In the aftermath of the community prospect rankings wrapping up, we continue our write-ups for each Ranger prospect who finished in the top 25. Once again, I issue my usual caveat that I have no first-hand information about these guys, but am simply offering capsule scouting reports for each player based on the info that is out there...
After the jump, we continue by taking a look at the #12 player in the LSB Community Prospect Rankings, righthanded pitcher Matt West...
A year ago, the idea that Matt West would be #12 on the community prospect list would have been laughable. West was the Rangers' 2nd round draft choice in the 2007 draft, a shortstop out of Bellaire High School in Houston (literally about two blocks from my house) who the Rangers moved to third base.
Up until last season, it looked as if West would be the latest victim of the Rangers' 2nd round draft pick curse. West actually started out fairly well, ending the 2008 season as one of five Ranger prospects, and the only Ranger position player, to make the Baseball American Northwest League top 20 prospect list,* checking in at #16, despite having to serve a 50 game suspension for testing positive for the use of a performance-enhancing substance. The ranking was based more on potential than results, though, with West putting up a .258/.367/.358 line -- respectable enough for a guy one year out of high school playing in a league primarily populated by recent college draftees, but not exactly eye-popping.
* In case you are wondering, Martin Perez was #2, Neil Ramirez was #4, Wilfredo Boscan was #6, and Tim Murphy was #8.
That was a harbinger of things to come for West, who spent 2009 and 2010 at low-A Hickory, and simply couldn't get his bat going, putting up a .234/.336/.335 line in 2009, and a .223/.326/.396 line in 2010. West turned 22 years old in November, 2010, and it appeared that he was never going to hit enough to be able to advance out of the lower minors. Trying to salvage something from a high draft pick, the Rangers decided to try West -- whose arm had always been one of his strengths -- on the mound towards the end of spring training, and in his first session he reportedly hit 94 mph, opening eyes and leading the organization to work on converting him permanently to the mound.
West headed back to Spokane this summer when the Northwest League season began, this time as a reliever, and he definitely made his mark, striking out 35 batters in 27 innings and walking just one. West does have a mean streak, which is reflected both in the fact that he hit three times as many batters in Spokane as he walked, and in that he was suspended for his part in an ugly on-field brawl this past summer. Still, he cracked the BA Northwest League top 20 list once again,* coming in at #13, with BA saying he elicits comparisons to Jason Motte because of his build (6'1", 215 lbs.) and the fact he's a converted position player.
* I'm reasonably certain West is the only player to make the BA Top 20 list twice, for the same league, but do it once as a position player and once as a pitcher.
West is a two-pitch reliever, featuring an upper-90s fastball that touches 98, and a "wipeout" slider that features a big break. West's stuff can be dominant, but he only converted to the mound last spring, and thus he's still figuring out how to harness it, with fastball command apparently being his biggest issue right now. West was placed on the 40 man roster this past offseason, and while the Rangers have a deep bullpen at the major league level, he is someone who could come in a hurry and end up contributing this season. Its hard to say where he'll start the season, but my guess is that he begins the year in AA Frisco.
What sort of ceiling does West have? His ceiling is limited somewhat by the fact that he's a reliever, but still, the possibility of being able to come out of the pen and offer two plus pitches means that he's got the potential to be a dominant closer.