Two of the top first basemen in baseball have an early Draft Champions NFBC ADP near each other. Those two players are Paul Goldschmidt and Matt Olson, and coincidentally (not), they are featured in our next installment of the fantasy baseball buy or sell series. Both players typically go around pick 50, and it feels like a position where fantasy managers should target them early or wait. Toward the end of the season in 2021, we often found corner infielder streamers to plug into 15-team lineups. Goldschmidt quietly went on a tear to finish the 2021 season to accumulate quality stats across the board. Olson built upon his 2018 and 2019 seasons to finish with career-best numbers.
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Buy or Sell – Paul Goldschmidt’s Finish
Paul Goldschmidt (1B – STL)
At 33 years of age, Paul Goldschmidt stole a perfect 12 bases after totaling 10 in 2018 and 2019. Goldschmidt not only sneakily racked up double-digit steals, but he soaked up the counting stats and plate appearances with 31 home runs, 102 runs, and 99 RBI in 679 PA. He’s no stranger to high batting averages and OBPs with a .294 BA and .365 OBP in 2021 compared to a career .276 BA and .360 OBP. From a counting stat standpoint, it’s nice to see Goldschmidt hover around 100 runs plus RBI.
When looking at the rolling wOBA, we noticed that Paul Goldschmidt started slow, then picked it up towards the end of the season. The counting stats, wOBA, and other metrics show that too. From April to June 2021, Goldschmidt hit 11 home runs, 41 runs, 42 RBI, and a .252 batting average. The .319 wOBA, .294 BABIP, and 102 wRC+ aligns too.
Then from July to October 2021, Goldschmidt smashed with 20 home runs, 61 runs, 57 RBI, and a .334 batting average. Once again, Goldschmidt’s .426 wOBA, .368 BABIP, and 172 wRC+ make sense. Whether you rostered Goldschmidt or not, those numbers indicate we should buy, not sell, the dominant performance in the final two months or so of the season.
Goldschmidt’s Batted Ball Data
If we toss out the shortened 2020 season, Paul Goldschmidt’s batted ball data looks similar with a 23.5% LD%, 40.3% FB%, and 39% Pull% in 2021. In Goldschmidt’s career, he possessed a 22.9% LD%, 35.6% FB%, and 37.4% Pull%. Most of it looks near the career averages outside of the fly ball and pull rates.
The same trend goes with the plate discipline, as Goldschmidt typically displayed an above-average O-Swing% at 28.1% in 2021 with a career rate of 26.3%. Interestingly, Goldschmidt’s 81.1% Z-Contact% and 77.6% Contact% sat a few percentage points below the league average.
However, when Goldschmidt makes contact, he barrels up the ball with a 13.6% barrel rate (85th-percentile) and a 50.6% hard-hit rate (91st-percentile). Throughout the Statcast era dating back to 2015, Goldschmidt consistently boasted double-digit barrel rates with a career rate of 11.8%.
Many of Goldschmidt’s batted ball metrics on Baseball Savant finished near or better than peak seasons in 2017 and 2018. Even 2015 stood out with the Statcast numbers. Goldschmidt averaged 34 home runs, 105 runs, 104.3 RBI, and 15.3 stolen bases in 2015, 2017, and 2018. Outside of the stolen bases, the counting stats look similar to what we would expect from Goldschmidt – 30+ home runs plus 100 runs and RBI.
In 2021, Goldschmidt ranked 20th with a 96.6 mph exit velocity on FB/LD with a maximum exit velocity of 112.2 mph. That increased from 94.5 mph (No. 44) exit velocity on FB/LD in 2019, then 95.9 mph (No. 14) in 2018. We have to go back to 2017 when Goldschmidt boasted a 96.6 mph exit velocity on FB/LD that ranked No. 9 that season. The contact quality numbers align, evidenced by a .396 xwOBA and .467 xwOBAcon that ranked in the top 6% of the league in 2021. The batted ball metrics lead us to buy more than sell Goldschmidt after a near career season.
Should We Buy or Sell Goldschmidt?
