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If You Like Mark Teixeira, Try Paul Goldschmidt

Earlier this month, RotoAuthority's Tom Warman talked about Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira as an overrated hitter in fantasy baseball.  At a 27.47 average draft position on Mock Draft Central, Tex is going in the third round, before Edwin Van Bibber-Orr favorite Matt Holliday as well as a slew of staff-anchoring starting pitchers.

Heading into the 2010 season, Teixeira seemed a lock for a .300 AVG, 35+ HR, 120 RBI, and 100 R.  But over the 2010-11 seasons, Teixeira hit .252 over 1396 plate appearances.   Last season, in particular, he failed to hit .265 in any month.  Baseball HQ suggests this is an opportunity, as they project a .278 average for him in 2012.  Averaging the results of HQ and three other projection systems, we get a composite line of .268-33-104-92-2 for Teixeira if he has 585 ABs.  While it's true Tex has generally been good for more like 35 HR, 110 RBI, and 100 R, the composite projection still contains areas of optimism, as it assumes a tolerable AVG and yet another 155 game season.  If you like the composite projection, Tex looks like a $19-20 player in a 12-team mixed league.

Then we have Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, for whom I'm testing a quite optimistic 540 AB projection.  Playing time is a concern with Goldschmidt, as the team re-signed Lyle Overbay to a Major League contract.  Overbay came to Arizona last season on August 13th and made ten starts at first base.  As a left-handed hitter, all of Overbay's starts came against righty pitchers, including less-intimidating ones such as Livan Hernandez, Aaron Cook, and Ross Ohlendorf.  Goldschmidt, a left-handed hitter, was platooned in this way even though he raked against righties and struggled against lefties in a small 43 plate appearance MLB sample.

D'Backs manager Kirk Gibson knows that Goldschmidt hits lefties plenty; he slugged .871 against them in Double-A prior to his call-up.  You have to be worried, though, that Overbay will take 30 first base starts in 2012 against righties.  That'd leave 132 for Goldschmidt, plus the D'Backs will have a DH for nine interleague games.  If Goldschmidt plays 140 games at 3.5 at-bats per, we're looking at just 490.  So, yes, Overbay presents a big obstacle, one reason you can draft Goldschmidt in the 13th round.  It's not even easy to predict when Overbay will start, since most pitchers are right-handed.

Another factor hurting Goldschmidt's value is that he has just 177 career plate appearances above Double-A.  We've seen better-regarded young players completely bomb following similar promising two-month debuts.  Then there's his batting average, which most expect to remain below .260 given a healthy strikeout rate.

All that said, Overbay is not a good hitter.  Against righties the last three years, he's hitting .231/.314/.364 in over 300 plate appearances.  Is that the reason you're going to pass on Goldschmidt?  Maybe Goldie's debut overstates him, and he's not the 30 HR, 90 RBI first baseman he appears to be.  But it seems even more likely that Overbay is not the .286/.388/.452 hitter he was in 49 D'Backs plate appearances, even if it earned him a roster spot for 2012.

My point in drawing the Teixeira-Goldschmidt comparison is not that they are equally safe bets at first base in 2012 --  far from it.  It's that if Goldschmidt does somehow find 540 ABs, he's a $15 player, and not all that far below Tex.  You'll notice that Goldschmidt ran a little bit in 2011, with 13 steals including Double-A.  Five added steals closes some of the value gap with Tex, who is likely to provide better power counting stats.  Goldschmidt is going 12th among first basemen, and if you can handle a batting average hit, he's a fine addition for your CI slot.

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