nor Reyes command a spot in the team’s future. Rosario, meanwhile, is the polar opposite. The 21-year-old began the season as a consensus top-10 prospect among the industry’s top rating services, and he recently climbed to No. 3 on MLB.com’s list. It is not hard to understand why.
Rosario is getting his first taste of the highest level of the majors at Triple-A Las Vegas this season. He’s slashing .359/.401/.493 with two homers, 11 doubles, 22 RBI and seven steals in 157 plate appearances. This comes on the heels of a 2016 season in which he hit .324/.374/.459 between High-A St. Luice and Double-A Binghamton. Rosario has more than held his own at every level of the minors, and done so while being young for every stop along the way. That’s the surest sign of any that a player is ready for The Show.
Even if the Mets turn their season around and stick around the playoff race, they won’t be able to keep Rosario buried in the minors if he keeps swinging the bat this well. If they do fall further out of the race, though, it will be nearly impossible to let their best prospect languish for a full season at the Triple-A level. The moment Rosario is promoted, he will be relevant in all fantasy formats.
GIF of the Week
We’ve all seen Byron Buxton’s great catch from this weekend by now. It’s a beautiful play from start to finish, given that only a perfect jump and clean route would have Buxton in a position to make the spectacular leaping grab. If any one thing along the way went wrong, Buxton wouldn’t have been close to this. It was borderline remarkable that he had a play on it at all, let alone actually finishing it off. Behold!