Cartier Niko Goodrum is more than just a good name. He's a name to know for deep and dynasty league fantasy owners alike. The Minnesota Twins' former second round pick out of Fayette County High School in Georgia, Goodrum boasts some impressive tools for an up the middle player. He has an advanced feel for the strike zone and can recognize pitches well. At 6'3/170, he is lanky and has room to fill out and add some pop to his game. Detractors will mention that Goodrum has spent three years languishing in rookie ball for the Twins, but prospects don't develop linearly, and while it may have taken time for his tools to start maturing, we've seen some major developmental growth in the last season plus.
Drafted and signed in 2010, Goodrum spent 128 putrid plate appearances with the Twins' Gulf Coast League rookie ball team that are best not looked at or spoken about. From there the Twins moved him to Elizabethton in the Appy League where he played alongside the likes of Max Kepler, Eddie Rosario, Miguel Sano and Kennys Vargas in 2011, and Adam Brett Walker, Jorge Polanco, Byron Buxton and Travis Harrison in 2012. Goodrum was left behind by the likes of Rosario, Sano and Vargas who are now all in Double-A, but he earned a promotion to Lo-A after a 2012 season in which he compiled a .242/.349/.419 slash line. While that might not look all that pretty, especially the batting average, it's worth noting that Goodrum's walk rate sat at a cool 14% and he sported a solid .176 ISO. The walk rate was an increase of 5% compared to 2011, and he actually decreased his strikeout rate from 24% to 21% at the same time. Goodrum has been even better this season, posting a .280/.392/.401 slash line in 217 plate appearances. His power has dissipated a bit, but he's actually bumped his walk rate up about half a percent despite the jump in level. He has seen his strikeout rate go up as well, up to 22.6%, which is startlingly high for someone with as little power as he's shown this year. Goodrum is a switch hitter, but he's shown no appreciable difference in his performance from either side of the plate with a 775 OPS as a LHB and a 796 OPS as a RHB. While he does have above-average speed, as evidenced by his eight Appy League triples last year, Goodrum is not much of a threat on the bases, as he's yet to crack double digits in a single season.
With good actions for the position and a strong arm, Goodrum has a good shot at playing shortstop for the long haul, though it is worth noting that there is some stiffness to his game. While defense isn't always the greatest consideration it is important in Goodrum's case. I'm not convinced he has the bat for another position so if he's forced off of shortstop he loses a lot of value as an asset. At the plate, Goodrum shows quick hands from both sides of the dish. He has added weight since being drafted but adding a bit more would enable him to drive the ball with more consistency. Goodrum lacks the pop to make him an impact fantasy asset at present, but given his height and lanky frame, there's room for that to change. The power could take several steps forward but is unlikely to be plus even at its peak. One of Goodrum's best assets as a prospect is his advanced understanding of the strike zone. He's proven that out with his stellar walk rates the last few seasons, though there is a bit of a counterbalance in the amount of miss there is in his swing. There is impact potential here, but Goodrum is more of a tools-based project than anything, despite some encouraging improvements that have borne themselves out in statistics.
More than anything, it's good to see Goodrum back in action after a scary home plate collision that saw him exit the field on a stretcher. He's back playing and producing, with a three hit game on Sunday. Much of Goodrum's value is tied up in his position, and given that he's not a lock to stick there he's a bit of a risky investment. If you're in a deep league though, these are the types of fliers worth looking at. In my dream scenario Goodrum would take a Rosell Herrera-like step forward on offense between now and the end of 2014, but for now I am happy to watch his arrow trend upward at any pace.