Over the next nine days I will profile the nine players that I encourage you to pay attention to during the '09 season. These players were not included on BBTiA's Top 25 Prospects list, and they all played in the Arizona Rookie League and above during the '08 season. I excluded all players that were not stateside in '08, but I will focus on the Dominican Summer League prospects before the minor league season begins.
The prospects that will be profiled might not be the biggest names, or have the highest ceilings, but they are the players that I think have a chance to take big steps forward during the '09 season. Who is on your list?
The former second-round pick out of Bellaire, Texas hasn't exactly set the world on fire during his brief professional career (96 games), but that doesn't mean the future isn't bright for the young infielder. West appeared to take a step back in '08 after putting up strong offensive numbers in '07 while playing in the Arizona Rookie League. After advancing to the Northwest League in '08, West didn't demonstrate the power that some scouts expected, but there were signs that an offensive breakout might be around the corner.
You aren't going to find many telltale signs in the statistical record that suggest West is progressing as an offensive threat. He only managed to slug .358 in '08, which isn't the kind of performance you normally expect from a second-round pick. However, West impressed his coaches with his work ethic and made the kind of progressions that won't show up on a stat line. West might have failed in his on-the-field execution, but his work off of it was starting to turn heads.
West continued to impress during the Fall Instructional League by tapping into some of that offensive potential against some of the most promising talent in the minors. West has fast hands and strong wrists that help him get around on balls inside. He has above-average power to all fields, and a smooth swing that sends eye-level ropes screaming across the diamond. At this point, West doesn't have much lift to his swing and tends to be gap-to-gap, but over time should develop into a 20-25 home run threat.
His defense is solid at third base, with a strong arm and good footwork. West is more athletic than people realize and I think an eventual move to second base wouldn't be out of the question. He should start the year in full-season ball as the starting third baseman for the Low-A Hickory Crawdads in the South Atlantic League. Look for West to continue his solid approach at the plate while adding more power to his offensive game. I expect to see at least an 80-point separation between batting average and on-base percentage and at least a .400 slugging percentage.
West is a prime candidate to announce himself to the prospect world, and I believe the '09 season will be the proper introduction that West missed out on in '07.