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Minor league spotlight: Brian Goodwin

Nov 26, 2013, 9:35 AM EDT

Photo by USA Today Photo by USA Today

Age on Opening Day 2014: 23

How acquired: Draft (1st round), June 2011

Position: Center fielder

Prospect Rank: No. 3 in Nats’ org. (Baseball America)

2013 Team/Level: Harrisburg Senators (Double-A)

2013 Stats: 122 G, 533 PA, 457 AB, 82 R, 115 H, 19 2B, 11 3B, 10 HR, 40 RBI, 19 SB, 11 CS, 66 BB, 121 SO, .252 BA, .762 OPS

2013 Analysis: Brian Goodwin spent his 2013 with the Harrisburg Senators, the same place he finished his 2012 season. The young outfielder was much better taking his second shot at Double-A competition, scoring 82 runs as the Senators’ leadoff hitter with 19 stolen bases and a .762 OPS. He played in 122 games despite dealing with a leg injury early in the season and a arm injury in August, both times going to the disabled list. His .252 average was a bit disappointing, but he did post a .355 on-base percentage thanks to 66 walks. His 11 triples – most in the Eastern League – were also a good sign for his potential as a leadoff hitter.

Goodwin earned himself another trip to the Arizona Fall League where he was a standout in 2012. This time he was again very good, hitting .333 through 19 games with two home runs, nine runs scored and 12 RBI. Each time Goodwin has gone up against other top prospects in the AFL he’s been excellent. That certainly affirms his status as one of the most promising prospects in the Nats’ organization.

2014 Outlook: Goodwin is lining up to be the Nats’ center fielder at the big league level some time soon, and they’d like for him to hit leadoff. So far, however, he hasn’t been able to sustain a high average in the minor leagues. His on-base percentage and speed once he gets on are impressive, but .250 in Double-A won’t cut it. Goodwin is 23 years old and is entering a big year for his personal development. This should, in theory, be the year he reaches the majors. If Goodwin was further along, then an early season call-up would be possible.

Because he still has some areas to improve, he’ll likely start at Syracuse and hope for a hot start to the season. A strong 2014 for Goodwin would be a big boost for the Nats who could use a player like him on their bench, and someone ready to take over for Denard Span in 2015. Span is under contract for next season and has a team option for the following year. The Nats would like to move on from him when his deal is up – the 2015 option is for $9 million – and that plan has a lot to do with what Goodwin becomes.

  1. Eugene in Oregon - Nov 26, 2013 at 10:34 AM

    For those who follow the minor leaguers more closely than I — and assuming Brian Goodwin can post comparable numbers in AAA ball — could you see him as a relatively early call-up if (when?) one of the three starting OFs were to go on the DL in May or June or July? Could he slide over and play one of the corners, if needed? Because I certainly don’t see Scott Hairston playing either corner position for more than a couple of days at a time. And if you’re grooming Mr. Goodwin to take over for Denard Span in 2015, it would seem you’d want to get him some extended time in MLB before next spring.

  2. Section 222 - Nov 26, 2013 at 10:34 AM

    Off topic, but interesting. Prince Fielder was interviewed on MLB Tonight last night. Pretty terrible as far as giving much insight on why he agreed to waive his no-trade clause. Sure seems like he wasn’t unhappy to leave Detroit.

    But one fascinating vignette that perhaps others already know about. They asked him about his Ironman status — has missed one game in the last five years. He said that started when he was 11 years old and came out of a Little League game because he took a ball off his shin. Showed his Dad Cecil the bruise and his Dad said ok, whatever. And then didn’t talk to him for two days. Prince said he got the message and ever since then, if he can walk he’s going to play.

  3. Hiram Hover - Nov 26, 2013 at 10:56 AM

    Great review/preview – thanks, Chase.

