Detroit Tigers 40-man Roster Preview: Akil Baddoo is not slowing down

DETROIT, MI - Akil Baddoo bats. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - Akil Baddoo bats. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /

If there’s one quality A.J. Hinch is looking for in players this season, it’s the versatility to create a winning ball club and culture within the Detroit Tigers.

That seems to be the focus this spring training, and no one is showcasing their versatility better than Detroit Tigers outfielder Akil Baddoo.

The 23-year-old Silver Spring, Maryland native, was drafted in the second round of the 2016 MLB Amateur Draft by the Minnesota Twins out of Salem High School in Georgia. Shortly after being drafted, he was assigned to the GCL Twins and spent a few seasons floating between low-A ball teams before the Tigers claimed him off of waivers as a Rule 5 Pick in 2020.

Baddoo made his MLB debut on April 4, 2021, against the Cleveland Indians, when he became only the ninth player in franchise history to smash a home run in his first ever at bat.

An impressive debut, to say the least, and an even greater achievement for the Tigers for snagging the youngster when others hesitated.

Akil Baddoo Contract Status

Baddoo is signed to the Tigers for one year at $570,500 and will remain under club control until 2023, where he will eventually be an unrestricted free agent in 2027. According to Spotrac, with the luxury tax in place, Baddoo is estimated to make an approximate $700,000 on the 2022 season.

Akil Baddoo’s Game

We know Baddoo can hit, but his numbers against southpaws show that it’s an area that needs improving.

In 2021, Baddoo slashed an overall .259/.330/.436 knocking in 13 home runs, 107 hits and 55 RBI.

But there is a significant difference in his stats when he faces off against left-handed pitchers.

Versus Left-Handed Pitchers: .214/.278/.245, 0 HR, 11 RBI, 21 H.

Versus Right-Handed Pitchers: .273/.346/.495, 13 HR, 44 RBI, 86 H.

Batting left, it’s clear that Baddoo struggles slightly against left-handed pitchers and there is an obvious question about whether or not he has the caliber to remain consistent and succeed against them.

Baddoo has already exceeded expectations this spring, smoking a homer off of Toronto Blue Jays LHP Hyun-jin Ryu in the first inning of the March 25 game, making it his first home run against left handed pitching since July 23, 2016.

ZiPS Projection

HR: 15 R: 67 RBI: 60 SB: 20

My Take

It’s clear Hinch is testing the waters, leading off with Baddoo in the batting order and part of the reason is to analyze whether he has the merit to be aggressive and produce runs against left-handed pitchers, as well as he does against right handers.

If Baddoo can show sustained restraint against pitches, his K rate will undoubtedly improve from the 26.5% he put up with the Tigers in 2021. Baddoo has shown that he has distinct plate discipline, as his BB% dropped from 22.2% in triple-A Toledo to 9.8% with the Tigers.

With an already hot start to his spring belting 2 HR, 2 RBI, 6 H and 5 R in 15 at bats, Baddoo is on par with having the best spring training of Tigers hitters. His home run off of lefty Ryu just adds more fuel that Baddoo has been putting in the work during the offseason to see pitches better and improve his bat.

Let’s be clear: it is only Spring Training, and Baddoo is still young, but this home run is a clear indicator that Baddoo can make an impact leading off games and he has to remain consistent in the regular season.

With players like Robbie Grossman and Javier Baez likely to follow Baddoo in the batting order, I have no doubt that with Baddoo as the leadoff man, the Tigers will come out swinging for power.