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MLB evaluators: D-backs’ Paul Goldschmidt still one of the best first basemen

Arizona Diamondbacks' Paul Goldschmidt leans over the dugout rail as he waits to bat against the Colorado Rockies in the first inning of a baseball game Thursday, June 23, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Paul Goldschmidt’s 2016 didn’t go as well as expected.

The Diamondbacks first baseman batted under .300 for the first time since 2012 and hit 24 homers after 33 the year prior, though that can be attributed to an MLB-high 110 walks. All of it could be tied back to opponents worrying less about Goldschmidt reaching base due to Arizona’s lack of a big-time hitter behind him in the order.

Still, Goldschmidt was an All-Star, recording a career-high 32 stolen bases and fielding first base like he always has. MLB evaluators don’t think the minor downtick is anything to worry about.

ESPN’s Buster Olney polled MLB executives and scouts to create a series of the top players at each position, and the D-backs’ first baseman is still in the top-5 at first. Goldschmidt came in fourth on a list where five players were ranked No. 1 by those anonymously asked to participate.

Some evaluators pegged him at No. 1 on this list because of how well-rounded he is: a winner of two Gold Gloves in 2013 and 2015, an opportunistic baserunner with a career-high 32 steals last year and, of course, the power and production. But Goldschmidt’s offensive numbers dipped in 2016, and this could be a case of a player being pulled down by his team’s near-total collapse and the erosion of the structure around him.

Of course, the Diamondbacks losing A.J. Pollock and David Peralta for much of the year could be attributed to Goldschmidt’s slightly sagging production.

Per Olney, Goldschmidt’s Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+), which attempts to value offensive production and accounts for different ballparks, fell from fifth-best of all players in 2015 to 134th-best last year.

In any case, that doesn’t mean baseball scouts and executives see Goldschmidt as a liability to fall off anytime soon.

“He needs to play again in October to get his just due,” one scout said.

Goldschmidt was ranked behind the Braves’ Freddie Freeman, the Reds’ Joey Votto and the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo, while Miguel Cabrera rounded out the top-5 list of first baseman put together by Olney.

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