Right before the 2019 season began the Los Angeles Angels made a waiver claim on Brian Goodwin. It was surprising that he was on waivers to begin with, but there he was and the Angels needed the outfield help with Justin Upton and Michael Hermosillo both headed to the injured list. The Angels claimed Goodwin hoping for nothing more than him producing at anywhere near a replacement level. Offensively he’s been more than they could have hoped for, while defensively there is still room for improvement.
Improvement has always been the order of the day for the Rocky Mount, North Carolina native. He spent the first years of his Major League Baseball career with the Washington Nationals where his raw tools tantalized and his actual production left quite a bit to be desired. Goodwin never managed a season with a DRC+ above 100 while with Washington. Finally, after numerous failed attempts to be more than a raw role player Goodwin was sent packing in a minor trade to the Kansas City Royals near the end of 2018.
This is where things get interesting because the Royals presented, on paper, the perfect opportunity for Goodwin. He could get everyday reps on a team that was going to lose and could afford to see what the speedy left-handed hitter had to offer in a new environment. Turns out the Royals had other plans and after he showed slight improvement in 2018 Goodwin saw himself jettisoned in favor of a hodgepodge outfield in Kansas City.
In his brief tenure with the Angels Goodwin has proven to be a plus with the bat. In 91 plate appearances, he is slashing .329/.422/.539 for a DRC+ of 130. He’s flashing a wOBA of .408 and according to Baseball Savant he isn’t in store for any major regression as his xwOBA, xSLG, and xBA all are trending towards being in the “Hey, this guy was quite the pickup range.” How exactly is Goodwin going to keep doing what he’s never been able to do before?
The main change in Goodwin’s game appears to be the contact he is making at the plate. Inside the zone, Goodwin continued the trend he started last year of making better contact. He currently holds a Z-Contact% of 86.0 and an O-Contact% of 63.0 for an overall Contact% of 78.3. That’s good for 1.4% better than his next previous best year. That’s an improvement, but it doesn’t really mean much until his SwStr% is taken into account. Goodwin is swinging and missing at fewer pitches than any other point in his career. His 2019 total of 8.7 is an improvement of 0.7 from his previous best. Goodwin is missing fewer balls and making better contact when he does swing.
There are still some red flags with Goodwin. Baseball Savant lists him as having an elite 86th percentile Sprint Speed but, FanGraphs Spd has him at a very pedestrian 4.3. He has the raw speed, but when it comes to turning his speed into quality baserunning Goodwin comes up short. Goodwin’s struggles with hard contact have continued in Los Angeles. His average Exit Velocity in 2019 has been 85.1mph. That’s a career low for Goodwin and places him once again in the bottom 10th percentile of all major leaguers.
Taking into account his -2.7 FRAA and it’s easy to see why offensive improvements aside Goodwin has only amassed a bWAR of 0.1 so far. The Angels weren’t looking for elite defense when they signed Goodwin. They wanted someone to fill a hole in the outfield that probably couldn’t be filled. In Goodwin, the Angels have managed to fill an offensive need. Perhaps he won’t keep it up all year long, there’s always the chance that the improvements Goodwin has shown turn out to be nothing more than a mirage. For the time being Goodwin appears to have found something offensively and the Angels are reaping all the benefits they can while they can.
Lead photo courtesy of Kevin Sullivan – The Orange County Register