Name: Matt West
Position: Third Base
DOB: November 21, 1988
Over his first two professional seasons, Matt West's statistics [.271 batting average with 21 extra-base hits in 408 plate appearances] haven't helped him stand out among the pack.
Instead, West is presently known as the prospect who was once suspended 50 games for failing Major League Baseball's performance-enhancing drugs test.
West was suspended just over two months after the Rangers took him with their second round pick of the 2007 MLB Draft.
After signing for a slot-level bonus of $405,000, West was assigned to the rookie-level Arizona League Rangers. The Houston native spent some time at second base, shortstop, and third base, and batted .301 with one double and four triples in 29 games.
West received his suspension just after the conclusion of his debut season, but it didn't hurt his development in the long run. Although failing the test was clearly a negative – and the Rangers even considered releasing West over the situation – he was slated to begin the '08 campaign with short-season Spokane regardless.
The third baseman served his suspension at the club's minor league complex in Surprise before reporting to Spokane. West became the Indians' primary third baseman and hit .258 with four home runs in 67 games. He drew 26 walks and struck out 68 times in 240 at-bats.
While the 20-year-old hasn't drawn a ton of walks in his short professional career, his on-base percentage has been raised by a high number of hit-by pitches. West has been plunked 25 times in just 96 career games.
West capped his 2008 season by attending the Rangers' Fall Instructional League. Lone Star Dugout was in attendance for two of West's instructs games. He hit a 400-plus foot home run in the first [and was also plunked twice], but struck out four times in the second contest. Inconsistency has been an issue in West's young career, and he'll work to overcome it in 2009.
Also See: Texas Rangers Top 50 Prospects (November 11, 2008)
Batting and Power: West's numbers last season [.258 batting average, .358 slugging percentage] didn't do his offensive potential justice. The Houston native is a strong hitter with above-average raw power. He can crush a fastball, but his pitch recognition is well below-average, as he often expands his zone to chase breaking balls. While raw, West is a very talented line-drive hitter, and those skills should begin showing up in the stats over the next couple of seasons.
Base Running and Speed: West currently has average speed, and as his body finishes developing, it'll likely be a slight tick below average. With just two steals in five attempts in his first 96 professional games, West isn't much of a threat to steal bases and he probably never will be.
Defense: A shortstop in high school, West was best known for his plus arm. His thick body caused the Rangers to move him to third base, where his strong arm and range plays well. However, West is still learning the ropes at the hot corner. He made 19 errors [.894 fielding percentage] with Spokane last summer, but his strong arm and hands give him the necessary building blocks to become a strong defender over time.
Projection: It wouldn't be a stretch to say that West has the highest ceiling of any third baseman in the Rangers' system, but he's also quite a ways off from fulfilling that potential. Though West is far from a sure bet, he has the tools to hit for a solid average with above-average home run and gap power.
2009 Outlook: West should be the starting third baseman with Single-A Hickory when Spring Training breaks. Because his skills are still raw, he probably won't advance past the Low-A level barring a massive breakout. West's numbers may not be overwhelming this summer, as his breakout may still be two seasons away. Still, his game power should continue to develop in '09, and an increase in on-base and slugging percentages should be expected.
|2007||AZL Rangers (RK)||.301||103||1||0||17||21||1||9||21||.397||.388|