The former Washington Nationals top prospect doesn’t have a lot of experience at the major league level, but Brian Goodwin has a serious case to make the team’s Opening Day roster as a backup outfielder.
When the Washington Nationals opened up the 2016 season, it was a foregone conclusion that Ben Revere and Michael Taylor would be manning the center field position. Revere was coming off a season in which he hit .306 with 22 doubles and 31 stolen bases. Taylor had just wrapped up a strong Spring Training in which he led the majors with a .453 batting average. Both were considered above average defenders capable of hitting at the top of the lineup.
A year later, Revere is arriving at the Los Angeles Angels training camp and Taylor is on the fringe of spending the season in the minors. Neither player hit above .231 and the team appears more than willing to move on from them. Washington acquired Adam Eaton from the White Sox to shore up the position. The only uncertainty left surrounds who plays behind him.
Taylor still stands a good chance of making the team as that backup outfielder. He has experience at all three positions and is always a threat on the basepaths. This year, however, Taylor has some unanticipated competition. Brian Goodwin, once ranked as the team’s top prospect, made his major league debut in August of last year and remained with the team through the end of the regular season.
As the team stands right now, the bench will most likely consist of catcher Jose Lobaton, first baseman/outfielder Adam Lind, corner outfielder Chris Heisey and infielder Stephen Drew. That leaves one spot open for competition, with center field the most obvious need. Goodwin has played center for the majority of his professional career and at 26, he finally looks ready to contribute at the major league level.
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Albeit only appearing in 22 games, Goodwin impressed with his approach at the plate. He hit .286 with five extra-base hits while playing all over the outfield. While he never swiped a bag, Goodwin’s speed was one of his most well-regarded attributes while a prospect. He struggled early on in his minor league career, but finally began to hit his stride in 2015. Now, it’s not a crazy notion to suggest that manager Dusty Baker should consider putting him on his bench to start the season.
As Baker is known for favoring veterans over young players, Taylor probably enters camp as the favorite to win the job. Although Goodwin is actually older than him, Taylor’s played at the major league level much longer and even made the team’s postseason roster over Revere, suggesting he’s won Baker’s favor. Yet with a strong spring, Goodwin very well could emerge as the frontrunner once Opening Day draws closer.
With how much Taylor struggled last year, the team doesn’t have much to lose by trying Goodwin out. He wasn’t a first round pick for nothing, and while he may have taken the long road to the majors, that doesn’t mean the talent isn’t there. The team’s depth has come into question, but Goodwin could surprise a few people if given the opportunity.