Oh, what a difference one year makes.
In 2011, former Northwestern outfielder Jake Goebbert was one of the fastest risers in the Astros system. He went from little-known prospect at the beginning of that season. In fact, he didn't even get ranked in our prospect list heading into the 2011 season. I'm not saying he wasn't in the Top 30...he was flat out not ranked out of the 65 guys we did throw grades on.
Flash forward to the end of the 2011 season, and Goebbert had gone from Lancaster to Corpus Christi to Oklahoma City by the end of the season, hitting at each level and looking like a legitimate fourth outfielder soon. His most success last season came in Corpus, when he hit .305/.368/.456 and played all three outfield spots, as well as some first base.
This season, Goebbert came in as our 16th-highest rated prospect (our meaning TCB's), but he only got 35 plate appearances and 16 games in Oklahoma City, spending the bulk of his time repeating his year at Corpus at Age 24.
Why the fall in his status in the organization? What does the future hold for Mr. Goebbert? Answers after the jump...
First off, the change in front offices has to be taken into account with Goebbert. He went from being an organizational darling, who filled in many different holes when the team needed him to being just a guy who was priced out of a spot in the Triple-A outfield by guys like Travis Buck, Brad Snyder and Fernando Martinez.
Most Astros fans probably wouldn't mind that setup, as Goebbert doesn't exactly profile as an offensive threat or even a big league regular at this point, while F-Mart has the talent to be a star (maybe) and both Buck and Snyder gave Houston solid options if someone got hurt.
The fall in status didn't deter Goebbert, however, as he hit just as well in Double-A as he did the year before. In fact, Goebbert improved his stock a bit y raising his walk rate and dropping his strikeout rate to a career low. In 114 games for Corpus, Goebbert hit .304/.399/.473 with nine home runs, six triples and 23 doubles. He also had 55 walks and just 57 strikeouts, stealing five bases in eight tries.
Was that an out-and-out success? Not exactly, but his walk rate did rise to 12.7 and was 14.3 in his brief time with OKC. His strikeout rate fell to 13.2 and he upped his isolated power average to .168, which isn't great, but is decent. His batting average on balls in play also wasn't much higher than his average, suggesting that his success may be sustainable.
Basically, Goebbert repeated his success from the year before and even improved a bit in some key areas. Yes, he'll be 25 in eight days, but for a college guy, he hasn't spent a ton of time in the minors. Why shouldn't he be considered for a spot on the team next year?
While he may not be as good defensively as Brian Bogusevic, Goebbert did have six outfield assists this season, splitting time between left and right field. I think I'd be very optimistic about his chances of providing good offense and adequate defense for the Astros as a fourth outfielder next season, getting the occasional spot start and giving them a little pop and a little speed off the bench.
The question, obviously, is who does he replace on the current roster. I don't think Houston would part with Fernando Martinez over him, nor do I think he gets the job over Bogusevic or Justin Maxwell. However, if Bogey has to get non-tendered in the offseason? Things could look brighter.
Goebbert will fall out of the Top 30 again this season, but it's unfair to think of it as his failure. He's put up three solid seasons in a row now and looks like he'll be a big league player someday. Hopefully, that will be with the Astros and not some other team.