Paul Goldschmidt's humility and workmanlike approach has quietly made him one of the best players in baseball. A perennial National League Most Valuable Player Award candidate, the 30-year-old first baseman anchors a D-backs lineup that hopes to propel Arizona to consecutive postseason berths for the first time since 2001-02.
When you think of the D-backs, you think of Goldschmidt. And when you think of Goldschmidt, you think reliable excellence. Just take it from Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez, who spent the second half of the 2017 season with Arizona and got to witness Goldschmidt's work ethic in person.
"He's a guy that studies every little thing, and I've always kind of studied just pitchers and just how they're pitching, how they're coming at me and stuff like that," Martinez said. "But I feel like [when I was] with him he kind of just opened my eyes like there is more to the game in the sense of studying -- guys' moves to first, the way guys will do pick-off moves to second. Just kind of every little thing about the game. I feel like Goldy does a really good job of playing the entire game and not just one side."
No matter how productive he is on the field, Goldschmidt does not yield to complacency. His unquenchable desire to get better, even while being one of the best all-around players in MLB, is what makes him the player to watch in Arizona this season.
"Even before I was drafted I was always trying to learn and get better, but then even once I was drafted it wasn't like, 'Hey I'm in [Class A], how do I get to the big leagues?'" Goldschmidt said. "It was more, 'Can I get better each day here and try to compete and let the future kind of be its own thing?'
"Learn from my mistakes, but also from success. After you have success you can ask, 'Hey, what did I do right that game?' And then try to repeat that."
Goldschmidt has finished in the top three in NL MVP voting three times in the last five years. He has never had a full season in which he posted an OPS+ below 126, and he's had an OPS+ of 140 or better in four of the last five seasons. He has a career slash line of .299/.399/.532 with 176 home runs over seven seasons. Not only that, he owns three NL Gold Glove Awards and has quietly amassed 117 stolen bases, including 71 since 2015. His career stolen base success rate is 81 percent, another indication of his meticulous approach to the game.
"I think the instincts kind of happen because you think about the situation before or you've put yourself in that situation," Goldschmidt said. "Being in the present but thinking about what could possibly happen this next pitch or bases loaded if it's hit to my right, what do I do? If it's hit to my left, what do I do? Knowing the speed of the runners. All that type of stuff."
Goldschmidt is due to become a free agent following the 2019 season, and as a cornerstone-type player for the D-backs, he may be offered a contract extension before that.
"The beautiful thing about Paul is he doesn't press the issue," D-backs president and CEO Derrick Hall said. "He's a man of his word. We're lucky we have him under control for this season and next. It's not something that's of great concern to him. Being the unselfish and humble guy he is, he would rather us focus on the rest of the roster right now.
"If and when that day ever comes -- and you guys know [general manager] Mike [Hazen] is not going to talk about it, and Paul's not going to talk about it either -- we're just lucky to have a guy like Goldy. He's never complained. He's been very happy with his situation here."
With the D-backs eyeing another postseason run, they're certainly happy with having one of the best first baseman in baseball in the middle of the lineup every day. Goldschmidt has played in at least 155 games in four of the last five seasons. He'll be a player to watch not only with Arizona, but in the NL, given that he will likely be vying for his first MVP award.
"He's so unassuming that he's winning the Silver Slugger and the Gold Glove, that you just take those things for granted because he is so special and is so consistent every day," D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said last season. "I've said all year long that for me he's the MVP of the National League."