Outfielder Brian Goodwin is leading off for the Salt River Rafters of the Arizona Fall League and has gotten off to a fast start with a league-best nine extra-base hits.
His outstanding play earned the 21-year-old an invitation to play in the AFL Rising Stars Game on Saturday night, alongside teammates Aaron Barrett and Anthony Rendon.
Pitching coach Mark Grater has watched Goodwin since May and has seen what the talented center fielder has to offer the Nationals.
“Brian Goodwin (was) leading the league in slugging percentage and whole instructional league he was learning how to bunt,” Grater said. “Very exciting, a lot of pop out of his bat, lightning out of his bat. He is going to be in the Rising Stars Game here Saturday.”
Grater has watched Goodwin all season because he is also the Nationals’ rehab pitching coordinator in Florida. He has seen how much the youngster has learned since his junior college days.
“I had seen him in extended (spring training in May) when he hurt his hamstring this year and he came back. He was exciting from there. He is (almost) a well oiled machine,” he said.
Grater said Goodwin has the speed to steal bases and the Nationals are working on his aggressiveness.
“He is aggressive,” Grater said. “He got picked off the other day. He had a big lead (but) the guy had a good move. That is what (outfield coordinator Tony) Tarasco wants him to do. He wants to challenge those guys.”
Could he be the center field leadoff man for the future for the Nats? Grater said Goodwin has the tools and he wants to learn, which is certainly a good start.
“He is very coachable, that is a very good word for him. Because he will do whatever you ask him to do,” Grater said. “He is very raw. He was probably a No. 3 hitter his whole career, but now he is leading off or being down on the order. He is not going to be a No. 3 hitter here. When he puts the barrel on the ball, it goes.
Goodwin is also concentrating on watching out for breaking pitches from the hurlers in Arizona, and when to lay off the pitches out of the zone.
“The lefties never give him a problem unless they have that good breaking ball,” Grater said. “That is the only thing he is seeing out here that is giving him a problem.”
Grater said Goodwin is concentrating on his bunting in Arizona. He tells the story of Goodwin practicing bunting down third base line and then trying to go up the first base line in a game and grounding straight back to the pitcher.
“I said, ‘You didn’t work on that,’ ” Grater said. “He tries. He is not shy about trying. He has played left field and center field here. The sun is very tough here, it sits right behind home plate.”
Goodwin went 0-for-9 in his last two games, but still sports an impressive .615 slugging percentage.