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D-backs-Rox series has fresh new look for '17

MLB.com @castrovince

Two of the great players of our time -- Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado -- are on the same field for the key three-game set between the D-backs and Rockies that begins Tuesday night at Coors Field. But the relative anonymity afforded these two consistently underrated stalwarts is, thankfully, dissipating here in 2017.

Not only are both Goldschmidt and Arenado staging legitimate Most Valuable Player cases in the first half of this season, but they're finally playing on October-caliber clubs worthy of their talents.

Two of the great players of our time -- Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado -- are on the same field for the key three-game set between the D-backs and Rockies that begins Tuesday night at Coors Field. But the relative anonymity afforded these two consistently underrated stalwarts is, thankfully, dissipating here in 2017.

Not only are both Goldschmidt and Arenado staging legitimate Most Valuable Player cases in the first half of this season, but they're finally playing on October-caliber clubs worthy of their talents.

That the National League West will provide three-fifths of the NL playoff picture has begun to feel like a foregone conclusion. Goldschmidt was a rookie coming off a 48-game campaign when the D-backs last appeared in the postseason, and he had no way of knowing he'd be approaching his 30th birthday the next time they'd be in a legit position to get back. But at least the four postseason games he's played in are four more than Arenado, the heart and soul of a Rox squad that has, until this year, been known for routinely surrendering more runs than its power-packed offense could provide.

The ugly truth is that -- especially in the era of dual Wild Cards -- a great career is incomplete, in terms of how it resonates with casual fans, without October. And when you combine Pacific or Mountain home start times with annual also-ran status while compiling a Wins Above Replacement total that ranks third overall (Goldschmidt) and eighth overall (Arenado) in the Majors over the last five seasons, you get a Mike Trout-like claim to underappreciated awesomeness.

The Esurance All-Star Game Ballot results tell us the appreciation levels are elevated in '17, though Arenado and Goldschmidt are still being edged out at their respective positions. Here's where they ranked in Monday's voting update and their stats from that point:

First base:

1. Ryan Zimmerman (1.4M votes): 1.063 OPS, 171 wRC+, 19 HR, 19 2B, 54 RBI

2. Anthony Rizzo (1.3M): .905 OPS, 136 wRC+, 16 HR, 18 2B, 57 RBI

3. Goldschmidt (828K): 1.038 OPS, 162 wRC+, 16 HR, 18 2B, 57 RBI

Goldschmidt, on account of his defense and his still-standout agility on the basepaths despite his 6-foot-3, 225-pound frame (he has 13 steals), has been the more complete package. But because he didn't have the astounding April bounceback of Zimmerman or the Cub love being bestowed upon the North Side's new leadoff sensation, he's lagging in the vote total.

Third base:

1. Kris Bryant (1.6M): .919 OPS, 140 wRC+, 15 HR, 14 2B, 28 RBI

2. Nolan Arenado (1.3M): .925 OPS, 118 wRC+, 15 HR, 26 2B, 55 RBI

Though Arenado's insanely great glove is a significant difference-maker, it's hard to quibble with the reigning NL MVP here. And the wRC+ stat is important to include given that it neutralizes the park effects that certainly help Arenado's cause.

But stay tuned. On Sunday, Bryant was rested on account of fatigue and a sagging bat, while Arenado, who has a 1.056 OPS this month, turned in what was quickly and accurately dubbed a "cycle for the ages" in a thrilling win over the Giants. So Arenado's All-Star starting arrow might be pointed upward.

Video: Must C Cycle: Arenado gets cycle with walk-off homer

Anyway, no matter where the vote totals wind up, the status Arenado and Goldschmidt hold inside our sport is secure.

Goldschmidt's quiet and low-key public persona is his calling card, disguising what teammates describe as a dry and devastating wit behind the scenes. But the consistency of his play speaks volumes. His 2016 constituted a "down" year, yet Goldschmidt still had a wRC+ mark identical to that of Edwin Encarnacion.

This year, Goldy's gone next-level. He's got the highest isolated power mark (.272) of his career, to go with a career-low strikeout rate (18.8 percent). He's following the industry trend of more fly balls (a career-high 38.3-percent rate) without the accompanying K's -- a man after our homer-loving hearts.

Arenado is more edgy, and his bloodied countenance from Sunday's walk-off cycle celebration is, now and forever, the indelible image we'll associate with a young man who, in the sage words of former Giants coach Tim Flannery, "plays obsessed."

Tweet from @TimFlannery2: No analytics can quantify this..he's one of the best in the game, plays obsessed,with a deep edge. This is what it is supposed to look like. pic.twitter.com/5yKOmjhcAu

This year, both Arenado and Goldschmidt got what they've long wanted. What once was a casual meeting between West clubs all-too-accustomed to looking up at the Dodgers and Giants is now an epic affair. The stakes have been raised in Arizona and Colorado, and so too, thankfully, have the profiles of these two corner kings.

Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.

Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies