The Washington Nationals promoted outfielder Brian Goodwin to the major league roster this week; he's gone 1-for-6 in his first three games. Goodwin has been on the prospect charts for years but his stock has been quite volatile. His tools have always been greatly respected but his performance was so erratic it was tough to get a clear read on his abilities.
Goodwin was drafted in the compensation round in 2011 from Miami Dade Junior College. He was excellent at the lower levels but hit a wall in Double-A, with a particularly weak 2015 season (.226/.290/.340) throwing grit in the gears.
From the 2016 Baseball Prospect Book
Brian Goodwin, OF, Washington Nationals
Bats: L Throws: L HT: 6-1 WT: 195 DOB: November 2, 1990
2012: Grade B; 2013: Grade B+; 2014: Grade B; 2015: Grade C+
Brian Goodwin’s skills have devolved to the point where I had to make a decision whether or not to include him in the book. I decided to stick with him another year to keep the narrative going but there’s no doubting that his career is at a crossroads. He still flashes the power/speed combination that made him so intriguing a few years ago but the key word is "flashes." He goes through long stretches where he doesn’t look like a prospect at all. Diagnosing the problem boils down to a combination of poor execution (bad swing mechanics, bad reads on fly balls), indifferent effort (sometimes he hustles, sometimes he doesn’t), or some combination thereof, depending on who you ask. It is not too late; indeed, he played very well in the Venezuelan Winter League (.356/.444/.535), but a change of scenery may be needed to kick things back into gear for more than a few weeks at a time. Grade C.
Goodwin did not get that change of scenery but 2016 has been much better anyway: .284/.350/.434 for Triple-A Syracuse before his promotion, with 11 homers, 14 steals, 40 walks, 97 strikeouts in 401 at-bats. All aspects of his baseball play, including outfield defense, have been considerably better this year and more in line with what was expected when he was drafted.
Contributing factors for his improvement include better health (he's avoided the nagging injuries that struck him in previous years) and better physical conditioning, plus there haven't been any complaints about his level of hustle this year. He reportedly pulled off the ball too often in past seasons and would get his swing tangled up, especially against breaking balls, but that's said to be smoother and less of an issue this season.
We'll see if that holds true against major league pitching. All told, Goodwin may not hit quite enough to be a long-term regular, but his speed, defense, and occasional pop could make him a valuable role player.