Nationals' Prospect Brian Goodwin starts season in Syracuse & 2014 Chiefs Preview

Brian Goodwin will start the 2014 season with the Syracuse Chiefs. - Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Nationals' Triple-A affiliate, the Syracuse Chiefs, start their 2014 campaign on Thursday. Before the Minor League season gets started, we take a look at who will be playing in NBT Bank Stadium this summer. Brian Goodwin is a Chief...

The top position prospect in the Washington Nationals organization will start the season in the Syracuse Chiefs outfield...again.

OK, now there isn't exactly the kind of hype that Bryce Harper garnered in the spring of 2012, plus Brian Goodwin seems like humble guy.

Goodwin sheepishly declined the spotlight in the middle of the sensory overloading scene at the Chiefs Meet & Greet with the public at Dave & Buster's restaurant in the Destiny USA mall in Syracuse on Tuesday.

"We never want to limit a hitter's aggressiveness, particularly a guy that is as dynamic as Brian [Goodwin] can be..." - Doug Harris on MLB Network Radio Brian Goodwin's K totals

He wasn't trying to duck questions. He just wanted to enjoy the night off, smile for photos with fans, and sign some autographs days before his third season of professional baseball.

That wasn't good enough for relief pitcher Christian Garcia though. He stole the recorder, pulled out his best announcer voice, and artfully asked, "So, Mr. Brian Goodwin - the new starting center fielder for the Syracuse Chiefs - what are your thoughts about the start of the season?"

"Oh no. You aren't going to get me," Goodwin said as he grinned, shook his head, and walked away from his friend.

No worries, it is a long season and if Goodwin plays up to his No. 1 prospect status - according to MLB.com - there are going to be plenty of chances to talk to him.

"He is getting ready for the next challenge and we expect him to continue to refine his approach offensively and evolve defensively," said Nationals assistant general manager Doug Harris to MiLB.com on Monday. "He has [Arizona] Fall League experience and 1 1/2 years in the Eastern League.

"He showed parts of five tools -- he can hit for average and hit for power, he can steal bases, play good defense and he can throw. He can do a lot of different things and he has a chance to stay in center field because he has above-average range. He had a difficult start last year, but he finished the year nice and strong."

"He made some adjustments probably at the mid-point last year, got into his legs a little bit better which gave him a little bit better balance in his approach." - Doug Harris on MLB Network Radio on Nats' prospect Brian Goodwin

Goodwin hit .252 in 122 games in Double-A Harrisburg last season. He had 19 doubles, 19 stolen bases, 11 triples, and 10 home runs in his second year of pro ball. He has drawn comparisons to current Nats center fielder Denard Span and is projected to be a similar player with a little more power at the plate.

Eury Perez was the primary Syracuse Chiefs center fielder last season, but Garcia's words are likely correct. Goodwin is going to get the overwhelming amount of time in center this season in Syracuse.

The 2014 Syracuse Chiefs season starts on Thursday at home against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees with first pitch scheduled for 2 p.m. It should be about 48-degrees for first pitch and the playing surface is still a little squishy from lingering snow.

For the rest of the Chiefs roster, click here.

Last year vs. This Year

Last year, the Chiefs were 66-78 and finished 14.5 games back under Tony Beasley.

This year, they have a new manager in Billy Gardner Jr. who is new to the Nationals organization, but has 19 years of minor league managerial experience. He has managed in the Boston Red Sox, Kansas City Royals, Cincinnati Reds and Tampa Bay Rays organizations. Most recently, he served as the manager of the Rays' Double-A affiliate, the Montgomery Biscuits, for seven years (2007-2013), going 497-475.

Last year, Zach Walters led the Chiefs with 29 home runs.

This year, Walters will start the season at shortstop for Syracuse.

Last year, Corey Brown, Chris Marrero, and Mike Costanzo combined for 40 home runs for Syracuse.

This year, none of them are with the organization.

Last year, the club lost almost $1 million and drew its lowest attendance ever in NBT Bank Stadium.

This year, the club has already raised about three times as much advertising revenue as last season.

Rosenbaum opening up the season

Danny Rosenbaum will be the 2014 Opening Day starter for the Syracuse Chiefs.

Rosenbaum led the team in innings pitched last season with 158.1 where he went 7-11 with a 3.87 ERA in 28 starts.

"I am very excited to get the season going. It has been a really long Spring Training," Rosenbaum said taking a break from some of D&B's games. "We have a great group of guys with a lot of big league experience (17 players have made it to the majors on the roster). I am just excited to get this underway."

His BB-K ratio wasn't the best (67-102), but he relies on groundballs to get the job done with a 1.91 GO/AO rate last season - he had a 2.29 rate in 2012 in Double-A Harrisburg.

"They make my job a lot easier," Rosenbaum said of his fielders. "When I go in the locker room I see a lot of guys that know how to play the game really well. They know what is going on, they know how to get ready, they know how to make plays."

Rosenbaum was an outside candidate for the fifth starter spot in the Washington rotation this spring and will probably make at least a few starts for the parent Nationals this summer.

"It is a lot easier to play these games than it is to pitch," he joked.

Infielders in the Outfield

Aside from Goodwin, all of the Syracuse Chiefs outfield could also play in the Syracuse Chiefs infield.

First baseman Tyler Moore and middle infielder Jeff Kobernus are both on the Opening Day roster as outfielders and both will continue to work on their grass games as the organization tries to diversify its portfolio.

Steve Sousa Jr. - a former first/third baseman and shortstop in the organization - will make his Syracuse debut this year in the outfield.

Eury Perez - a converted infielder, of course - will return for his second season in the Chiefs outfield.

Off the Field

The front office of the Syracuse Chiefs is a lot different this season as the long-time ruling Simone Family was ousted over the winter.

Jason Smoral is now the General Manager of the club - he was formerly the GM of the Auburn Doubledays - and the front office contains a lot of new faces.

There are also a bunch of new promotions this season from the traditional giveaways and discounts on concessions to Deport Justin Bieber Night, Star Wars Day, Boardwalk Empire Prohibition Night, Hot Tub Time Machine Night, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Halloween in July (on Friday the 13th), a pig roast on July 20 vs. the LeHigh Valley Ironpigs, Pirates & Princesses Day, and, of course, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Night.

Cowabunga dude, the season is starting.

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