Fantasy managers with Paul Goldschmidt on their squads in 2021 possibly won leagues with the hot stretch from July to October. According to the Razzball Player Rater, Goldschmidt finished as the 15th best player between Max Scherzer and Rafael Devers. As one of the most consistent hitters in baseball for the past decade, how should we value him in 2022? It’s fun to look at a player’s Swing-Take Profile on Baseball Savant since it shows that Goldschmidt thrives in the heart of the zone and shows above-average plate discipline with the takes in the chase areas.
Early STEAMER projections have Goldschmidt with 30 home runs, 99 runs, 87 RBI, and seven stolen bases. It seems they expect some regression in the BABIP at .314 that drops the projected batting average to .276. However, the projected .360 OBP looks similar to the 2021 .365 OBP. The Cardinals roster looks top-heavy, with Tommy Edman, Goldschmidt, Tyler O’Neill, Nolan Arenado rounding out the top four. Even Dylan Carlson in the five-hole concerns us, but there’s still room for growth.
Currently, Goldschmidt goes at pick 57 in the early Draft Champions NFBC ADP as the fourth first baseman. He’s going right behind Randy Arozarena. Depending on roster construction, Arozarena appears like the better pick for stolen bases since they typically dry up early for potential five-category bats. It’s worth snagging Goldschmidt as a safe accumulator since there’s a dropoff at first base right around Goldschmidt and Pete Alonso.
Buy or Sell – Matt Olson’s Career Season
As we discuss one of the most consistent first basemen in Paul Goldschmidt, let’s transition to Matt Olson, who finished with a career-best season. Olson set career-highs across the board with 39 home runs, 101 runs, 111 RBI, and four stolen bases. Although Olson’s career .252 batting average looks unappealing, he built upon the 2019 season with a .271 batting average in 2021.
Olson’s Batted Ball Data
Since Olson typically hits a ton of fly balls (43.7%) with a high pull rate at 40.4%, he didn’t have a high BABIP at .269 in 2021. However, interestingly, Olson’s pull rate dropped from a career rate of 45.1%. Olson possesses legitimate raw power, and he possibly didn’t need to pull the ball that much.
From a plate discipline standpoint, the near career-best 84.1% Z-Contact% stood out from a career-high 78.6% Contact%. Sometimes we find power hitters like Olson struggling to make consistent contact. However, Olson’s contact rates align with the league averages in 2021, when they typically fell below in previous years.
Olson’s Statcast Data
As an elite power hitter, Matt Olson finished with a career-best 115.3 mph maximum exit velocity that ranked in the 95th-percentile. Although Olson’s 12.7% barrel rate (83rd-percentile) rates lower than the career 13.1%, it’s still above average. Olson’s 96.1 mph exit velocity on FB/LD ranked 25th between Tommy Pham and Miguel Cabrera. That dipped from a 97.2 mph exit velocity on FB/LD that ranked 5th in 2019 and 97.5 mph (No. 4) in 2018. Olson’s Statcast data further proves the point of his elite raw power.
Based on Olson’s rolling xwOBA, we notice the production dropped towards the end of the 2021 season. Thankfully, in rotisserie leagues, it’s a game of accumulation, and it leads towards us buying rather than selling Olson’s career season.
Should We Buy or Sell Olson?
Unlike Paul Goldschmidt, Matt Olson faded down the stretch. From April to July in 2021, Olson hit 27 home runs, 68 runs, 67 RBI, and a .280 batting average. Olson’s .392 wOBA, 14.3% barrel rate, and 155 wRC+ backed the early production.
Then from August to October, Olson finished with 12 home runs, 33 runs, and 44 RBI with a .255 batting average. As expected, the wOBA dropped to .356 with a dip in barrel rate at 9.8% and wRC+ at 131. Overall, that’s the natural progression of the long fantasy baseball season.
Early STEAMER projections have Olson with 39 home runs, 93 runs, 104 RBI, and three stolen bases with a .258 batting average. The counting stats don’t surprise us, but we hope for a better batting average close to the 2019 and 2021 seasons. It’s tricky to draft a hitter like Olson inside the top 50 picks with an early Draft Champions ADP of 42 as the third 1B off the board. Based on the underlying metrics, fantasy managers should buy and not sell Olson in 2022. However, the early ADP feels fair, yet also a bit high for a hitter that won’t provide the stolen bases. Although it’s a sexy pick, we can find power later in drafts.
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