When he awoke on July 1st, Nick Goody was able to lay claim to two notable feats. The first was a selection to the Double-A Eastern League All-Star team. This was hardly surprising, given that Goody has struck out 52 men in 38.2 innings, while walking just 14. The second was the team lead in strikeouts. It's rare that a reliever like Goody can lay claim to such a thing, as relievers simply don't throw enough innings to pile up all those strikeouts. But that's just what Goody's done.
At 24 years old, the former LSU relief ace has made Double-A baseball look easy. On Tuesday night last week, Goody entered in the tenth inning and retired all three men he faced, the last two on strikeouts. He then returned for the eleventh and struck out the side. It was just the latest example in a long line of brilliant showings by Goody. Then, on Friday, he pitched two more innings. He struck out the side in the first half of that appearance, and then struck out two more the next inning. For some reason, he was still in Double-A. On Monday he struck out two more in an inning of work.
Following that game, Goody was at long last promoted to Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre. He joins a team that boasts fellow top prospects Aaron Judge, Luis Severino, Greg Bird and Rob Refsnyder. Both Judge and Bird were promoted very recently, and Severino has been there for about a month. If one thing is clear, it's that the Yankees are massing talent in Scranton. It's been a long time since the Yankees have had this kind of impact talent kicking around in their farm system, and it's Goody who is likely the closest to being called upon to don the pinstripes. I spoke with Goody last week when he made the All-Star team. One thing immediately became clear. Goody is a very humble man.
"It's obviously something you work for," Goody said of the honor. "But, I mean, you have to have a team. I just go out and pitch, and the team does the work." He said that the possibility of an All-Star selection wasn't something that he was actively thinking about. "You want to be the best that you can, and if the accolades come, they come." He wasn't aware that he was the new team leader in strikeouts (and he still is, by the way, widening the gap to 59 K's to Brady Lail's 51). He instead gave credit to the pitchers that came before him in the previous night's five-strikeout performance for "opening up the outer half of the plate," saying that the strength of his outing wouldn't have been possible without that.
It's safe to say that Goody's talent is responsible for a fair share of that as well. Before he struck out two in Monday's game, he actually led all Eastern League pitchers (minimum 30 IP) in strikeouts per nine innings with a ridiculous 12.61 ratio. For some context, Craig Kimbrel entered Monday's action with a 12.77 mark. Goody has a lower walk rate, too. Comparing statistics across three levels of baseball isn't the fairest of exercises, but Goody has been the Kimbrel of the Eastern League this year. He does it without Kimbrel-esque velocity, too. Kimbrel throws 97 MPH gas. Goody sits around 92, and can rare back and grab 94 or 95 when he needs it.
In addition to his fastball, Goody throws a slider and he's developing a changeup. "I think it's going to be a good pitch for me later on down the road. Just to have something else helps. It's been pretty good for me. It's not much off my fastball, but it's enough to just show it so that it's in the back of hitters' minds." The addition of the changeup has clearly been a boon to his success, but it's not just about the pitches for Goody. He's also stepped up his mental game on the mound.
"I don't really try to think too much. I think that the less I think, the better. Because people can go out there and once something happens, and the wheels start turning, and the game can speed up. That happened to me last year; I've been trying to work on it this year. I've been trying to slow the game down and get a feel for everything, and hopefully things will fall into place."
Things have certainly fallen into place for Goody. He now sits one phone call and a 40-man roster spot away from the Show. When his time comes it will be easy to make room for him, as some of the 40-man spot holders are there purely to be warm bodies that can be called upon for an inning here and there. In a way, he's the real strikeout factory in the farm system. If he keeps his pace in Scranton, he'll force his way onto the 40-man roster and into the bigs. This is absolutely one to keep an eye on.
Nicolas Stellini is a staff writer at Pinstripe Alley, where he writes about the Yankees and covers the Double-A Trenton Thunder. His national coverage can be found at Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @StelliniTweets.