Reporting in from the AFL: Brian Goodwin and Other Notes

 

To me the Arizona Fall League is baseball perfection. Small laid back crowds watching baseball for $7 general admission not caring who wins or loses. It is simply enjoying baseball for the sake of baseball, and it isn't like you aren't watching players no one has ever heard of. Top prospects like Brian Buxton and Jorge Soler were two of the players I watched yesterday. Buxton didn't do much, but anyone that judges a baseball player on a one game sample size isn't much of a baseball fan, and Soler roped a go ahead double in the sixth inning of what would soon be a rain shortened game.  

The reaction to a thunderstorm in the desert was priceless. As soon as the first drops of rain were felt the crowd scrambled with some of them muttering their confusion. It isn't supposed to rain in the desert and because of this the stadium didn't have a tarp. They ended up restarting the game, briefly, but I was gone by then. I figured that they wouldn't be able to fix up the field after it got pounded by rain because of their lack of a tarp and because putting drainage in a Spring Training field in the desert is double a waste of money, but restart they did, even if it was only for an additional inning. The final score was what I left it and the Mesa Solar Sox won 6-5 with Brian Goodwin having driven in half of those runs.  

What might have been most impressive about Goodwin's evening wasn't that he hit a two run homer and drove in a third run on a ground out, but that he did it all versus left handed pitching. You see Goodwin is a left handed batter and struggled against left handed pitching this season at AA with a .623 OPS compared to an .822 OPS against right handed pitching. More impressive than homer or the three runs driven in were the quality of at bats Goodwin had. In all of his at bats he worked deep into the count before putting the ball in play.

In his first at bat he worked a 3-2 count and even took a borderline strike on a 2-1 count that would have been called a ball by a good major league umpire, but the umpire at Hohokam stadium last night never even bothered to clean off the plate. How he knew where the strike zone was is a mystery to me. Goodwin's second at bat is when he hit the homerun and again he worked ahead in the count, fouled off a couple tough close pitches with two strikes, and drove the ball out of the park over the 390 sign in right. It was a good compact swing getting the bat head to the ball quickly. The final Goodwin at bat I saw last evening ended with a ground out RBI, but it was again a professional at bat where he didn't swing at bad pitches, fouled off tough pitches with two strikes, and eventually found a way to put the ball in play.  

Focusing only on offense so far minimizes how impressive Goodwin's game was last night. Fellow Nats' prospect Matt Purke was the starting pitcher and aside from one rough inning he had a decent enough game. He had a 1-2-3 first and fourth innings inducing a good number of pop-ups, but he did give up several line drives and struggled with control in a three run second inning. Goodwin bailed him out on two occasions by running down line drives hit into the gap. Goodwin takes quick clean routes to the ball and looks like a natural in center field. Watching him play the position reminds me of how Denard Span plays. How they both know where the ball is going to be and take the shortest smoothest route to said point and end up waiting for a ball that off the bat looked and sounded like a hit. Goodwin made one final impressive defensive play with a reliever in the game when he came in on a fast sinking liner and grabbed it off his shoe tops at the last second. 

All in all it was an impressive night for Brian Goodwin, at the plate, and in the field. He has all the tools to be a quality major league center fielder. He should end up having more power than someone like Denard Span, but he isn't ever likely to be a 20 homer bat and much more likely to end up in the 10-15 range. It all depends on how he continues to develop, but whenever I've seen him play his tools are apparent and I've come away impressed. His numbers in the minors don't indicate how good his tools are but if the solid professional approach I witnessed last night continues then the Nationals could end up with a very fine defensive center fielder who is a plus with the bat and on the bases.  

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