On July 20, 2012, a transaction that redefined the Washington Nationals’ prospect hierarchy took place. Having overmatched his Low-A competition with the Hagerstown Suns, centerfielder Brian Goodwin skipped High-A Potomac and made the leap to Double-A Harrisburg. Suddenly trailing Goodwin on the depth chart was Potomac’s talented, yet raw and enigmatic centerfielder, Michael Taylor.
With a .324/.438/.542 triple-slash line, a 16.2 BB% compared to a 14.7 K%, and 9 home runs at Hagerstown, Goodwin combined a strong plate approach with solid defense in centerfield. As Taylor posted with a .648 OPS at Potomac and Eury Perez, who moved up to Triple-A Syracuse that same day, struggled to get on-base enough to put his speed to use, Goodwin gained a significant advantage in the race to become the Nationals’ long-term centerfield option. Even the move to acquire Denard Span in the offseason did not seem to change the future plan: One of those three prospects, most likely Goodwin or Taylor, would one day patrol centerfield in Washington.
Goodwin and Taylor started 2013 back at Harrisburg and Potomac respectively. Goodwin had an up and down year; he was named an All-Star but posted a 26.9 K%. Taylor, meanwhile, suddenly developed the power that many observers were waiting for. Despite that, he still had a raw plate approach and faced playing at a lower level in 2014. Combine that with Goodwin’s solid stint in the Arizona Fall League, and it seemed that while the competition had become more interesting, it had not turned on its heels.
This season, however, Taylor has stormed ahead. As he broke out at Harrisburg, Goodwin struggled with Syracuse before hitting the DL. Prior to being placed on the DL on July 3 (the injury remains undisclosed), Goodwin batted .219/.342/.328 with just 4 homers and a 28.9 K% in 81 games. That was despite the fact that he had a .320 batting average on balls in play, in line with his career figure of .323.
Looking purely at these facts, it is easy to give up on Goodwin. Taylor has broken out, Steven Souza Jr. has emerged as another outfield option, and all major league outfielders look to be in place for 2015. However, the Nationals should not act in haste.
Goodwin, who will turn 24 in November, is still relatively young for the Triple-A level, where he will likely return for next year. A closer look at his numbers also shows that his patience is still there, as he had a 15.2 BB% before the injury. In addition, he still has a solid .253/.362/.409 career line with 28 and 43 steals, evidence of the power and speed combination that made him a supplemental first round pick in 2011.
The Nationals will have to make a decision soon. Goodwin will be eligible for this December’s Rule 5 Draft, meaning that another organization may draft him if he is not placed on the 40-man roster. To give away an athletic player to whom you paid a $3 million bonus just three years ago is not a good idea, regardless of how poorly he performed the year before.
It is clear that Goodwin and the Nationals are at a crossroads. Maybe he does not fit into their plans, but it does not mean that he should be easily discarded.
- The Auburn Doubledays announced on Monday that first baseman Jose Marmolejos-Diaz and reliever Mario Sanchez were selected to the New York-Penn League All-Star Game. The Short Season-A circuit’s contest will take place on August 19 at MCU Park in Brooklyn.
- Austin Voth was placed on Harrisburg’s DL on Tuesday. In 3 starts at Harrisburg, the righthander had a 3.53 ERA and a 18:5 K:BB ratio. There is no official word on why he was placed on the DL, though it is possible that he is merely being shutdown after 122 innings at three levels this season.