52 games into the 2013 season, the Arizona Diamondbacks are alone atop the NL West standings.
Although the D-backs have been hit hard by a litany of injuries, suffered notable late-inning letdowns from their bullpen and received inconsistent pitching from the top-end of the rotation, Kirk Gibson and Co. have been able to weather the storm in rather impressive fashion.
One big reason why: the all-around play of first baseman Paul Goldschmidt.
In his second full season in the big leagues, the 25-year-old has all but turned himself into a budding superstar.
Not only has he committed just two errors in 487 total chances, but Goldschmidt also ranks among the top 10 in the National League in batting average (.324), home runs (12), RBI (40), on-base percentage (.406), slugging percentage (.597), on-base plus slugging percentage (1.002) and wins above replacement (2.9).
Goldschmidt, who is in the first season of his new five-year extension with the D-backs, has matured into one of the better players in all of baseball, but also into one of the better bargains, as well.
And leave it to former MLB general manager and current ESPN insider Jim Bowden to take notice. In his Insider Only column, Bowden took a look at players and teams off to fast starts and dissected whether or not they could keep it up.
Not shockingly, Bowden believes the D-backs first baseman has earned a little long-term faith.
In spring training, ESPN analyst Aaron Boone compared Goldschmidt to Jeff Bagwell. I agreed with Boone's power assessment, but I questioned Goldschmidt's ability to hit for average.
"Boonie" was right. Goldschmidt is a legitimate hitter, not just a power hitter, and he understands the pitches he can handle and has the ability to spit the ball out of the zone. He's a high on-base, high-slugging power hitter, and the Diamondbacks' multiyear deal with him will prove to be one of the best long-term contracts of 2013.