As a Rule 5 draft pick, with limited experience in the upper minors, Akil Baddoo faces an uphill battle to make the 26 man roster. But, for a rebuilding team looking to add depth and talent, the Detroit Tigers have every intention of giving him a chance to stick.
Akil Baddoo’s Background
Baddoo was a second-round draft pick of the Minnesota Twins in the 2016 MLB draft out of Salem High School in Conyers, Georgia. He spent his first two seasons with the organization in short-season leagues where he displayed the potential power-speed combo the Twins (and many scouts) believed he possessed prior to the draft. Particularly impressive was his 33 game stint for Elizabethton in the Appalachian League where he hit for a 1.057 OPS which included a brilliant 27:19 walk to strikeout ratio. In 2018, he was promoted to the Midwest League and more than held his own as a 19 year with a .243/.351/.419 slash line, good enough for a wRC+ of 121 indicating he was an above-average offensive performer. The Twins then promoted Baddoo to Hi-A in 2019 however his season was cut short due to Tommy John surgery after just 29 games.
Contract Status with the Detroit Tigers
As a Rule 5 draft pick Baddoo must remain on the Detroit Tigers 26 man roster throughout the 2021 season or be returned to Minnesota. If he remains in the organization at the completion of the season. He would then have 5 years of control and his minor league options remaining.
The book on Baddoo is pretty straight forward even if there is a significant amount of variability in his future outcomes. Offensively, he brings a combination of power and speed to the game. His 54 extra-base hits in 554 full-season league at-bats indicates there is power potential in his bat and the 30 steals demonstrates his speed. In addition, he has shown fairly significant patience during his minor league tenure as he has walked 84 times combined in the 2018 and 2019 seasons. He will likely need to retain his patience as his career progresses to compensate for what Fangraphs sees a future 40 hit tool. Defensively, Baddoo uses his speed to cover lots of ground in the outfield even if his instincts leave a little to be desired. He projects as an average centerfielder per MLB Pipeline but both MLB Pipeline (45) and Fangraphs (40) grade his arm as below average, which could force a move to left, putting increased pressure on his offensive production.
In two of the past three years, the Detroit Tigers have been able to select a player in the Rule 5 draft and keep them on the roster for the entire season (Victor Reyes and Rony Garcia). Reyes specifically, seems like the path Baddoo would need to follow. Like Reyes, Baddoo has little to no experience in the upper minors which makes it difficult to see him as a useful player on the active roster. So also like Reyes, Baddoo will be relegated to a late-inning defensive and baserunning replacement role with the occasional start where he hopefully isn’t a complete black hole offensively. Unlike with Reyes however, roster spots have become far more competitive heading into 2021 making it more difficult to use a spot on a (very) part-time player.
At the moment Baddoo was drafted it seemed possible he would have the inside track to make the team considering his primary competition (Stewart and Cameron) had minor league options available and hadn’t cemented themselves as MLB regulars. Free agency however changed the outlook in the outfield for Detroit.
In addition to having two roster spots taken up by Jacoby Jones and Victor Reyes. Detroit added two likely starters in Robbie Grossman and Nomar Mazara (who could be platooned) meaning four outfielders are already going to make the opening day roster. It isn’t impossible to have five head north but it would mean making cuts elsewhere, like taking fewer pitchers. Given the need to have arms available to help manage the innings of the younger players this seems unlikely. And therefore it seems unlikely the Detroit Tigers continue their trend of retaining Rule 5 draft picks.