Breaking Down the Paul Goldschmidt Trade (Fantasy Baseball)
For all the hullabaloo about two generational talents, another generational talent was moved that isn’t quite being heralded as such. While Manny Machado and Bryce Harper are two of the flashier players that the MLB can market, Paul Goldschmidt has a higher career wRC+ than both of them. That’s right — Goldschmidt has an insane 144 wRC+, while Machado (120 wRC+) and Bryce Harper (140 wRC+) are a few ticks below him. Goldschmidt’s 36.3 WAR is also better than both players (although Goldschmidt entered the league a year before them). Heck, Goldschmidt could retire this year and get into the Hall of Fame easily, considering Harold Baines’ recent election to the Hall by Today’s Game Era committee.
All jokes aside, Goldschmidt’s move from the desert to the Gateway Arch is a big deal, not only for the Cardinals but also for fantasy owners. Read on to see just how much Goldschmidt’s stock will improve, along with some insights on Luke Weaver and Carson Kelly to wrap things up.
Paul Goldschmidt, first-round pick?
Consider pre-humidor averages in which he played a full season (aka, excluding 2011 and 2014):
- .301 average, 30 homers, 102 runs, 106 RBI, and 21 SBs
Now, let’s look at 2018:
You can see that the humidor did not impact his core stats significantly, which is extremely impressive given his absolutely terrible April and May. For how bad his first two months were, he finished with essentially the same wRC+ in the first half (144) as he did in the second half (145). His batted ball profile did not change much at all when compared to prior years. Paul Goldschmidt is a superstar, even if all you can remember is how bad he was for a statistically insignificant amount of at-bats early in the season.
Now, the humidor didn’t kill runs or homers, given that Chase Field finished 11th in runs scored and 19th in homers. Twenty-one of Goldschmidt’s 33 homers did come on the road, which at first seems to be a welcome sight to fantasy owners looking to draft him in 2019. However, based on his move from Chase Field to Busch Stadium, don’t expect his numbers to drastically increase. Busch was tied for 23rd in runs and 25th in homers in Park Factors.
Even though Goldschmidt is going from one pitcher’s park to another, he should see an increase in counting stats, simply based on the much better lineup he will have around him. Having Matt Carpenter (.374 OBP) and potentially Jose Martinez (.364) hitting in front of him will create tons of RBI opportunities, and Marcell Ozuna, Paul DeJong, and Yadier Molina will be there to drive him in.
We know Goldy’s floor, and it’s one of the best floors in all of fantasy. I’ll gladly take a .290 average to go with 30 homers, 95 runs, and 85 RBI. The fantasy community is dying to know just one thing about Goldschmidt entering 2019: will he run again?
Goldschmidt’s ADP in 2018 was at the back end of the first round, and he finished the season as the 31st overall player, and 20th overall hitter. The reason he was being drafted 20 spots higher than he finished is due to those steals. As we discussed above, his seven stolen bases in 2018 pales in comparison to the 21 he averaged earlier in his career. Even when he had a down year in 2016 by power standards (just 24 bombs), he picked up a career-high 32 stolen bases. Stolen bases, much like love, are a choice, and Goldschmidt just did not run in 2018. Whether that’s a product of him getting older, a particular game plan, or another factor we don’t know yet know about, we will find out in 2019 whether that part of his game is done. The Cardinals finished 26th in steals in 2018, whereas the D-backs finished 14th, which is more of a reason to think he is done running. The Cardinals did finish 17th in steals in 2017 but also finished 29th in 2016. Of course, Mike Matheny and his terrible stolen base strategy is gone, and Mike Schildt rectified the poor baserunning game. Long story short — don’t expect the Cardinals to change their game plan just because they now have a guy who has shown a propensity to run.
ESPN has Goldschmidt as a top-20 overall player, and the No. 2 first baseman, just behind Freddie Freeman. CBS has him in the back end of the first round in 12-team leagues. Based on the analysis compiled above, Goldschmidt’s upside to be a 30/30 guy is limited, which makes him less appealing. Take away the steals, and he becomes more like Machado with a better batting average and less dirty plays. With all that said, his floor is too safe to ignore. Picking between Goldschmidt and say, Giancarlo Stanton or Aaron Nola, is like splitting hairs. The third best first baseman, Anthony Rizzo, is the 38th overall player on ESPN. If you want Goldschmidt, you’ll need to take him in the middle of the second round to be safe.
Change of scenery to do Luke Weaver some good
What happened to Luke Weaver last year? As his FIP would lead you to determine, he had a 26% decrease in his strikeout rate year-over-year, and his walk rate went up one full batter over nine innings. His groundball rate also dropped 7 percentage points, and the unluckiest thing that happened is his very un-nice 69% left on base percentage (the league average is between 70-72%).
Weaver has had a volatile major league career. His 4.33 FIP in 2016 was bad, his 3.17 FIP in 2017 was good, and his 4.45 FIP in 2018 was bad. FIP is an imperfect measure, but this shows that his major league career has been a roller coaster. The good news is that he had a downright filthy minor league career, rarely having a FIP above 3.00, and rarely having an ERA above 2.50.
Weaver had some underlying metrics change last year which might help explain his 2018 woes. His changeup velocity increased two MPH, which means that his fastball-changeup velocity difference was smaller, making it less effective. He also got crushed by lefties last year, as they hit .288/.371/.470 against him, whereas righties hit .254/.315/.409. Lefties actually hit worse than righties against Weaver in 2017.
Now, all these metrics don’t point to him being a better or worse pitcher in 2019 for the Diamondbacks. As was noted, Chase Field and Busch Stadium play in a very similar way. Weaver’s change of scenery will likely do him some good, given that he was seen as the next great Cardinals ace. Now, he is surrounded by great veterans like Zach Greinke and Robbie Ray — the spotlight likely will not be on him. The Snakes are most likely not going to contend in 2019 either, giving Weaver a chance to reset and refine his pitch sequencing and get that changeup-fastball difference to a wider margin.
ESPN currently has Weaver ranked as the 86th best starting pitcher going into 2019. Names in that similar range include Jake Odorizzi, Reynaldo Lopez, and Brad Keller. I would prefer to snag Weaver at the end of drafts based on his minor league pedigree and upside.
Carson Kelly to get chance in big leagues
The Diamondbacks love carrying three catchers on their big league roster, so Kelly figures to get a chance to stick. Kelly isn’t known for his offensive prowess, as Steamers projects him to hit fewer than 10 homers and have a season that amounts to 85 wRC+ in 225 plate appearances. His upside this year is probably something like 10 homers and a .270 average. Sadly, this could be a startable catcher in 2019 given the wasteland that is behind the dish. He’s worth a last-round pick in deeper leagues.