Detroit Tigers News

Detroit Tigers: 5 underdog players coming through in 2021

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JULY 26: Eric Haase #13 of the Detroit Tigers celebrates a home run against the Minnesota Twins on July 26, 2021 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JULY 26: Eric Haase #13 of the Detroit Tigers celebrates a home run against the Minnesota Twins on July 26, 2021 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images) /
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DETROIT, MI – JULY 31: Center fielder Derek Hill #54 of the Detroit Tigers can’t make the catch on a fly ball hit by Ryan Mountcastle of the Baltimore Orioles for an RBI single during the third inning at Comerica Park on July 31, 2021, in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images) /

Speed kills, as they say, but it has helped the Detroit Tigers immensely in developing this aggressive, athletic brand of baseball they have been playing lately; and it comes thanks to a couple of outfielders who were once on the outside of MLB looking in.

Derek Hill

“He’ll never hit enough.”

“He’s always injured.”

“He strikes out way too much.”

All were mumbles from Detroit Tigers fans about Derek Hill, who has finally reached the major leagues after being selected as a first-round pick in the 2014 MLB Draft. But Hill has been a small-ball extraordinaire in 2021; taking extra bases, bunting for hits, stealing bases all among them.

He’s been slightly above replacement-level over his 25 games this year, but six steals and a rock-solid .377 OBP are ripe for the type of baseball the Detroit Tigers have been playing lately. It’s a continuation of what he was doing in Toledo, where he hit .320/.373/.508 for the Mud Hens over 33 games with 4 steals.

Site expert Rogelio Castillo also detailed Derek Hill’s surprising start here.

Swing-and-miss has been reduced significantly in Detroit, though, and remains something to watch as he tries to establish himself and vouch for a 2022 roster spot. Hill likely isn’t a starting centerfielder on a playoff contender, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a regular contributor on one, either.

Akil Baddoo

We’ve been extensive and exhaustive about Akil Baddoo over at the site, but I cannot have an underdog/cast-off article and not mention Baddoo, who was left off the Minnesota Twins’ 40-man roster, which exposed him to the Rule 5 Draft, where the Detroit Tigers selected him first overall.

It’s a power/speed combo that scouts salivate about, with an eye at the plate that’s underrated for a 22-year-old. It’s a .264/.334/.468 line with 14 steals and a 1.7 bWAR. Not bad, considering many Detroit Tigers fans wanted the club to trade for him so he could begin the year in the minor leagues. Baddoo isn’t on a playoff team so he likely won’t get the same ROY consideration as a team like Houston (explain that logic), but he’s become another solid contributor from an unexpected avenue.

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