Tigers Prospect Profile #41: Aaron Westlake

Westlake spent the year in West Michigan

After being a third round pick, Aaron Westlake hasn't quite lived up to expectations of many Tigers fans, not showing the power in games that he was projected to possess by many scouts. Despite those struggles, there's still reason for optimism with Westlake.

Aaron Westlake
Position: First Baseman
Height: 6-4
Weight: 235
Born: 12/27/1988
Bats: Left
Throws: Right

Acquired: 2011 Draft, 3rd Round
Ranking History: #23 (2011)

Background
After turning down the Blue Jays in the 22nd round in 2010, Westlake signed with the Tigers as a third round choice in 2011 after an impressive career at Vanderbilt.

The hulking first baseman debuted with five games in the Gulf Coast League in 2011, knocking a single, a double and a home run in twenty plate appearances. The Tigers moved Westlake to short-season Connecticut for the final 27 games of the year and he hit .264/.328/.377 over that span; pounding out two home runs and driving in 15 runs.

At 23 years old, Westlake made his full-season debut with West Michigan in 2012. He played 123 games for the Whitecaps last year, manning first base for 96 of them and even playing third base for one game. Westlake knocked 35 doubles and nine home runs as part of a .249/.320/.391 campaign. He walked 47 times and struck out 105 along the way.

Scouting Report
Westlake is a big, muscular guy with an imposing 6-foot-4, 235 pound frame. He is well conditioned but not to the point of having a statuesque physique. His strength is the focal point of his game and lends to his only true plus tool, his power.

Though Westlake's bat speed is not overly impressive, the strength and leverage generated in his swing is very impressive. He can drive the ball from pole to pole with plenty of elevation on the ball and excellent power projection. He works counts and has a solid understanding of the strike zone, allowing him to find pitches he can drive.

While his approach in the batter's box is sound, Westlake lacks a refined hit tool. He has a fair amount of swing and miss in his game and can be beat by good velocity. Pitchers that can consistently pound the inner third of the plate can get Westlake out. He has stretches were he struggles to read breaking balls and will chase them out of the zone. Few scouts project him to hit for significant average at higher levels, pegging him to top out in the .250 range.

Westlake drew some praise as a quality defender in college but that has not translated to the professional game. He has struggled picking errant throws and has almost no range at first base. His footwork around the bag is decent. Westlake's arm is strong but hidden at first base.

Speed is not a part of Westlake's game, so his below-average times from home to first are not an issue.

Westlake stands out for his approach to the game with many scouts referring to him as a "gamer" and a "coach's dream." He wants to be on the field at all times and plays hard when he is.

With a good approach, power in his left-handed bat and strong makeup, Westlake has some MLB potential. Barring a dramatic improvement in his hitting ability, Westlake profiles as a low-average, good power guy at a second division level, or possible power bench bat.

Performance

Level

Team

AB

AVG

2B

HR

RBI

SO

BB

OBP%

SLG%

A

West Michigan

465

.249

35

9

69

105

47

.320

.391


Health Record
Westlake had issues with blood clots during his freshman year at Vanderbilt, but has not had any injury issues since that time.

Projection
Westlake will head to High-A Lakeland in 2013 and it is possible he could make his way to Double-A with a strong first-half showing.

Given his limited tool profile and the difficult road he has ahead of him, it is easy to question Westlake's prospect status. That said, left-handed power is at a premium in today's game and Westlake offers that in spades. His numbers were depressed some by the league and home ballpark he played in 2012, and he could be in for a rebound season in 2013.

Westlake's future will be determined by his ability to make consistent contact and improve his ability to hit for average, allowing his power to play at its highest level in game situations. With even a .250 average against upper-level pitching, Westlake could be positioned to reach the Major League level as a second division starter or bench bat.

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