Detroit Tigers: Akil Baddoo is 2023's biggest wild card

Detroit Tigers v Seattle Mariners
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It's a make or break year for Detroit Tigers' OF Akil Baddoo

The Detroit Tigers currently have five outfielders on their 40-man roster—all of which are left-handed. They don't have a single non-left-handed hiting outfielder—not even a switch-hitter.

They're going to need a lot more out of all these bats. Austin Meadows should be fine as long as he's mentally and physically healthy. Riley Greene will hopefully take a step forward in year two in the big leagues. Kerry Carpenter's role in still undetermined, but he'll get a spot as long as he hits. But what about Akil Baddoo?

Most people have either forgotten about the former Rule 5 pick or have completely written him off, which isn't entirely fair. After all, he had an outstanding rookie season. Have people forgotten about mezmerizing his 2021 season was?

In 124 games, Baddoo slashed .259/.330/.436 with 13 home runs and a 110 wRC+ in 461 plate appearances. He also walked at an almost 10% clip. Keep in mind he hadn't played a game above High-A prior to the 2021 season. This was awfully impressive for a 22-year-old player coming off Tommy John surgery.

There was a lot of hype coming into 2022. Could he keep up the pace of his rookie season, or perhaps build off it?

Well as we know by now, he didn't do either of those thins. In fact, he did quite the opposite. He fell of a cliff in 2022, slashing just .204/.289/.269 with just two home runs and a 65 wRC+. Things got so bad for him that he was even sent down to Triple-A for a while, and even that didn't start out well for him.

First he got sick, then he suffered an injury. Those two things combined made it very difficult for him to to get things going down in Toledo. But once he did, he did pretty well.

In 131 plate appearances, Baddoo slashed .300/.405/.500 with three home runs and a 142 wRC+. That performance earned him the call back to Detroit on July 12. Unfortunately, he never really found his footing in the big leagues, putting up just a 77 wRC+ in the second half of the season.

This has caused many Detroit Tigers fans to write him off. Many people are surprised that he's even still on the roster. But why would the Tigers give up on a 23-year-old outfielder that shown tons of potential in the past?

Yes, 2022 was rough for him. But 2022 was rough for pretty much every Tigers hitter. He has the talent to be a good player.

Akil Baddoo at his best draws walks, hits for power, and causes havoc on the basepaths. In 2022, he still walked at a 10.7% clip—higher than 2021. He still has a great eye at the plate. He also still has that speed, which is something you can't coach.

I've spend much of this piece defending Baddoo, but let me make this clear: 2023 is a make or break year for him. He needs to prove that 2021 wasn't a fluke. If he flops again next year, his time in Detroit will almost certainly come to an end.

Akil Baddoo has the makings of a great MLB player, but he has to get things right next season. He has to make people remember why they were so excited about him in 2021.

dark. Next. What if the Detroit Tigers are done making moves?