    The biggest flag you raise is the BA. I’d want to know before making too big a deal of it–as a stat I’d put more emphasis on OBP, which is encouragingly high in his case. Clearly he’s been able to show patience and a good eye with AA pitchers. It will be interesting to see how he fares facing better competition at AAA.

    One other thing – baserunning – 19 SB but 11 CS is not a great success rate. Sounds like he needs more coaching or a firmer hand controling the green light.

  4. jd - Nov 26, 2013 at 10:59 AM

    I think batting average is not all that relevant. If you can get on base at a .365 clip you are doing plenty of damage and I think that Goodwin has excellent speed and a little pop. I think he will be a very attractive player to other teams in trade talks.

  5. Theophilus T.S. - Nov 26, 2013 at 11:50 AM

    I don’t get it. You search for years for a “true” CF, and finally find one who gives you an error-free season and saves gobzookas of runs, hits respectably — at least for the second half of the season — and you’re ready to kick his can down the road in 2015 for a .252 minor league hitter who strikes out once every five PAs. Somebody’s seeing things the rest of us aren’t seeing and/or has oracular powers. Why so eager to swap a $9MM CF who is an elite defender for a $490K CF with no experience who may turn out to be the next Lastings Milledge?

    The notion that BA doesn’t mean much is pretty much hokum. It means that 74.8 percent of the time Goodwin is making outs, of which you are only allowed 27 in a game.

    • jd - Nov 26, 2013 at 12:37 PM

      The notion that BA doesn’t mean much is pretty much hokum. It means that 74.8 percent of the time Goodwin is making outs, of which you are only allowed 27 in a game.

      Actually, that’s flat out false. Since they let you take a base when you walk Goodwin only made outs 63.5% of the time which is pretty damn good.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Nov 26, 2013 at 2:17 PM

        If his OBP is .355, (he had 19 sac bunts, which are not part of OBP), doesn’t that mean he did not make an out 64.5% of the time?

    • Eugene in Oregon - Nov 26, 2013 at 12:49 PM

      I think you answered your own question when you cited the salary difference. Assuming Mr. Goodwin continues to develop — admittedly there’s no guarantee — you make the swap to save $8.5m in salary that you can then apply to another player. But only — and here I agree with you — if you’re confident you haven’t given CF to the next Mr. Milledge. As for BA vs. OBP, it would be nice to see Mr. Goodwin’s OBP more in the .375-.400 range (for a lead-off hitter), but even with the SOs he’s only making those outs 65% of his PAs, not 75% of the time, which is a reasonable rate.

    • JamesFan - Nov 26, 2013 at 3:46 PM

      Agree. The Nats finally get a quality centerfielder and this bunch is ready to throw him under the bus. I would like to see them lock up Span for five years. Harper is not a centerfielder (awkward out there) and people fail to remember all the other cats and dogs who have played there. Maybe Goodwin or one of these young studs will pan out but don’t count on it. A .250 hitter at AA is not ready for the show. Span will get big bucks if the Nats are stupid enough to let him go after next season.

    • Hiram Hover - Nov 26, 2013 at 4:30 PM

      We must be reading different comment threads. I don’t see anyone trying to throw Span under a bus, train, trike, or any other moving vehicle. I see commenters *wondering* if Goodwin be MLB ready by 2015.

      There will be a post-Denard era in the history of the Nats, whether it begins in 2015 or 2016, and in the current farm system, Goodwin is the player most likely to take over in CF.

  6. Doc - Nov 26, 2013 at 12:12 PM

    This is one review that I have been waiting for. I thought that Goodwin did better in the AFL this time than last year (I haven’t checked the comparable stats, though).

    One recent past NI had seen him in the AFL and thought that his fielding was up to Span’s standards, and he had a better arm. Seems like he has more offensive potential than Span.

    Still, he’s going to have a great year at AAA to make me forget what Span can do in the field.

  7. Section 222 - Nov 26, 2013 at 1:28 PM

    It’s kind of pointless to argue about what the Nats should do in CF in 2015. It depends on not one variable but two — how well Span does this year, and how well Goodwin continues to develop. No one can answer either question with certainty.

