As we approach the end of the rankings, we reach #3 our prospect: centerfielder Brian Goodwin, who is the highest rated outfielder in the system. He was ranked as the second-best prospect in the system by two of our raters, while the other two ranked him third and fourth. Of all the prospects on our top ten, only our top prospect inspires less debate.
Goodwin was a good prospect coming out of high school, and as such was drafted in the 17th round by the Chicago White Sox. However, he opted not to sign in order to honor a commitment to the University of North Carolina. He played well his freshman year, but was suspended for his sophomore year over an academic issue. As a result, he transferred to Miami-Dade Community College and spent his sophomore year there. While still a raw player, many scouts were convinced he could be a top-5 pick if he went to the University of South Carolina, where he was being offered a scholarship, for his junior year. However, he was not yet so polished, which caused him to fall to the Nationals with the 34th overall pick, given to the Nats when Adam Dunn signed with the White Sox. He signed for $3 million.
In his first professional season, he delivered on the promise he showed in the draft. He started the year, his 21-year-old season, at A-level Hagerstown, where he dominated, hitting .324/.438/.542, good for a .979 OPS, and walking four more times than he struck out. After 58 games, the Nationals management noted his success, and were confident enough in his abilities that they promoted him two levels to AA Harrisburg. Understandably, he struggled in 42 games, hitting .223/.306/.373, but he rebounded in the Arizona Fall League, hitting .268/.359/.571. In 2013, he looks primed to continue his attempt at AA.
Verdict: Goodwin profiles similarly to a prototypical centerfielder, albeit with a slightly lower batting average and steals count but much more power. His struggles in AA for the second half of the season appear not to be indicative of any long-term troubles, given his success in the tougher Arizona Fall League. If he can maintain the great production he had in A ball, he looks to be the heir apparent in CF when Denard Span‘s guaranteed contract expires in 2015. If Goodwin needs another year, Span has a $9 million team option for the 2015 season. In any event, Goodwin looks to be an impact MLB player if he can continue to develop.