VIERA, Fla. -- Center fielder Brian Goodwin is a highly-touted prospect in the Nationals' organization and projected to be the team's leadoff hitter and center fielder by 2015. But he will be the first to tell you that he has a lot learn.
Goodwin, who is expected to start the season with Double-A Harrisburg, wants to be more aggressive on the bases and show that he is more than just a power hitter.
"At the plate, I want to play small ball -- bunting, bunting down the third-base line and first-base line," Goodwin said. "I'm going to be in Harrisburg, and I know that's where I'm going to be, that's where I'm going to play. I can't get [to the big leagues] if I don't perform in Harrisburg. I'm going to take my time, play and get better."
Goodwin, 22, was taken in the sandwich round -- 34th overall -- in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft and didn't play professional baseball until last year. And what a year it was while he was playing in Class A Hagerstown, hitting .324 with nine home runs and 38 RBIs, 15 stolen bases and a .438 on-base percentage in just 58 games.
But the numbers don't tell the whole story.
"He is kind of a leader on the field," said Mark Scialabba, the Nationals' director of Minor League operations. "He plays with high intensity, but makes things look easy. He has tremendous bat speed. His bat is really quick through the inner half of the zone. He is a guy who can make contact and he can hit for power."
Goodwin said he was successful with Hagerstown because he had a great supporting cast on the field and great coaches who taught him the right way to play baseball.
"I had good guys who taught me the game, how to play every day on a professional level -- whether it was lifting or hitting before games, just the game itself," he said. "[Being as it was my first year], I thought I had a good staff. ... They kind of helped me through it."
Goodwin was so good with Hagerstown that the Nationals decided to have him skip Class A Advanced Potomac and jump straight to Harrisburg.
"With his advance approach to the game, we felt that was the proper place for his development," Scialabba said. "He accomplished a lot of what we were looking for in Hagerstown. We felt that was the right move at the time."
But Goodwin was quickly humbled. After a slow start, Goodwin would finish the season hitting .223 with five home runs and 14 RBIs. The organization felt he was trying to do much on the field.
"I went up there and I was kind of shocked," Goodwin admitted. "It took me a while to feel I deserved to be there. I feel things will be definitely better."
As a kid growing up in North Carolina, Goodwin played football, basketball and baseball, but it was baseball in which he excelled. Goodwin says it was kind of natural that he became a baseball player.
While he didn't have the right techniques to shoot a basketball, Goodwin didn't have a problem hitting a baseball.
"I could swing it. It was something I was comfortable with and I started at such a young age. I just continued on," he said.
Did he ever. While in high school, Goodwin was named the Gatorade Player of the Year in North Carolina. While at the University of North Carolina, Goodwin was named to the Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American Team.
Goodwin also idolized future Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. Goodwin's father would take him to watch Griffey play whenever the Reds played the Braves in Atlanta.
"It's just how he played the game, how he went about his business. It was just all out. He was always making a good play," Goodwin said. "You always saw him everywhere. He had video games, he was on TV, he was making diving catches and that left-handed swing ... that left-handed swing. ... That was a guy I looked up to."
Two years from now, Goodwin hopes to be putting up great numbers like Griffey when he reaches the big leagues for the Nationals.
"It's time to perform. It time to get out here and get better, play," Goodwin said.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.