For eight seasons, Paul Goldschmidt was like a gunslinger stranded in the desert.
Despite being one of the best players in the game and ranking fourth in total fWAR from 2012-18, Goldschmidt was one of the lone bright spots on an Arizona Diamondbacks team that made the playoffs just once during his tenure.
Goldy was and arguably still is a top-five talent in baseball, but he is cruelly underrated because he played for what was mostly a perennial loser in Arizona.
But in one of the biggest deals of the offseason, Goldschmidt was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals, instantly giving him new life and a chance to play for a contender in the National League.
The Cardinals figure to challenge for the NL Central crown all season, with Goldschmidt at the epicenter of it all.
Here are three bold predictions for St. Louis’ newest star in 2019:
1. First batting title
Goldschmidt has hit at least .286 in every year since 2012, including a three-year stretch where he topped .300 every season. And that was with hardly any protection in the lineup.
The Cardinals are loaded with offensive talent, and with Goldschmidt sandwiched between Matt Carpenter, Paul DeJong and a healthy Marcell Ozuna, he figures to see a lot of mistake pitches this season.
Christian Yelich won the NL batting title last season with a .326 clip. Goldschmidt’s career high is .321, but I think he could hit .340 this season.
Not only do the Cardinals have a ton of pop, but with the likes of Harrison Bader and Dexter Fowler (if he keeps his spot) at the bottom of the order, they also have table-setters and good baserunners that will consistently challenge opposing pitchers with the big boppers stepping up to the plate.
As if his spot in a more potent lineup was not justification enough, Goldschmidt hits NL Central pitching hard. Goldy had a .300 average against the Cubs in 2019 while pounding the Reds to the tune of a .409 average and 1.389(!) OPS.
Goldschmidt is as consummate a hitter as any in the game, and he will win the batting title this season.
2. With Goldschmidt at first base, Cardinals will go “worst to first” defensively
Ok, cheating here slightly. For starters, this is more of a team goal. Secondly, full seasons from DeJong and Bader could have as much to do with the defensive improvement as anything else.
But to me, Goldschmidt is at the crux of what could be a seismic turnaround for the Cardinals defensively.
While Carpenter actually rated as an above-average first baseman, Jose Martinez certainly did not. Martinez’s -3.2 Ultimate Zone Rating was his worst at any position, according to FanGraphs.
While Goldschmidt was merely average to above-average last season, he has won three Gold Glove awards at first and is still among the very best in the business. Goldy’s presence at first allows Carpenter to move back to his more natural position at third, and also forces Martinez into the outfield.
It may seem like a subtle or underwhelming change, but it is the kind of move that could help transform the Cardinals into a truly elite defensive team next season.
3. National League MVP… and Triple Crown Winner
Last season, Christian Yelich ranked first in batting average (.326), second in RBIs (110) and third in homers (36) while leading the Brewers to the NL Central title on his way to being named NL MVP.
As I have already mentioned, I believe Goldschmidt will win the batting title. In the last four seasons, Goldy has also averaged over 31 homers and 102 RBIs. Given that Goldschmidt will be hitting in the middle of a stacked lineup, I think he paces the NL in every major statistical category and becomes the first player since Joe Medwick in 1937 (also with the Cardinals) to win the NL Triple Crown.
Plenty of contenders figure to be in the conversation for NL MVP. Yelich, Kris Bryant, Nolan Arenado, Freddie Freeman and Anthony Rendon all figure to be in the mix.
But if Goldschmidt wins the Triple Crown while playing elite defense for a Cardinals team that might win the division, he will win MVP.