With opening day two weeks from now, the Nationals further trimmed down big-league camp, sending prospects Steven Souza Jr., Eury Perez, Sammy Solis and Brian Goodwin over to the minor league side to continue their spring training. Souza and Perez were optioned to Class AAA Syracuse — which is a promotion for Souza, who finished the season at Class AA Harrisburg — and Solis was optioned to Harrisburg.
Goodwin, 23, rated the Nationals’ top outfield prospect by Baseball America, along with infielder Mike Fontenot and catcher Koyie Hill, were reassigned to minor league camp with their assignments pending.
Solis, 25, is in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery and was in his first big-league camp this year. The Nationals were pleased with his stuff, demeanor and how he added muscle during his time away from the mound. The team even toyed with the idea of breaking Solis into the majors as a reliever, which could still be an option later in the season. Slowed by back stiffness, Solis made only two appearances, both scoreless.
Souza, 24, was one of the most impressive hitters this spring. He is strong, has speed and has improved each year in the minor leagues. The Nationals wanted to evaluate him so they played him often. He played in 17 games, hit .355 with a .806 slugging percentage, hit three home runs, struck out four times and walked four times. The outfield is a relatively new position for him and he is still learning, but he is capable of playing all three spots. He may help the Nationals sooner rather than later this season.
Perez, 23, is an athletic outfielder from the Dominican Republic and has played in the majors for brief stints. He went 6 for 23 with two doubles in spring training and this will be his second full season at Syracuse. Souza, Perez and Solis are all on the 40-man roster, so they could be among the first players called up as reinforcements. Hill, 34, went 5 for 13 with three RBI and Fontenot went 2 for 19 with eight RBI and five errors in the field.
Goodwin, a first-round pick in the 2011 draft, went 5 for 25 with one triple and a home run in spring training and played in 15 games. He was a non-roster invitee and this was his first time in big-league camp. He said he learned from hanging around outfielders like Denard Span, Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth, and even from chatting with veteran infielder Jamey Carroll.
“I really enjoyed myself,” he said. “Just being around the guys. Everybody is real cool. It makes it easy to come to work in the morning. We’ve got good personalities and smart baseball people that know what’s going on. The coaching staff is great. They let you learn what it takes to be at a level like this and how consistent guys are.”
In only his second season in professional baseball, Goodwin played his first full season at Harrisburg last year, playing only center field, and posted a .252/.355/.407 slash line with 10 home runs, 121 strikeouts and 19 stolen bases in 30 attempts. Being around major leaguers has helped him learn how to improve, and he wants to get better in every aspect of his game.
“I want to get more bags stealing-wise, I want to put more bunts down for base hits, I want to take away more hits in the outfield, I want to stop striking out so much,” he said. “Every aspect. I want to be able to stretch more singles into doubles and put more pressure on the defense.”
Nationals camp now has 44 players.