Todd Helton. Sean Casey. Derrek Lee. Paul Konerko. Albert Pujols. Mark Teixeira. Justin Morneau. Adrian Gonzalez. Prince Fielder. Joey Votto. What do they have in common? They are the last ten first-basemen, prior to 2012, to hit twenty or more home-runs at the age of 24. There's now a new member of the club: Paul Goldschmidt, who reached the mark in the 160th game of the season, off Rafael Betancourt. Now, obviously, some of those players hit an awful lot more than twenty: Pujols had 46, a number not surpassed by any player that age since 1956. But the majority were in the 20-25 range, and most have gone on to have highly-productive careers, which is encouraging.
But let's take a look at those players who are Goldschmidt's closest comparable in the home-run department. Here are the number for all first-basemen in the last quarter-century who have hit between 18-22 home-runs in their age 24 season. What did they do in the following campaign, and over the next five years?
Next year: .321/.375/.559, 34 home-runs, 140 OPS+
Next five years: .298/.372/.528, 136 home-runs, 138 OPS+
This is pretty much the dream ticket, as Morneau was the MVP of the American League at age 25, and was an All-Star in each of the following four seasons beyond that, including a second-place MVP finish in 2008. He had a little additional major-league experience over Goldschmidt, but wasn't as much of a power hitter in the minors: he had only five extra home-runs there, in 719 more at-bats than Paul.
Next year: .248/.332/.440, 18 home runs, 108 OPS+
Next five years: .254/.357/.508, 110 home runs, 129 OPS+
Pena finished eighth in the Rookie of the Year voting at age 24: one wonders where Goldschmidt might have placed last year, if not for those extra 26 at-bats in 2011 which rendered him ineligible for consideration. Pena's follow-up campaign was almost a carbon-copy, with BA, SLG and OPS all within 10 points of the previous year, and just one fewer home-run. He faded into the minors for much of 2005-06, but exploded back with the Devil Rays the next year, hammering 46 home-runs with a 1.037 OPS.
Next year: .282/.349/.507, 32 home runs, 119 OPS+
Next five years: .278 /.352 /.499, 158 home runs, 120 OPS+
Insert obligatory Chaparral High School reference here. :) Konerko would develop into one of the most reliable, and arguably, under-rated sluggers in the game - was surprised to realize he's now in the top 50 all-time for home-runs. However, his glovework admittedly left a good bit to be desired [not an area where Goldschmidt has disappointed thus far]. and I suppose no-one whose career earnings are now north of $113 million can really be called "under-rated".
Next year: .253 /.308 /.374, 13 home runs, 74 OPS+
Next five years: .286 /.339 /.411, 61 home runs, 94 OPS+
Let's hope this doesn't become the career path for Goldschmidt, since Erstad was basically done as a hitter after the age of 26, averaging five homers per season with an 82 OPS+ over the rest of his career beyond that. However, he was already in the process of becoming an outfielder rather than a first-baseman, and only just qualified for this list, appearing in 52.6% of his games at 1B in 1998. While Goldschmidt has been honing his outfield skills, I'm not feeling a move there is likely on the cards.
Next year: .247 /.287 /.409, 23 home runs, 89 OPS+
Next five years: .267 /.323 /.462, 134 home runs, 111 OPS+
After winning Rookie of the Year, Karros regressed a good chunk for the next couple of seasons, and was another first baseman not known for his defense. However, he had some productive seasons down the line - to the extent that he's the Dodgers career home-run leader since they moved to Los Angeles, and trails only Tim Salmon in homers by a player never selected to the All-Star Game. We trust Goldie will not be challenging him for either of those positions. Particularly the first one...
Next year: .320/.388/.516, 20 home runs, 145 OPS+
Next five years: .313/.423/.579, 154 home runs, 169 OPS+
Ok, Goldschmidt following Morneau would be nice, but if Goldie turns into Bagwell, that would pretty freaking cool, since Bagwell's career has, by the sheer numbers at least, been Hall of Fame worthy, even if a minority of voters have yet to see it that way, and there's the inevitable steroids question. He's the only one on the list with a better OPS at age 24 than Goldschmidt, and Bagwell had 12 straight years at 135 OPS+. Anything approaching that - even half as long a streak - would be pretty sweet.
Paul Goldschmidt is going to the Hall of Fame. You heard it here first. More credibly, it does seem that players with his kind of relatively early power, do seem to enjoy successful careers in the majors. However, it's a pretty small sample size, obviously, and the broad spectrum of results above hardly narrow the future much. As for 2013, the spectrum ranges from 13 to 34 homers, going by those comparable. What do you reckon?