His excellent spring training performance and the fact that he started his MLB career by going 10-for-27 with four homers and 11 RBI in his first nine games helped him make quite the initial impression to fans.
Akil Baddoo was a 22 year old Rule 5 Draft pick who had never played above A-ball. He then hit 5 home runs and had an OPS over 1.200 in Spring Training to make the Tigers' Opening Day Roster
This is the first pitch he saw in the big leagues… pic.twitter.com/HPpqJseIdy
— Stark Raving Sports (@StarkRaveSports) April 5, 2021
As of Tuesday afternoon, the powerful outfielder is hitting .263/.275/.684 with the four round-trippers, which frankly is a line that most players would kill for.
However, it’s worth examining if Baddoo’s performance so far can be sustained over the course of the whole 2021 season, not just the first three weeks.
Baddoo Is Still Raw
Unfortunately for Baddoo, baseball is a game of adjustments, and MLB pitchers are, without a question, the best in the world.
They were bound to spot a hole or two on Baddoo’s swing and take advantage of the fact that he is still learning how to make consistent contact with the ball.
And after a few games at first, they seem to have found the recipe for getting Baddoo out.
In his last three games, the streaky slugger is 0-for-11 with eight strikeouts, lowering his batting average from .391 on April 13 to .263 today.
Baddoo’s strikeout tendencies are catching up to him and he is quickly regressing at the plate.
Akil Baddoo has now struck out in seven consecutive plate appearances and is hitless with nine strikeouts in his last 11 plate appearances.
A's TV analyst Dallas Braden credits "the AL Pitchers Book Club."
— Evan Woodbery (@evanwoodbery) April 18, 2021
After all, he has one of the league’s highest swinging strike rates, at 20.1 percent.
That means he swings and misses in about a fifth of the pitches he sees, which is alarmingly high.
His struggles aren’t uncommon for a young hitter that skipped the whole high minors and was clearly rushed to the major leagues.
Prior to being a major leaguer, Baddoo’s highest level of competition had been some Class A Advanced games (29, to be exact.)
In 131 plate appearances, he hit .214/.290/.393 with four homers, six stolen bases, and a 103 wRC+, or weighted Runs Created Plus, where 100 is average.
It means that Baddoo was basically an average offensive performer in his most recent showing in the low minors.
The Tigers Could Send Him Down To Play Regularly In The Minors
The Tigers made him skip Double-A and Triple-A altogether (those leagues weren’t playing games last year, anyway) and gave him a roster spot in 2021’s big league squad.
The most likely scenario is that the Tigers send him down to one of those minor league circuits once they start in a few weeks, to gain more experience without hurting the team.
Baddoo should eventually be a very good outfielder, but he is not ready to be an everyday contributor even though he has flashed his enormous potential.
If he is still a part of the Tigers’ roster for all of 2021, he might not be very good.
He has a lot to learn in the minor leagues before being an established contributor with the Tigers, and unlike Juan Soto (who made a similar jump in competition back in 2018) he doesn’t have the elite plate discipline and contact skills to succeed right away.
The fact that he should be a below-average contributor in 2021 doesn’t mean that Baddoo isn’t a promising hitter: in fact, he could be a star eventually.
However, he seems raw and unprepared for such high expectations.
He is only 22 years old, and his time will come.