Detroit Tigers: Akil Baddoo bounces back

Detroit Tigers center fielder Akil Baddoo runs towards third base.
Detroit Tigers center fielder Akil Baddoo runs towards third base. /

Akil Baddoo was the top story for the Detroit Tigers to begin the 2021 season. There’s no real debate about that. Miguel Cabrera’s snowglobe gave fans a memorable moment, but Akil Baddoo’s historic start captivated the fanbase.

The baseball season is relentless, and the Detroit Tigers were brutally bad in April, so let’s recap Baddoo’s spectacular start for those who may have checked out, or simply forgotten.

The young outfielder hit a home run on the first big-league pitch he ever saw. Then he hit a grand slam the next day.

The following day he entered as a pinch runner and hit a walk-off single. The next game it was an RBI triple and an outfield assist. Three games later he hit a 450-foot home run off future Hall-of-Famer Zack Greinke.

After 10 games Akil Baddoo was 10-for-33 with seven extra-base hits. It was a remarkable start. Then the other shoe dropped.

Many Detroit Tigers fans expected this sort of thing. They remember Chris Shelton, and Brennan Boesch, and Ryan Raburn’s yearly hot streaks. They know how quickly things can turn sour.

For the rest of April, Akil Baddoo went 4-for-32 with just one walk against 18 strikeouts. It was reasonable for fans to wonder if the player they had seen was just a mirage.

Akil Baddoo’s Skills

We started writing about Baddoo fairly early in spring training. We took note of his power and his speed, of course, but we were intrigued by the total package:

"So just to recap here, Akil Baddoo is a plus-plus runner with an advanced approach at the plate, the ability to play all three outfield spots pretty well, and plus raw power. That’s the sort of player you move mountains to keep."

Power and speed are enticing, and good defense is always helpful, but those tools don’t mean much if you don’t have a quality approach. Steven Moya had elite raw power, and Quintin Berry had elite speed, but neither had much of an MLB career because they didn’t have the approach.

It was Akil Baddoo’s approach that made him so interesting in spring training. He seemed in control of nearly every plate appearance, and he finished the preseason with a 20% walk rate.

Early in the regular season the power, speed, and defense all showed up, but the advanced approach wasn’t producing results. Baddoo continued to work long at-bats, but it seemed like they always ended in strikeouts. At the end of April he owned an ugly 29-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Akil Baddoo’s May

Fans can be forgiven if they haven’t really noticed Akil Baddoo’s improvement in May. He hasn’t been knocking the ball out of the park or making spectacular defensive plays.

Meanwhile, the Detroit Tigers began playing decent baseball, Casey Mize started looking like the pitcher everyone hoped for, and Spencer Turnbull threw a no-hitter.

But Baddoo has been very good in May, and it’s largely because his advanced approach has started producing walks. And we’re not talking about a walk here or there.

Baddoo’s 23.4% walk rate in May ranks 2nd among all players with at least 45 plate appearances. His .447 on-base percentage ranks 5th.

Walks are a weapon for Akil Baddoo, just like his power and speed, and it’s very encouraging to see him reach base the way he did in spring training.

Here’s how Baddoo stacks up to his fellow rookies in May:











Randy Arozarena










Seth Brown










William Contreras










Akil Baddoo47.2860.11423.425.541400.4Andrew Vaughn










Adolis Garcia is 28 and on another planet right now, but Baddoo compares favorably to everyone else. The only thing that seems to be holding him back right now is a lack of power production.

Akil Baddoo’s Power

Baddoo hasn’t suddenly lost the ability to hit for power. He owns a .435 BABIP in May, which suggests he’s been pretty lucky on balls in play, but that coincides with some lousy luck when it comes to balls going over the fence. Baddoo has four home runs this year, but he should probably have six or seven.

There are some signs he is about to turn it on again. The last clip in the above video is from Tuesday’s game, and it was both the second hardest (109 MPH) and second longest (419 feet) ball Baddoo has hit this season.

Give credit to A.J. Hinch for putting Akil Baddoo in situations where he can thrive this month. And of course give credit to Baddoo for maintaining his approach and demeanor through both his amazing start and his difficult stretch.

There are bound to me more bumps in the road for Baddoo this season. But we also haven’t really seen him in his fully weaponized state, when he’s walking, stealing bases, AND hitting for power.

Perhaps asking him to put it all together against Shane Bieber isn’t fair, but Akil Baddoo has bounced back, and it sure feels like he’s close to showing us that star potential again.

Next. Goodbye JaCoby Jones, Hello Victor Reyes. dark