Position: OF Height: 5-11 Weight: 193 Born: 5/25/82 Bats: Left Throws: Right
Jason Kubel was drafted in the 12th round in 2000, out of high school in Palmdale, Calif. Scouts liked his bat, but were uncertain about his defense, didn't like his running speed, and are often suspicious about short outfielders. He hit .282 in rookie ball after signing, but was your basic anonymous low minor league outfielder. Kubel played rookie ball again in '01, playing well, then emerged as a legitimate prospect with an excellent season in '02, raking the full-season Midwest League for power and average. His '03 numbers fell off a bit, at least partially due to the pitching-friendly nature of the Florida State League. In 2004, however, Kubel has been unstoppable, destroying Double-A and continuing to hit after moving up to Triple-A in May. He must now be considered one of the top hitting prospects in the game.
Kubel is a pure hitter, with a quick, sharp stroke from the left side of the plate. He can pull the ball for power, but will also take the outside pitch to the opposite field. He kills most fastballs, but reads breaking balls well, and is difficult to fool. His balance at the plate is top-notch, and he shifts his weight well. Although Kubel is not a walk machine, he has good plate discipline, and seldom strikes out. He has no real weaknesses as a hitter. His defense has been better than advertised. He doesn't have the range to play center field, but can handle either outfield corner. His arm is also a plus tool, enabling him to handle right field. Kubel's running speed is below average, but he has decent instincts and can be rather aggressive, which is something the Twins teach in their minor league system. He's swiped 10 bases already in just 50 Triple-A games, matching his previous career total.
Entering 2004, Kubel had a career .310 batting average, and he's well on his way to exceeding that. After knocking 17 homers for Quad City in 2002, he dropped to just 5 in '03. But he's picked up the home run pace in '04, and continues to hit lots of doubles. He should be good for 15-20 homers in the Majors at maturity. Kubel's walk rates are not spectacular, but note the low strikeout rate, an excellent sign. His 2004 Double-A/Triple-A stats conservatively project him as a .280-.290 hitter at the Major League level already. At age 22, he still has plenty of development time ahead of him. Given a normal growth curve, he should be a consistent .300 hitter in the Show, with solid power and on-base potential.
Kubel has had a few nagging injuries from time to time, but nothing serious.
What to expect
Kubel hasn't received much attention, at least in part because the Twins are already loaded with talented young hitters. Nevertheless, he is one of the best hitting prospects in the game today. He should be ready for the Show in 2005. If the Twins can't find room for him, someone else will.
I have less than 100 copies left of the 2004 Baseball Prospect Book. There won't be a reprint, so if you are interested in ordering, please visit Johnsickels.com.
John Sickels is the author of The Baseball Prospect Book 2004, which can be ordered through his Web site, Johnsickels.com. His other book, "Bob Feller: Ace of the Greatest Generation," is also out, and can be ordered through online book outlets or your local bookstore. He lives in Lawrence, Kan., with his wife, Jeri; son, Nicholas; and feline friends Toonces and Spot.