Washington Nationals' Assistant GM and VP of Player Development Doug Harris was a guest on the MLB Network Radio show "Power Alley" with Jim Duquette and Mike Ferrin on Monday, breaking down the Nats' farm system and offering his take on some of the organization's top prospects. The first name that came up in the conversation happened to be that of the Nationals' top outfield prospect, Brian Goodwin.
Goodwin, 23, and a 2011 1st Round pick, was ranked no.3 overall on Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects list this winter after a .252/.355/.407, 19 double, 11 triple, 10 HR campaign at Double-A Harrisburg in which he played 122 games and made 533 plate appearances. Goodwin's second season in the organization was followed by a second stint in the Arizona Fall League, where the left-handed hitting, right-handed throwing outfield prospect posted a .296/.333/.444 line with four doubles and two home runs in 19 games and 88 plate appearances.
Harris said that heading into his third pro season after the Nationals took him 34th overall in 2011, Goodwin is in a good place. "He's doing great," Harris told the show's hosts. "He's in a really good place. Came in to camp in great shape. Early on he's made a real strong impression with us and we're real anxious to see what type of season he puts together for us."
"The early part of last year his approach was very segmented," Harris continued in discussing some changes at the plate for Goodwin. "And 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. Carried that on through the Fall League and early in this camp has been very impressive. Very good base, very good balance allowing those quick hands to work and track the baseball more effectively."
Asked if the high strikeout totals for Goodwin were a concern after he struck out 121 times in 122 games last season, Harris explained that it's not something they're focusing on right now. "I think in his case specifically, we don't talk in terms of minimizing the strikeout," he said. "For him, it's trying to rectify the problem. As I said, he had some struggles with his approach. We feel like he's in a much better position to cover the strike zone right now. Much better position to attack the baseball. We never want to limit a hitter's aggressiveness, particularly a guy that is as dynamic as Brian can be and for us it's really been a focus more on approach."
Steven Souza, Jr., 24, was the third-highest ranked outfielder in the organization, no.10 overall on BA's list, after putting up a .300/.396/.557 line in 77 games and 323 plate appearances at Double-A Harrisburg over which the 6'3'' slugger hit 23 doubles and 15 HRs. Souza, an '07 3rd Round pick, went to the Arizona Fall League too, posting a .357/.426/.476 line with two doubles, a home run and 11 stole bases in 11 games as part of the Mesa Solar Sox' taxi squad. Souza was added to the 40-Man Roster last fall to protect him from selection in the Rule 5 Draft.
"Steven is a very talented young man," Harris said. "He'll show you parts of five tools. It's been a bumpy road for Steven. He deserves a lot of the credit. Over the course of the last two years, he's really come into his own. He's another guy that really kind of figured out his approach offensively, settled on a position defensively and has blossomed. He's a kid that covers the strike zone. He can impact the baseball. Pole to pole. He's a very good baserunner. He's a very good defender in the outfield. He can run, he can throw. As I said he can do parts of all five tools."
While Souza rounded out BA's Top 10, Lucas Giolito topped the list, taking over the no.1 spot after Baseball America ranked the right-hander second overall before the 2013 campaign. Giolito, 19, returned from Tommy John surgery to make eight starts for the Gulf Coast Nationals over which he was (1-1) with a 2.78 ERA, a 2.32 FIP, 10 walks (3.97 BB/9) and 25 Ks (9.93 K/9) in 22 2/3 IP.
The top prospect in the Nationals' system finished the year with three starts in the NY/Penn League for the Auburn Doubledays, going (1-0) with a 0.64 ERA, a 3.41 FIP, four walks (2.57 BB/9) and 14 Ks (9.00 K/9) in 14 IP. He'll be limited in his first full season back from Tommy John this season, but the Nationals are expecting big things from the pitcher.
"We will have certain parameters with Lucas," Harris explained. "The goal for us is really to get him through his first full season and there will be some parameters within that. Threw his first sideline for us yesterday, and he's a special talent. Ball jumps out of his hand. He's got really good angle to his fastball. Exceptional carry to the fastball. Breaking ball is as good as you want to see from a young man."
While everyone knows Giolito, who made MLB, Baseball America and ESPN's Top 100 prospects lists this winter, Harris was asked for an under-the-radar or lesser-known prospect and he picked a pitcher who was a teammate of Giolito's with the GCL Nationals last season, Jefry Rodriguez.
The right-hander, who turned 20 last July, was (3-0) in 12 GCL starts with a 2.45 ERA, 3.30 FIP, 20 walks (3.78 BB/9) and 43 Ks (8.12 K/9) in 47 2/3 IP.
"We are blessed with some very talented lower-level or younger-type arms," Harris said. "One particular: Jefry Rodriguez. Pitched in the Gulf Coast League for us last year on a team that led by Patrick Anderson won 52 ballgames, that's story has been told. But he's a converted infielder, 6'5'', about 195 lbs, he'll run it up to 96-97 mph with a really good breaking ball for a kid who hasn't pitched a lot."