WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Sara Goodrum began working as an intern with the Brewers in April 2017, after playing softball at the University of Oregon and earning a master’s degree in exercise and sports science at the University of Utah. She rose to the position of Minor League hitting coordinator four years later and is now in the Houston system in her biggest job yet — director of player development.

In other words, Goodrum went from working at an organization known for a competitive Major League team and lesser farming system to leading one in a very similar situation.

“I haven’t really experienced it yet,” she laughed, imagining herself in an organization-wide rebuild. “I don’t know if I can talk about it.”

The Brewers have made the playoffs in each of the last four seasons during Goodrum’s time in the organization, which has resulted in declining draft picks and bonus pools year after year. The Astros are in an even tougher spot. The defending American League pennant winners have secured playoff berths in five consecutive campaigns, including that 2017 World Series title, and while they were going to get low picks as a result, they lost their caps. first- and second-rounders in 2020 and 2021. Drafts as punishment for sign-stealing scandal.

Given those two scenarios, it should come as no surprise that the Brewers ranked 25th and the Astros 29th in MLB Pipeline’s midseason farm system rankings last year. But as Goodrum can attest, the goal of player development isn’t to have a good farm system ranking.

“It’s just about continuing to grow at the minor league level so that we consistently produce minor league players ready for the big leagues,” she said. “So when the time comes for the next player to come forward and contribute at Major League level, our Major League team has plenty of options internally.”

Goodrum has seen the Brewers do it with rookie contributors like Devin Williams and Aaron Ashby in recent years, and the Astros, despite lacking Top 100 prospects right now, could be in line to build on prospects in 2021. .

Carlos Correa was still unsigned in the free agent market on Monday, and Jeremy Peña, the 24-year-old battlefield-skilled and late power player, could be the frontrunner right now to replace him at the helm. shortstop on opening day. . Houston has two mid-30s receiver options in Martín Maldonaldo and Jason Castro, but 23-year-old Korey Lee is emerging as a potential backstop with an over-arm who could already play in the bigs. Jose Siri signed as a Minor League free agent in December 2020 and has become a legitimate candidate for Houston’s center field spot.

Players in the system need not be reminded that Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Kyle Tucker and Yordan Álvarez all came through the Houston ranks before playing in the World Series, just like Milwaukee prospects didn’t need let them be told Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff were unique Brewers prospects.

That constant replenishment of talent that completes a Major League contender and fights a rebuilding stage is the dream, and for now, that’s all Goodrum knows about in professional ball.

“It’s something that I think every organization works and strives for,” Goodrum said. “Going back to Milwaukee, it was really exciting to help grow, and I’m excited to see where they’re going. In terms of coming and seeing a very similar philosophy implemented here, it’s really cool, honestly .

Camp Star: Korey Lee
If anyone had to guess who would fall into that category when Minor League camp opened last month, that prediction would likely have been Lee. The 32nd overall pick in 2019 was the most important name in the camp, with Peña missing as a member of the 40-man roster due to the lockdown.

Lee is coming off a first full season in which he hit .277/.340/.438 with 11 home runs in 88 games in the top three tiers of Houston’s system. He finished the year in the Arizona Fall League, gaining more experience against top talent ahead of his 2022 debut.

According to Goodrum, the former Cal star has been a man on a mission since arriving in West Palm Beach. The Safety Net picked up where it left off in terms of batting cage and approach routines in live batting practice, where it is still looking to tap into its above-average raw power.

“If you look at his work, he wants to do damage with every ball and every swing he takes,” Goodrum said. “It is with this intention. When you see that kind of focus in the cage, it really stands out. It’s really impressive to watch.

Lee became an official off-roster invite to Major League spring training this week and could see a lot of work early in the Grapefruit League action as members of the 40-man roster catch up.

Something to Prove: Forrest Whitley
Whitley owned a 2.83 ERA and struck out 143 batters in 92 1/3 innings in 2017. Since then, he’s missed time for a drug suspension and lat injury in 2018, shoulder inflammation right-hander in 2019, a pandemic-related canceled Minor League season in 2020 and, finally, Operation Tommy John in 2021. In total, the 24-year-old right-hander has thrown just 86 minor league executives in the past four seasons. That’s hard to swallow for a right-hander once considered the best pitcher in the game.

But there is hope on the horizon.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Whitley said he’s been throwing bullpen twice a week lately in his progression after elbow surgery. After using the fastball only in the first few sessions, he’s set to mix changes for the first time this week and will switch to breaking balls from there. Whitley says he’s at 91 mph right now and aims to pitch in minor league games by late May or early June.

The main thing Whitley needs to prove is his actual health. With the potential for five above-average pitches to more, the 2016 first round has the elements to dominate again and potentially force the issue. He just needs to be on the mound every five days for a bit first.

“Not having a torn UCL helps,” he said. “Especially for baseball. You kind of need it.

Prospect we will talk about in 2023: Tyler Whitaker
The aforementioned draft penalties meant the Astros didn’t make a selection until 87th overall last July. Houston was still in a position to swing for the fences with the pick by selecting MLB Pipeline’s No. 37 draft prospect Whitaker and signing him for a bonus well over $1.5 million.

The 19-year-old outfielder from Nevada shows impressive raw power on the right side and is tooled with above-average speed and a strong arm off the grass. He was humbled at the plate with a .202/.263/.327 line and 35.1% K-rate in 29 Florida Complex League games last season due to a long swing, but the more minors he sees , the more the Astros believe he can burst early in his career.

“I think he just needs to settle in, get more games under his belt and learn more about becoming a professional,” Goodrum said. “It’s a huge change in professional baseball, especially for a high school kid. So for him, I think it’s more in terms of learning about the pro side of the game and continuing to adapt. But with his athleticism, you just have to look at him and think he’s definitely a special talent.