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Coming into the season, Paul Goldschmidt seemed like just about the surest thing you could find in Fantasy. His nearly unblemished record featured 20-plus homers in three of the last four seasons, with the lone exception coming in 2014, when he missed 53 games and still hit 19. He had hit .300 or better in three straight seasons, and even swiped 21 bases to go along with his 33 homers, 103 runs and 110 RBI.
He was a true five-category stud, in other words, and a real option for No. 1 overall. He actually came in as the third least-risky player among potential first-rounders in an analysis I did before the season, just behind Clayton Kershaw and Mike Trout, and ahead of Jose Altuve, Josh Donaldson, and Bryce Harper, among others. His ability to fill up the box score and consistent track record made him an easy call at the No. 3 spot, even if he didn't have the upside of Mike Trout or Bryce Harper.
All of this is to say that it is disappointing to see Goldschmidt rank where he does at this point in the season. In Rotisserie formats, Goldschmidt ranks just 121st overall, and though he hasn't necessarily been bad, he is well behind the pace he set last season across the board:
Goldschmidt's homer pace isn't far off, and he is walking a ton, but it is fair to classify the rest of his production as disappointing. Is this just a slow start, or is there something here for Fantasy players to be worried about?
At first glance, there is one specific culprit for Goldschmidt's slow start: BABIP. Consistently one of the best players in baseball on balls in play, Goldschmidt has seen his BABIP fall to .261 in the early going. That's not just a far cry from the .382 mark he posted in 2015; it's well below even his worst partial-season mark, which was .323 in 2011.
And the BABIP drop certainly does explain some of Goldschmidt's apparent struggles. However, to write it off entirely as just bad luck doesn't tell the story. Goldschmidt hasn't had less luck so far this season; he just hasn't been as good of a hitter.
Goldschmidt's line-drive rate is down, for one thing. His flyball rate is also down a bit, and four of the 31 flyballs he has hit so far have been of the infield variety -- he had just eight on 148 last season. And his hard-hit rate is way down to 31.6 percent, after sitting at 41.4 percent or better in each of the previous three seasons.
It is that last stat that is most illustrative, because Goldschmidt's value has related to his ability to consistently make hard contact. From 2013 through 2015, Goldschmidt ranked fifth in baseball in hard-hit rate at 41.3 percent overall, so this is a pretty major dropoff. Right now, Goldschmidt just isn't hitting the ball well, so it's no surprise he is off to such a disappointing start.
The interesting thing is, Goldschmidt isn't exactly guilty of going up to the plate and hacking at any pitch he sees. Pitchers are doing their best to avoid him, with just 42.1 percent of pitches thrown in the strike zone, but this isn't far off from what he's seen in the past. Goldschmidt also isn't swinging at more junk, as he is offering at just 18.9 percent of pitches outside of the strike zone. This is why Goldschmidt is walking at a career-high rate.
It's fair to wonder if Goldschmidt is being too selective, but this might be a situation where correlation doesn't necessarily equal causation. Even when Goldschmidt is aggressive, he isn't hitting the ball; he is hitting .313 with a .500 slugging percentage when he puts the first pitch he sees in an at-bat in play, compared to .432 with a .792 slugging percentage for his career in such situations. On the whole, Goldschmidt is hitting just .250 in zero-strike counts, compared to .414 for his career.
It is worth noting that this isn't necessarily out of the realm of possibility for Goldschmidt; he hit just .243/.354/.430 last August, with a hard-hit average of just 34.7 percent. He then followed that up with a monster seven-homer September.
Goldschmidt hasn't been himself so far, and that's put you in a hole for Fantasy. However, there aren't any injury issues to be concerned about, so safe money is on Goldschmidt turning it around.
He hit .303/.407/.610 in September after his August slump last year, in case you are considering panicking. Don't panic.