Spin Doctors: Paul Goldschmidt vs. Billy Butler

As usual, first base is deep this year, but most fantasy gamers will also use the position for their corner infield spot, so we can’t totally wait until the end game. With so many similar options in the middle tiers, identifying which ones to target will be key. Dalton Del Don and Brad Evans have a differing opinion on whom to take first, Billy Butler or Paul Goldschmidt.

Evans to open: Here’s a shocker: I’m completely enamored with both of these guys. Being the meat in a Goldy/Butler sandwich would fulfill a fantasy. But in a forced game of ‘Fantasy Bachelorette,’ the Schmidt gets the rose.

Butler is a marvelous multi-categorical contributor. Last season he finally tapped into his power potential falling just shy of 30 homers. But he likely reached his long-ball zenith. Goldschmidt, meanwhile, enters only his second full Major League season after slaughtering innocent baseballs over three years on the farm. He remains a player in-development. Though he got off on the wrong foot in 2012 posting a .193-1-8-6 line in April, he quickly bounced back slashing a .297-19-76-74-16 output the rest of the way, which, according to Baseball Monster, was the fifth-most valuable tally among first basemen during that stretch, one spot ahead of Butler.

[Baseball 2013 from Yahoo! Fantasy Sports: Join a league today!]

Goldy’s 2013 looks very promising. He’s a tireless worker who is pushing hard to improve his plate discipline, a future 30-home run monster and, not to be overlooked, an above average base-stealer. And therein lies the difference. He and Butler will likely be in lockstep across traditional power categories, but the steals disparity seals the deal for the D’Back. Overall, because of his top-flight ISO profile and a rich minor league history (14.3 AB/HR), it’s conceivable he could finish in range of .285-30-110-95-15 this year. Juicy.

Again, I love both these guys, but Goldy is the better all-around and more valuable commodity.

Dalton to close: The obvious caveat with Butler is that he’s slow. He’s not going to help you much in runs scored and definitely won’t contribute in stolen bases, an area in which Goldschmidt actually chips in. Still, there’s also plenty to like about the soon-to-be 27-year-old slugger. Butler has batted .307 over the past three seasons, a span in which he’s played in the fourth most games in all of baseball, as he’s about as durable as it gets (it helps that he plays the majority of his games at DH).

Butler drove in 107 runs last season despite hitting far worse with RISP (.800 OPS) and especially with RISP w/2 outs (.704) compared to with the bases empty (.876). It’s typically easier to hit with runners on base, so it’s safe to expect this to change in 2013, not to mention a young, talented lineup around him that should be much improved.

Goldschmidt gets to play in the far better hitter’s park but also has a much higher K% and a much shorter track record. Butler hits too many groundballs to be a 30+ homer guy, but it’s easy to overlook batting average sometimes, and his RBI potential and durability provide a really nice floor. But the bottom line is that there are a lot of strong first base options in the middle rounds of drafts this year, with Goldy and Butler being two of them.

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