Position: Corner Outfielder
DOB: January 1, 1980
Kevin West has been flying under the radar ever since the Twins' made him their 16th round selection in the 1999 June Draft. And while he does not get much recognition from Twins' fans and scouts alike, he has been putting up huge numbers since that inaugural season. In 1999, West batted .314 in his professional debut, and hit 12 home runs in 63 games.
However, the 2000 campaign was a down year for the slugger, and he began to fall off the scout's radar. He hit only .239 in his first full-season, and struck out 84 times in 112 games. He would rebound in 2001 though, hitting .271 for Quad Cities of the Midwest League, and be named the team's Hitter of the Year.
In 2002, West made the jump to High-A Fort Myers, and continued to hit the ball well. Playing in the traditionally pitcher friendly league, West hit .275, and mashed 12 home runs. The following season he would be promoted to Double-A New Britain, and again showed the ability to hit the ball hard.
From 2003 to 2004, West would break the home run and RBI records at New Britain. After hitting 14 in 2003, West would go on to hit 25 in 2004, earning Post-Season All-Star honors. This prompted a promotion to Triple-A Rochester, and one step away from the Major Leagues.
West finished the 2004 season in Rochester, and hit .278 in 20 games. During that time, he hit four home runs, and drove in 22 RBI. This past season, West became the leader of the Rochester offense, prompting TwinCitiesDugout.com to name him our Rochester Hitter of the Year.
In 2005, West smacked 20 home runs, a career-high, and drove in 64 runs. He teamed with Garrett Jones to form one of the more feared 1-2 punches in the International League. In May, he was named Twins' Player of the Month, after hitting .333, with four home runs and 13 RBI in 23 games.
Batting and Power. West has the ability to hit a home run any time he comes to the plate, but he has shown a lack of a batting eye throughout his career. While he is guaranteed to hit .270 or better, West strikeouts way too much, and does not get on via the walk that often. He has tremendous gap power, and has hit a fair share of doubles and triples during his career. If I were to project his typical season, it would be a .275 average, with 18 home runs, 65 RBI, and 95 strikeouts.
Base running and speed. While he is not a slow guy, West has yet to show the ability to steal bases in his career. His season-high is ten, a mark he set in 2000 while playing for the Quad Cities. He won't make the big base running mistake to end an inning, but he also won't be the one to steal a base in a crucial situation. He has good speed, fast enough to make all the plays in the outfield, but not fast enough to play centerfield.
Defense. West is solid in the field, but he will not take your breathe away. He makes the plays that come to him, but also has shown the ability to get into the gap and steal some extra-bases away from hitters. He is in no way a liability in the field, and judging by his six errors in 125 games last season, is kind of a luxury to have out there. He has shown the ability to play both right and leftfield, and could probably play first base if asked.
ETA. 2006. Judging by his track record, West will do something during the 2006 season that will prompt the Twins to give him a look at the Major League level. That may not come in Spring Training, so my guess is he will begin the season in Rochester once again in 2006. However, with the cloudiness of the Twins outfield to date, I would not be surprised if West got a legitimate shot in 2006. If not, look for him to be a utility outfielder somewhere in the Major Leagues in 2007.