Detroit Tigers: Akil Baddoo Should be an Opening Day Starter

BRADENTON, FLORIDA - Akil Baddoo hits an rbi double. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)
BRADENTON, FLORIDA - Akil Baddoo hits an rbi double. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images) /

Akil Baddoo has been extremely impressive this Spring. The Detroit Tigers should prioritize his playing time to start the season, as he looks to carry over momentum to the regular season.

Akil Baddoo has been the talk of Tiger Town this Spring. After coming to the Detroit Tigers from the Twins via the rule 5 draft, expectations were low for Baddoo as he entered his first Major League Spring Training with no at-bats above A ball.

To put it lightly, Baddoo has blown any expectations out of the water. He’s been nothing short of incredible this Spring, showing glimpses of all five tools and forcing his way onto the roster as part of a now crowded Detroit Tigers outfield. Sure, his slash line of .314/.467/.714 is meaningless in Sprint Training and unsustainable in the long run, but it’s his approach and tools that should leave Tigers fans wanting more.

Baddoo has shown a mature approach at the plate, forcing opposing pitchers to work deep in counts and laying off breaking pitches out of the zone. His 10 walks in 45 plate appearances are the third most of any player in Spring Training and would be a welcome sight to a Detroit Tigers team that has struggled with approach issues the last few seasons. Once he gets on base, he has elite speed to cause havoc on the base paths. As Site co-expert Chris Brown noted, Baddoo’s top sprint speed of 30.3 ft/s this Sprint is above the threshold of 30 ft/s that is considered elite. Despite some strikeout issues, he has shown the ability to translate his big raw power, which made him a Rule 5 target to begin with, into game power, launching four home runs and squaring up several more baseballs. As Spring Training comes to a close, Baddoo is the only player who has both four steals and four homers.

The Crowded Outfield

At first glance, it might appear tough to find Akil Baddoo playing time right away since the Detroit Tigers decided to carry five outfielders. Offseason signing and prospective leadoff man Robbie Grossman is locked into one corner outfield spot. Meanwhile, Jacoby Jones looks like a lock to begin the season in center field, where he has found patches of success that seemingly always get derailed by injuries over the last few seasons. The other corner outfield spot looks to be a bit of a timeshare between the veteran Nomar Mazara and Victor Reyes. So where does Baddoo fit in?

Baddoo has the defensive prowess to play any outfield position. His speed and decent instincts make him a strong-side platoon option with Jones in center. The Tigers could also give him the first shot at the left-field job and see if he can run with it.

Either way, the Detroit Tigers cannot afford to simply stash Baddoo on the bench as they did with Reyes in 2017. The Tigers have been desperate to hit on an unexpected positional prospect and Baddoo has a good shot at producing now. AJ Hinch must find a way to get him everyday at-bats to start the season.