Prospect Countdown: #10 Matt West

To help bridge the ever shrinking gap from now until Opening Day, will be doing a weekly countdown of our top ten prospects in the Texas Rangers minor league system. These rankings have been complied based on voting from all of the staff members and the results will be posted every Monday until we reach number 1. Many of these names you might know. Some you may not. In our continued effort to bring you the best content available, we hope that you will always learn something that maybe you didn’t know.

Matt West is a prospect that you might not see on many countdowns. He is a guy that is still finding his niche, and trying to learn a brand new position. In fact, Matt West almost didn’t get to play baseball at all.

A second round draft pick, Matt West was 18 when he tested positive for performance enhancing drugs. 18 years old. His claim was that it was an effect from supplements from GNC. The 2008 incident has fortunately since been resolved without any repeat concerns and now West is playing a new position entirely. Jon Daniels had expressed that if he had any concern about West being intentionally deceitful, he would have cut the player on the spot.

Matt West came to the Rangers expecting to be a third baseman. It was a position where he enjoyed success in high school, but it never truly translated in minor league system, where he batted a meager .241 and only was able to muster a .909 fielding percentage. Frustrated in the second round draft pick the Rangers decided to see if they could make use of his plus arm, and asked him to try out pitching.

After spending two full seasons at Low A Hickory, the Rangers and West made the switch in 2011. The 6’1 215lb righty began throwing off the mound, and seeing if he could combine velocity and command. It barely took a month before he was touching 99 mph on his fastball.

The velocity was all well and good, but it would be Pedro Strop like if he could not locate the pitch in a game situation. After one season West’s line read like this:

27 IP, 3.00 ERA, 0.926 WHIP, 35 strikeouts, and ONE walk. That’s an 11.7 K/9 rate, and a 0.3 BB/9 rate.

Pretty effective for one’s first season throwing the ball off the mound.

What this means for the Rangers is they have an absolute hurler out there. West will continue to learn the proper pitching mechanics and pitch development. His biggest weapon is obviously his fast ball and has an emerging slider. By the time West makes it to the majors, ideally one would like to see him have three different pitches that he can command with consistency.
West has many pluses coming into the next season because he has taken to the position so well. He has a very high ceiling, but must show he can have durability in his arm and stay healthy. A fear is that his arm could burn out after a few seasons, but that seems less and less likely to happen when you look at West’s mechanics. He seems to have a natural feel for the position and the Rangers player development staff continues to show why they are among the elite in all of baseball.

Matt West has had to grow up in a hurry for sure. With worries about character and cheating, dealing with sub-par play after high expectations and have to abandon the position he had played his whole life. West has shown an incredible dedication to the game of baseball that should be commended. He has come a long way from the big 18 year old third baseman that was caught with banned substances in his system.

The Rangers farm system is incredibly deep in all areas, and many debates can be made about top ten rankings in any sport. But Matt West has shown the dedication – and the plus fastball – to breakthrough our list at number 10.

ETAA (Estimated Time of Arrival in Arlington):
West is 23 years old, but is learning a new position. He will be looking to be a solid addition to the club as soon as possible. The belief is that fans can look to see him in a Rangers uniform sometime during the 2013 season.

Patrick Despain
Patrick is a member of the IBWAA and creator of Shutdown Inning. He was raised him Arlington, Texas and grew up watching games on HSE and listening to Eric Nadel and Mark Holtz on the radio. He is a long time Rangers fan and never achieved his dream of being a bat boy. He know lives in Georgia with dreams of a Texas return.

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