Down on the Farm: Checking in on the Nationals’ Top 5 Prospects

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Nov 2, 2013; Surprise, AZ, USA; Washington Nationals outfielder

Brian Goodwin

against the West during the Fall Stars Game at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

No. 4: Brian Goodwin, OF – Triple-A Syracuse

Before they acquired center fielder Denard Span from the Twins prior to the 2013 season, the Nationals had spent years looking for a long-term center-fielder. Now, the Nationals are loaded at the position and have two strong candidates to take Span’s place at some point in the future.  One of those candidates is the next prospect on our list, Brian Goodwin.

Drafted by the Nationals in the 1st round of the 2011 First Year Player Draft, Goodwin immediately began his climb up the Nationals’ minor league system. In 2012, his first professional season, Goodwin batted .324 with nine home runs and 38 RBIs for Class A Hagerstown. Later that year, the outfielder earned a promotion to Double-A Harrisburg, where he hit .223 with five home runs in 42 games.

“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,” said Nationals assistant general manager Doug Harris to prior to the 2014 season.

After struggling in his first year at Harrisburg, Goodwin improved in 2013, when he hit .252 with 10 home runs and 40 RBIs in 122 games. Goodwin also played great defense in center field, recording five assists and posting a .982 fielding percentage.

The outfielder was even better in the Arizona Fall League, where he posted a .296/.333/.444 line with four doubles, a triple, two home runs and three stolen bases in 88 ABs. Goodwin’s performance earned him a spot on the Arizona Fall League’s 2013 Top-Prospects Team.

Goodwin’s solid season at Double-A and superb performance in the Arizona Fall League earned him yet another promotion in 2014. This time, Goodwin was headed to Triple-A Syracuse, the last stop in the Nationals’ minor league system. But the 23-year-old’s charge towards the big leagues has lost steam of late as the outfielder has struggled to adjust at the plate against the game’s top minor league pitchers.

In 81 games with Syracuse this season, Goodwin is hitting just .219 with four home runs and 32 RBIs. Goodwin has especially struggled against left-handed pitching as he’s batting .193 against southpaws and .231 against right-handers.

Despite his recent struggles, Goodwin has shown that he has all the tools necessary to succeed as a leadoff hitter at the big league level. He has plus speed, a strong arm, some pop and the ability to hit to all fields. Triple-A has slowed him down for now, but if he becomes more consistent with the bat and improves against left-handers, we should see him in the big leagues at some point next season.