I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t know everything there is to know about the recently completed Major League Baseball draft.
Along with the NHL draft, baseball’s annual selection meeting proves to be one of the most fruitless and arduous to scout of the major sports. There are 50 rounds. Players can come from all over the world, are often drafted multiple times and frequently go unseen by ardent baseball fanatics until their first minor-league games.
Yet, when you search a name like Aaron Westlake’s on the internet after your favorite team selects him and see the terms “left-handed” and “he will hit” accompanying his name, there is reason for optimism.
Westlake was selected by Detroit in the third round of the draft after being previously selected by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 22nd round a year ago. There was some feeling in baseball circles that he could go earlier in this draft, but the Tigers lucked out when he was still on the board, so they snapped him up.
At first blush, the big lefty looks to have all the tools to be a professional hitter at the major-league level — hitting for average and power. The first time you witness his swing, the fluid mechanics and raw power hit you over the head.
And his stats back it up. In 2009, Westlake was the SEC batting champion carrying a .377 average. In 2010, he batted .308 while smacking 14 home runs and plating 61 RBIs. Currently, he is hitting .349 with 14 home runs and 48 RBI’s — Vanderbilt’s still alive in the college baseball tournament. Those are impressive numbers for a young third-round pick. More than that, they are consistent numbers. Westlake’s natural position is first base, so he could be groomed to stay there or moved to a different position in the Tigers’ system. A bat like his will find a way to stick in a lineup, regardless of where he plays in the field.
Often times, unheralded picks are the best ones in baseball drafts. A glance over first-round selections of the past 30 years yields mixed results — there is the usual handful of superstars, but equally as many unknown players whose talent flamed out for whatever reason. Conversely, several of baseball’s biggest names have fallen and been nabbed in later rounds of the draft.
A few of these names from third rounds past? Justin Morneau, Eddie Murray, Grady Sizemore and Tony Gwinn.
That’s pretty good company for Westlake to keep in the batters box.
Here’s hoping his career is as fruitful and productive in a Tigers uniform. His powerful bat and consistent statistics give reason for hope.