Full Account -- a new, narrative podcast from MLB.com that will provide deep dives on baseball’s best stories -- is releasing a series of episodes about the vast impact of the 2009 MLB Draft. One of the episodes delves into how Paul Goldschmidt slipped to the eighth round of that Draft before becoming a superstar. What follows is a small sampling of the Goldschmidt origin story. You can subscribe to Full Account here.
Before he became an annual All-Star and MVP candidate, before he became one of the more celebrated players in the sport, the Dodgers selected him in a deep round of the Draft -- merely as a favor, and with no real designs on him becoming a top talent.
Oh, you thought we’re talking about how Mike Piazza wound up in L.A.?
No, this is the story of how Paul Goldschmidt nearly wound up with the Dodgers, one of those great what-ifs associated with the imprecise process that is the MLB Draft.
Back in June 2006, 48 rounds after they drafted a University Park, Texas, high school left-hander named Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers selected another Texas prep kid with the 1,453rd overall pick. It was the 49th round, a round that, much like the 62nd round in which Piazza was famously selected in 1988, no longer exists.
Few people outside the industry were paying attention when, on the conference call on which the Draft was held, the Dodgers announced the name of Paul Edward Goldschmidt, a stocky third baseman from The Woodlands High School north of Houston.
One guy who definitely wasn’t paying attention was Goldschmidt himself.
“Paul and I were at The Woodlands batting cages,” his father, David, remembers. “Our cell phones were in the car. I’m hitting him grounders, he’s getting ready for the next game of the playoffs. We got back to the car, and his phone had blown up. He had like 20 missed calls.”
For the then-18-year-old Goldschmidt, the news that the Dodgers had taken him was not exactly cause for celebration.
“It was a nice honor,” he says now, “but it wasn’t anything serious like I was going to sign. I wasn’t really sure what their reasoning was. Maybe a longshot or something.”
The reasoning was that Goldschmidt had a high school teammate named Derek Smith, whose father, Chris, was a scout for the Dodgers. The two had played together for a while, so while a variety of scouts saw Goldschmidt as a byproduct of tracking another of his Woodlands teammates -- eventual 2006 first-round pick Kyle Drabek, the son of former Cy Young winner Doug Drabek -- Smith knew Goldschmidt more intimately than your average baseball birddog.
“We were great family friends,” Goldschmidt said. “I played with his son going back to Little League. His other son played with my brother. There was a connection there that probably stuck out more than with any other team.”
There may have been another rationale behind taking a player like Goldschmidt in that spot, although it’s one that has possibly been constructed with the benefit of hindsight. As was the case when they took David Price out of high school in the 19th round in 2004, the Dodgers’ amateur scouting department, then headed up by Logan White (who is now with the Padres) could eventually point to the Goldschmidt selection as evidence that, even though the player didn’t wind up signing, the scouting methods themselves were sound.
As expected, the Dodgers did not make a serious effort to sign Goldschmidt, and that gave them something in common with many of the major college baseball programs. Goldschmidt wound up at Texas State, a mid-major school where his strong offensive stats were shrugged off by many professional evaluators as products of inferior competition and a home park where the ball is known to fly.
So while the Dodgers -- specifically Smith -- might have been on to something in 2006, they were one of the 29 teams that whiffed on him in 2009, when the D-backs smartly snagged him in the eighth round. This time, Goldschmidt was monitoring the Draft. And this time, he signed. A four-time Silver Slugger winner and a six-time All-Star, he’ll go down as one of the best deep Draft selections of all-time.
But had things worked out differently on the signing front in 2006, Goldschmidt could have been a Kershaw Draft mate and teammate -- and the second coming of the Piazza plot, a favor with some major, unintended benefits.