I haven't had the opportunity to meet Aaron West yet. I haven't even talked to him by phone as we conducted this interview through email, but I already feel like I know him. He definitely has one of the friendliest and most interactive twitter presences of the 2012 draft class. He even tweeted me trip suggestions when I visited his home state of Washington in July. Oh, and besides just being a nice guy, there's another little thing you need to know about him. He can pitch. And how!
What a fantastic freshman season the University of Washington product had. In 12 starts for the Tri-City ValleyCats, he went 6-2 with a 2.04 ERA and a 0.957 WHIP. And in 61 and two-thirds innings, he struck out 59 batters while walking only nine, making for an incredible 6.56 SO/BB ratio. In the post-season, he had a 2.45 ERA and a 0.909 WHIP as the ValleyCats fell just one win shy of the New York-Penn League title.
On to the questions ~
WTH: Can you tell me a bit about your college experience?
AW: My college experience was a great one. I learned alot about how baseball should be played and most importantly how to pitch. I had surgery about a month into my sophomore season and I missed the rest of the year and summer. I was back throwing the next season and was a starter. My arm felt good after the surgery but I found out pretty quick that I didn't have my best command and feel for my pitches. There were a few scouts talking to me at this time but I told them that I wanted to finish up my BA degree and because of my red shirt I would have that opportunity. I had a rough year but still went into my summer ball with goals in mind. I played my junior year summer in Huboldt, California for the Humboldt Crabs in the Far West League. This was a great team far above the rest in the league. I had a great summer allowing 1 run in 54 innings and getting my confidence back and the feeling that I could pitch well again. After that summer I started hearing from the scouts again and this continued throughout my next school season which went fairly well.
WTH: Was the decision to sign a difficult one?
AW: The decision for the draft was difficult because I was told by a few scouts that they could not draft me because of the surgery I had on my arm. I was weighing all my offers and talking to family about the best decision and which path I should take. I wanted to play baseball at the next level.
WTH: What was the biggest surprise for you during your first season in professional ball? Best part? Worst part?
AW: The biggest surprise for me was the traveling and bus trips. I had heard from friends that have played in the minor leagues and they have all said that bus trips and hotels were the worst. I didn't have anything to complain about this entire year. Bus trips went well and we stayed in very nice hotels which is where I got the majority of my rest. The best part of my first season was playing on a team with a bunch of great guys who all succeeded with different styles and techniques and it was great to learn from all of them. The worst part was getting sick with a month left in the season. Playing every day makes it tough to get rest and to get feeling better. It was a great learning opportunity for me.
WTH: What do you feel you accomplished in the short season? What do you need to work on to get to the next level developmentally?
AW: I think I accomplished more than I would have hoped for. I performed well and got my name out there for people to see. Being drafted in the 17th round is by all means great but you don't always get the same attention as people drafted in the early rounds. I just want to keep getting better and better every year. To get to the next level I need to develop a very consistent 3rd pitch. Most of the summer I pitched with my fastball and throwing a slider in there every once in a while to keep them off balance. To develop my change-up even more and use it consistently will help me greatly in the future.
WTH: Could you tell me a little about your pitch repertoire?
AW: I throw a 2 seam fastball, slider, and change-up My fastball can range from 90-96 and cuts and runs whenever it feels like it. My slider can range from 79-84 and I can change the movement from a more 12-6 break to a cutter action. My change-up runs and drops away from lefties but I will also use it to back door a right handed hitter.
WTH: Which teammate from Tri-City has a pitch you'd like to steal?
AW: I would love to steal Travis Ballew's slider. That is one of the better breaking balls I have ever seen and I am sure the hitters he pitches to will agree.
WTH: Which teammate at Tri-City would you least like to face in the batter's box?
AW: When Andrew Aplin was at Tri-City he was an amazing hitter, always making contact and fouling off every pitch that he didn't like. I would hate to face him and I am sure a lot of pitchers will be saying the same thing in years to come.
WTH: Was there one player on the team that you just enjoyed sitting back and watching?
AW: I loved watching Travis Ballew pitch. We have the same mentality and pitches and I always had complete confidence when he came in the game whether I was just pitching or in the stands watching. The way he made hitters look with sliders in the dirt was comical to say the least.
WTH: Who on the team made you laugh?
AW: There is a combination of guys from Joe Bircher to Twitterless Brian Holmes and Brady Rodgers. These guys do a 'creed voice' that is hilarious and gets the entire locker room laughing.
WTH: How did you get interested in Middle East studies? If you couldn't play baseball, what would your ideal job be?
AW: I got interested in Middle East history and studies from watching shows like CSI and Criminal Minds and the fact that our economy is based in large part on gas and oil, and in the future we are going to depend on the middle east for oil. Also the fact that terrorism and 9/11 had a huge impact on many people's lives, it would be a great field to get into. I would like to get my degree in Middle East history and a minor in International Studies. I have taken a year of Persian which is the language of Iran and would like to apply for the FBI here in Seattle and work my way up to NSA or maybe CIA. I am going to try to finish up my minor in the next few quarters after the season is over. I have about 3 quarters left.
WTH: Can you tell me something about yourself that most people don't know and might be surprised to hear?
AW: Most people say that I am good at a lot of weird things. I am very good at ping pong, juggling, trampolining and I can even ride a Unicycle and anything else that would be considered weird.
WTH: What would you tell frustrated Astros fans about the state of the Astros farm system?
AW: I would say that I know that it is rough to be on or a fan of a team that is struggling but help is on the way, and we need your support more than ever to help get this team back on the right track. Help is on the way. We just have to believe.
Well, I believe. I believe that with talented players like Aaron in the system, the Astros will get strong and stay strong for a long time. Thank you for your time, Aaron, and best of luck in the coming season.