Nationals prospect Brian Goodwin was named the Arizona Fall League player of the week, continuing a strong showing that could bolster the Nationals’ top outfield prospect’s chances of competing for a spot on the Nationals’ 2013 opening day roster.
Goodwin, who turns 22 on Friday, is hitting .313/.400/.667 with three home runs in 12 games for the Salt River Rafters. It may be a small sample, but Goodwin, a speedy center fielder, has impressed the Nationals with his advanced hitting approach and surprising power since they drafted him with the 34th overall pick in the 2011 draft.
“We saw this from the time we got him,” said Nationals director of player development Doug Harris, who spent last week watching the Nationals’ prospects in Arizona. “He’s a dangerous hitter. He’s got strength in his hands. He’s got leverage in his swing. He can backspin a baseball. … He’s not hunting power. It’s reaction power. His mind-set is really geared alley-to-alley. His hands are so quick, when he gets a pitch in his zone he can really do some damage.”
Goodwin’s ability to dominate a league chocked with elite prospects, even if only for 12 games, speaks volumes about his offensive capacity. During his time in the Fall League, Harris came away even more impressed with Goodwin’s defense and base running.
Harris knew Goodwin could hit – he batted .280/.384/.469 with 18 steals and 14 homers in 100 games split between Class A Hagerstown and Class AA Harrisburg. But he saw Goodwin make significant improvements in other aspects of the game, taking more aggressive leads on the bases and getting better jumps in the outfield. Harris credited Nationals outfield coordinator Tony Tarasco for helping Goodwin improve quickly.
“He’s really playing well, in all phases,” Harris said. “Going into when he made the move to Harrisburg, he was probably more advanced offensively than defensively or on the bases. He’s made tremendous strides in both the base running and in the outfield play.”
Harris added that the Nationals would not have to worry about Goodwin’s attitude getting in the way of his skills. He raved about Goodwin’s character.
“Probably the most exciting part for us, the makeup matches the ability,” Harris said. “He’s a wonderful young man. He plays with a smile on his face. High energy, hard worker. When our staff talks to him, he looks you in the eye.”
For the past three years, the Nationals have searched for a long-term answer in center fielder. They may have it now in Goodwin, but will he be ready this season? The Nationals could pursue free agent Michael Bourn to slot into center and at the top of the lineup, but the price will be large and he could block Goodwin’s ascent.
The Nationals, Harris said, have yet to have any internal discussions regarding Goodwin’s place on the 2013 Nationals. But Goodwin’s performance in the Fall League has helped convince Harris that Goodwin would at least fit in with the Nationals’ big-league spring training camp.
“From a talent perspective, yes,” Harris said. “He’s just grown by leaps and bounds. He’s a really fun kid to watch. He can do a lot of things.”