Then & Now: Jared Goedert

Then & Now is a weekly feature at Indians Prospect Insider during the offseason that takes a look at a prospect’s past and present while also offering a possible glimpse into the prospect’s future.

What’s a guy got to do to get to the Major Leagues? That’s probably the question that Jared Goedert has been asking himself for the past few weeks.

Goedert is not like some of the other prospects that have recently been featured in Then & Now. Unlike other prospects, Goedert is a player who has produced at every single level in the minor leagues.

Yet, despite his production, he seems to constantly find himself on the outside looking in. He has yet to ever receive a Major League call-up, and at this point, it’s hard to know if that time will ever come for the 27-year-old infielder/outfielder.

For a team desperately starved for versatility and right-handed hitters, Goedert would appear to be a nice, nourishing treat. But thus far, it seems as if Goedert might have to help satiate the needs of a different ball club.

Then:

The Cleveland Indians drafted Goedert in the 9th round of the 2006 Draft out of Kansas State University. He was a player that the Tribe had followed closely throughout the years as he was re-draft for the club; the Indians originally drafted him in the 36th round of 2003 Draft out of Concordia High School in Kansas.

Goedert is by no means an overly athletic player. In fact, if anything, his lack of athleticism is his weakness. But his consistent approach at the plate is obvious. He seems to just ooze out confidence when he’s in the batter’s box, and the results back up that claim.

After spending time at short-season Class-A Mahoning Valley in 2006, Goedert really burst onto the scene in 2007 at Class-A Lake County. Any onlookers could easily see that Goedert’s bat was quite advanced. The 22-year-old right-hander just lit up the Midwest League that year as he posted a line of .364/.475/.715 with 16 home runs and 51 RBI in just 46 games.

Goedert was then promoted to High-A Kinston where he started to come down to Earth a bit. In 35 games there, he hit .256/.369/.424 with just four home runs and 23 RBI. While his numbers took a significant dip, Goedert’s approach remained consistent, and his great plate discipline was evident. Between the two stops in 2007, Goedert walked 58 times against just 54 strikeouts.

While Goedert was establishing a reputation as a potential power threat early in his career, he was also establishing a reputation for being something else — injury prone.

Prior to his 2007 breakout season, Goedert had surgery in 2006 on his left labrum, which is cartilage found in the shoulder joint. It was a surgery that proved to be Goedert’s Achilles heel as it has dogged him for years.

During the 2008 and 2009 seasons, Goedert’s shoulder problems persisted, and his performance struggled. His power stroke seemed to disappear, and his playing time was also limited. Between those two seasons combined, Goedert hit only 15 home runs. It was a significant decrease from the 2007 performance that really landed Goedert on the Indians’ prospect map.

Thankfully, Goedert’s health and performance returned to peak form the following season. Between Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus, Goedert hit .283/.358/.532 with 27 home runs and 83 RBI. Everything seemed to be good once again for the young infielder.

Yet unfortunately, the next year almost seemed like one step forward and two steps back. In 2011, the injury bug again became problematic. Goedert dealt with an oblique injury and was only able to play in 87 games that year. Even despite the injury though, Goedert still posted solid numbers between Akron and Columbus (.272/.350/.508).

While the numbers looked nice on paper, the Indians showed Goedert how much they thought of him when he was designated for assignment on July 21, 2011. Suddenly, his chances at making the Major Leagues seemed to dwindle down significantly. Or so we thought.

Now:

Despite a history of success at essentially all minor league levels, no Major League teams took a flyer on Goedert when he was removed from the Tribe’s 40-man roster last summer. Goedert remained with the club, and he seemed more determined than ever to leave his mark come the start of the 2012 season.

The Indians decided to try Goedert in the outfield early this year and by his own admission, this was something that Goedert was “extremely open” to. It certainly seemed to make a lot of sense. When healthy, Goedert had proved that he had a Major League ready right-handed bat, and if he could play the outfield, he could then suddenly fill two very important needs for the Indians.

Given an overload of first base/outfield prospects at Columbus, Goedert started the season back at Akron. There’s no telling if there was really a chip on Goedert’s shoulder over the apparent demotion, but his performance was scary — in a good way.

In 35 games at Akron, Goedert his .395/.476/.613 with five home runs and 17 RBI. The team had no choice but to promote him back to Columbus where he hit .279/.331/.460 with 14 home runs and 60 RBI. Goedert was arguably producing at the best level of his career.

It really seemed as if a September call-up was inevitable. After all, Goedert could play left field and also probably fill in at first or third base in a pinch. Soon, all the names started getting called up. From Cord Phelps to Thomas Neal to Russ Canzler to Vinny Rottino, it seemed as if every player was about to get his Major League audition. Yet, unfortunately, Goedert’s name was strangely omitted.

Future:

At this point, Goedert seems to have accomplished everything that he can in the minor leagues. Time and time again, he has gone to every level and proven that he can hit.

He is by no means a superstar player, and he was not going to give the Indians an immense boost this season anyhow, but he could have been a nice complementary piece. Many of the same criticisms that dog Goedert were also said about Canzler, and Canzler has already shown that he is an upgrade over Shelley Duncan.

Goedert is about to become a minor league free agent so unless the Indians add him to the 40-man roster, Goedert is free to sign with any club. At this point, it appears as if he has reached an impasse within the Indians organization; no matter what he does, it is impossible for him to move any further along.

Goedert may be better off to try his trade with a different club. Quite frankly, the Indians might be better off too, especially if they were just planning to have him continue to play in Akron and Columbus. Goedert is 27-years-old and not really a young man anymore, so there’s no reason for him to watch his career rot at the minor league level. His time should be now or never.

It seems as if Goedert would be wise to pursue greener pastures as the Indians do not seem to think much of him. And if they do, then they have a funky way of showing it.

On countless occasions, he’s overcome injury after injury and also continued to hit at every level. His drive determination alone make him an attractive player, so let’s hope the Indians know what they’re doing if they do legitimately let him walk. You would like to give the team the benefit of the doubt, but with this front office, one can never really know for sure.

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