Southern League's MVP hits 30 homers before promotion
Paul Goldschmidt had 30 homers and 94 RBIs in 103 Double-A games. (Tony Farlow/MiLB.com)
By Danny Wild / MLB.com | October 27, 2011 6:00 AM ET
Of all the home runs and big hits Paul Goldschmidt had in the Minors this season -- a season worthy of awe -- he topped it all in one October swing.
Goldschmidt, our MiLBY Award winner as Double-A Hitter of the Year, produced like a machine for the second straight season in the D-backs' system this summer. But the big man officially entered the national spotlight Oct. 4, when he ripped a grand slam in support of fellow rookie Josh Collmenter, helping Arizona to a must-win Game 3 win over the Brewers in the National League Division Series.
Former first-rounder Tim Wheeler entered the 2011 season with high expectations ahead of his first year in the Texas League. He didn't disappoint. The 23-year-old outfielder hit .287 with a league-leading 33 homers for the Tulsa Drillers, the Rockies' Double-A affiliate. The Cal State-Sacramento product ranked first in runs (105), hits (161) and extra-base hits (67). He also recorded a career-high 86 RBIs, the sixth-highest total in the league. Not just a threat at the plate, the 6-foot-4 slugger swiped 21 bases in 33 attempts.
"The guy hits the ball a long way," D-backs teammate Ryan Roberts told MLB.com. "He's hit balls to the opposite field over 400 feet before. Any time it comes off his bat, it's going to go out or hit off the wall."
Minor League pitchers, especially those in the Southern League this year, are well aware. Goldschmidt hit .306 with 30 homers and 94 RBIs at Double-A Mobile and finished second in the D-backs' system in homers despite not playing a game in the Minors after July.
"His numbers were unbelievable, just an unbelievable year," said Mike Bell, the D-backs director of player development.
The 2011 season was probably even better than the monster numbers Goldschmidt produced in 2010, when he finished the year hitting .314 with 35 homers and 108 RBIs in 138 games. This summer, he nearly matched those stats in 35 fewer games, and at a higher level.
"He's helping the Major League team win games now," said Bell, "but I wouldn't say I'm surprised that he's there."
His grand slam -- only the third slam ever hit by a rookie in postseason history -- was surprising, though.
"Goldy is a big boy," D-backs catcher Miguel Montero said. "He is strong enough to hit that ball out. As soon as I saw the ball was gone, I turned around and went `Wow.'"
That has been the sentiment of many who have watched the 6-foot-3 Texas State product swing the bat since he debuted with short-season Misoula in 2009. In his first taste of pro ball that summer, Goldschmidt hit .334 with 18 homers and 62 RBIs in 74 games.
He clubbed 83 longballs over parts of three seasons in the Minors and was a Southern League All-Star, league MVP and a Futures Game selection in 2011 alone.
Within a month of playing in the annual All-Star Game -- held this season in Arizona -- Goldschmidt returned to the very same ballpark but as a Major Leaguer. He skipped over the Triple-A level along the way, too.
"I knew there was a possibility, but it's not something I knew was going to happen," Goldschmidt told MLB.com after his Aug. 2 debut, in which he singled. "I was just taking it day by day and, to be honest, I didn't really think about it because I didn't want to be looking ahead for an opportunity that may or may not happen. I just tried to keep improving and help our team win when I was [in Mobile], and I've been sticking with the same approach here."
Goldschmidt hit .376 off lefties, .371 with runners on base and .336 with runners in scoring position. He tore apart pitching staffs in April when he batted .353 with nine longballs and 22 RBIs in 21 games.
The awards started piling up for the BayBear slugger. The reigning Cal League MVP, All-Star and Rookie of the Year earned Southern League Player of the Week honors on April 18, was named the league's Player of the Month for May and was selected to play in the All-Star Game in June. He was named a Baseball America Minor League and Double-A All-Star, a Southern League Post-season All-Star and, finally, the Southern League's Most Valuable Player.
And that's not on offense alone.
"His defense has really improved," said Bell. "He's always been pretty good at first, but I think he's got a chance to be an above-average first baseman."
Goldschmidt's 2011 highlight reel began with his first game in which he hit two home runs in his Double-A debut on April 7. He plated five runs April 17 against Mississippi, homered for the fourth time in seven games on April 23 against Jacksonville, hit four longballs in six days May 6-11 and posted his second five-RBI effort May 14 against Carolina.
He went deep in consecutive games June 1-2, 8-9, 29-30, July 13-15 and 22-23. His average was as high as .368 on April 29 and rose back up to .350 as late as June 9.
Without much left to prove in the Minors, Goldschmidt took on the National League. In 48 games, he hit .250 with eight homers and 26 RBIs for the D-backs in their run to the postseason.
"It's just a good swing with a lot of power," said Roberts.
"It's real short and real powerful, too," D-backs veteran Lyle Overbay told MLB.com. "You can see that when he goes the other way, it just has that extra carry on it. When you can hit those balls out of the ballpark, you don't have to stand there and think about pulling the ball all the time. It's a good luxury to have."
"If he just stays with what he's got, he can do a lot of things," Overbay added. "Obviously, he's going to have to make adjustments and get pitchers figured out as they make adjustments on him. He's already done that this year, so he's really taking care of that quickly."
To win the award, Goldschmidt beat out a talented field that included New Hampshire catcher and Eastern League MVP Travis d'Arnaud, Altoona outfielder Starling Marte, Tulsa slugger Tim Wheeler, top prospect Mike Trout of Arkansas and fellow Southern Leaguer Scott Van Slyke of Chattanooga.
Danny Wild is an editor for MLB.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.