    Clearly, Goodwin isn’t good enough right now to take Span’s place. Whether he will be in April 2015 remains to be seen.

    • Joe Seamhead - Nov 26, 2013 at 2:28 PM

      +1 Deuces, and I’m a Span fan.

  8. Sec 3, My Sofa - Nov 26, 2013 at 2:02 PM

    Someone who follows the minors more closely than I do, or simply isn’t too lazy to look it up (which would be pretty much everybody) maybe could clarify this for me, but I assume OBP in the minors would skew higher because the pitchers probably don’t have as much control–no doubt the reason some of them are in the minors. So one needs to consider that when looking at walk rates in AA, true?

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Nov 26, 2013 at 2:10 PM

      OK, maybe I’m not that lazy; I just looked him up. Apparently his .355 OBP is good for 15th in the Eastern League last year, out of 60+ qualifiers. Which doesn’t answer the question, but does imply that .355 ain’t half bad.

    • jd - Nov 26, 2013 at 2:17 PM

      Sec 3,

      There’s something to what you say but as an example Tyler Moore always had a relatively poor OBP in the minors and in AA there is a fair number of quality starters. It is considered as the final stop before the majors for good prospects (AAA is generally considered a taxi squad for the majors and it is often full of veterans who are not quite good enough for the majors. most good prospects spend very little time in AAA).

      The high number of walks does show a good eye, good patience and good pitch recognition. It’s a very good thing. The stolen base/caught stealing stat indicates to me that while Goodwin will run occasionally he is not really a classic base stealer. I don’t think that will be a huge part of his arsenal. I think his power on the other hand will develop nicely.

      I think that if Rizzo is serious about acquiring a top notch pitcher via a trade it t will be very hard to keep Goodwin out of the package going the other way.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Nov 26, 2013 at 2:28 PM

        Thanks jd. I was thinking along the lines of wondering if that’s part of the difference, probably in combination with some other factor(s), in a AAAA player (not saying Goodwin is one, just asking), who succeeds against minor league pitching but not MLB pitchers, for whatever reason.

        Well, the proof of the pudding is in the tasting. We’ll see how he does up here, when he gets up here, wherever and whenever that is.

  9. Ghost of Steve M. - Nov 26, 2013 at 3:20 PM

    jd, The Span debate can rage on but I’m now sold on the player I saw in August and September with good BA/OBP, superior defense and improved baserunning. If I get that guy in 2014, the Nats have a top CF. I think if people can separate the 2 Span’s they saw in 2013 and take the optimistic view, they should be pleased about what could be.

    I’ve only seen one projection from Steamer for 2014 and they aren’t projecting improvement for Span. They have his OPS from .707 dropping to .689 and in large part that is due to a .296 BABIP they’ve projected. Span is a career .318 BABIP.

    On Goodwin, if he can check his ego at the door he will be fine. He has that same issue as many smaller guys who want those HRs. Goodwin needs to be a high OBP contact hitter and he’s too often lengthened his swing to generate more pop to only increase his Ks. This is a pivotal year for Goodwin.

  10. jd - Nov 26, 2013 at 4:08 PM

    Ghost,

    I like Span a lot too. he has been around a 3.5 WAR player for about 5 years now. If I am not mistaken this is the last year of his contract (not sure about the type of option if any there is for 2015). A 3.5 WAR player will cost a lot of money on the open market ($15 mil a year?).

    My gut feeling is that Goodwin will be traded somewhere for either a starting pitcher (in a package) or a power hitting 1st baseman (next year?)

  11. jd - Nov 26, 2013 at 4:22 PM

    I just checked. The Nats have a team option for 2015 for $9 mil on Span. That’s a bargain.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Nov 26, 2013 at 4:29 PM

      I hope Span has such a great 2014 that his $9 million option looks like a bargain!

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