A Brian Goodwin alert....

The Washington Nationals selected Brian Goodwin with the 34th overall pick in the first round of the 2011 amateur draft. Goodwin was the Nationals 3rd 1st round selection--- Anthony Rendon was selected 6th, and Alex Meyer was selected 23rd.

Rendon suffered an ankle injury early in his profession career, but is just now back with the Potomac (A+) ballclub. Although he was considered the most advanced hitter taken by the Nationals in the draft, his injury this year has pushed back his major league arrival slightly.

Meyer has had a great first year, posting a 3.10 ERA in 90 innings at A level (1.133 WHIP, 3.14 BB/9, 10.7 SO/9), and then pitching even better since his promotion to A+. Through 23 innings with the Potomac Nationals, Meyer has given up just 2 earned runs (0.826 WHIP, 2.3BB/9, 7.4 SO/9).

Then there is Brian Goodwin. The book on Goodwin when the Nationals signed him was that he was an elite athletic talent, but still a raw offensive and defensive player. There were some concerns that Goodwin did not make enough contact to justify the late first round selection. Some scouts projected Goodwin to struggle with a high strikeout rate for much of his professional career. There were also some questions as to whether Goodwin projected as a major league center fielder, or if his defensive tools were more equipped for right field, where his arm could be better showcased. See for a detailed scouting review of Goodwin prior to the 2011 draft.

Since being signed in 2011, Goodwin has made a case for the best overall prospect in the organization. With the Hagerstown Suns (A), Goodwin absolutely dominated at the plate, posting a .303 batting average with power (12 HR), speed (16 SB), and a fantastic walk rate (.417 OBP) with more walks (43) than strikeouts (39). Given this performance, Goodwin was promoted two levels, straight to AA, back in July. The jump from to AA from single A is considered the biggest jump for a prospect to make. This is especially true for Goodwin because he skipped A+, and is now playing with more advanced and older players.

Since making the jump, Goodwin has once again proven that he is an elite hitting prospect. Although he has only had 71 AB, he has again shown an advanced plate discipline by drawing 11 BBs against just 19 SO. Goodwin has also showcased his power (3HR, 4 2B), and speed.

Perhaps just as important, Goodwin has received positive reviews from scouts judging his center field performance. Between the two levels, Goodwin has 5 outfield assists, and his arm rates as elite in the outfield. Although he still takes some poor routes on balls, he is improving in this area, and most in the organization believe that Goodwin is an everyday center fielder, and not a corner outfielder. Goodwin still needs some more polishing--- one area in particular he needs to cut down on is his caught stealing (16 SB against 7 CS is not ideal)--- but all signs point to an impact player less than a year away from being able to seriously contribute at the major leage level. For a good read, with quotes from Nationals director of player development Doug Harris, about Goodwin's success this year:

What does all of this mean? For one thing, it means that the organization may not feel like it needs to sign a center field free agent to a large contract. The Nationals have been linked to the likes of Michael Bourn and Denard Span over the past year or two, but if Goodwin is considered ready to assume the reigns in center field sometime between 2013 and 2014, it would seem to make more sense to sign a player to a shorter-term contract, just to serve as a bridge to Goodwin. This, of course, is going off the prevailing assumption that next year Harper and Werth play where they profile best--- the corner outfield. Maybe the money saved here allows the organization to pursue an impact player at a different position, or save the money for extending the likes of Jordan Zimmermann or other arbitration-eligible players.

In any event, Goodwin's success thus far in his nascent professional career is nothing but good news for the Nationals organization.

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