Oh my my my. I’m felling high. My voice is gone but I’m not alone. Too much “he ain’t real”. The world keeps turnin’. Oh what a day. What a day. What a day. Hits and homers manifest. With every passing game. If my belief were my wealth. Then I would be filthy rich. If I were made in his image. Then I’d be one sexy dude. Most analysts do not believe. Cuz they fear regression coming. Oh on and on and on and on. The hits keep coming like the morning dew. Whew on and on and on and on. All night until the break of dawn. I go on and on and on and on. The hits keep coming like the morning dew. Ooo on and on and on and on. God damn it. Imma sing his song.
Akil Baddoo has taken the league by storm in the early going. He’s racked up three home runs, nine RBI, and one stolen base in 21 plate appearances. There are plenty of reasons to be skeptical in terms of his staying power so should we automatically dismiss him? Or is there something here and will this Baddoo go on and on like Badu?
Baddoo is 22 years old, 6′ 1″, 210 pounds, and bats from the left side. He was drafted out of high school by the Twins in the 2016 MLB Draft. His first two seasons were spent in Rookie ball, where he improved the strikeout rate, ISO, and slash at each stop. The K% went from 28.1% to 15% then to 12.1%. The ISO went from .093 to .173 to .222. The average went from .178 to .267 to .357. Remember, that he was coming straight from high school so he was a 17-year-old kid that first year. The improvement trends are encouraging.
In 2018, he moved up to Single-A where he hit 11 home runs and stole 24 bases in 517 plate appearances. The walk rate was 14.3%, the strikeout rate was 24%, ISO was .176, and the slash was .243/.351/.419. That’s not bad for a 19-year-old.
The following season, he moved up to Class A+ but the season was cut short due to undergoing Tommy John surgery on his left elbow.
In December of 2020, the Detroit Tigers selected Baddoo with the third pick in the Rule 5 draft.
During Spring Training, Baddoo slashed .325/.460/.750 with five home runs and four stolen bases in 40 at-bats. He drove in 11 and walked 10 times. As a result, he made the Opening Day roster and the rest, as they say, is history.
And what a history it’s been so far. .368/.381/1.000 slash in seven games. Let’s dig in.
The BABIP is .308 so he’s had some good fortune but nothing egregious. In the minors, the BABIP was over .300 in three seasons with one of those above .400. Steamer has him projected for a .289 BABIP. That seems fair but it’s well within the range of outcomes that he sports a number closer to .300.
The ISO is .632. Uh, yeah. That’s not going to continue. Babe Ruth has the all-time mark at .348 with Mark McGwire second at .325. Barry Bonds is third at .309.
The walk rate is 4.8% while the strikeout rate is 19%. He had a walk rate over 10% in every season but one in the minors. It was 9.2% the season he missed. In the most recent minor league seasons, the strikeout rate was 24% and 29.8%. Looking at the swinging strike rate numbers, it’s at 17.6% this season. In the minors, it was double-digits in every season, with the two most recent numbers being 13.2% and 15.4%. There’s definitely some swing-and-miss to his game.
In terms of the batted ball data, he’s sporting a 31.3% line drive rate and 25% ground ball rate. Throughout most of his minor league career, the ground ball rate was around 41% so expect some regression in that regard. The line drive rate doesn’t seem sustainable as well. I’m not going to even go into the HR/FB rate because it’s ridiculous right now. Fine, but stop pulling my arm, please. It’s at 42.9%. Uh, yeah, that should go down like 30%. I love the approach, though, as he’s pulling the ball only 25% of the time, going oppo 31.3%, and up-the-middle 43.8%.
The plate discipline numbers don’t look great. He’s chasing 38.3% of pitches and the overall contact rate is 63.4%. It’s 73.9% in the zone. The contact rates put him in the Javier Baez/Joey Gallo zone, which is top 10 or bottom 10, depending on the perspective. The chase rate would’ve placed him in the top 20 last season.
The Statcast numbers are mixed. The xwOBA, xBA, and xSLG are 99th, 98th, and 100th percentile respectively. The sprint speed is in the 92nd percentile while the barrel rate is in the 95th percentile. That good. The bad? 15th percentile in average exit velocity. He’s poor in whiff and chase rate, but we went over that already.
This is so tough because pitchers are going to find Baddoo’s weakness and exploit it. There’s just too much swing-and-miss to his game. With that said, I love the approach since he stays back and is willing to go oppo. In addition, he has power going to left field. So that gives me optimism.
He has good size, is very athletic, and is still only 22 years old. The pedigree isn’t great but he was drafted in the second round out of high school. I think that speaks to the physical potential. As with all young players, the key will be how he adjusts to the adjustments. The improvements he showed in the minors provide hope.
Al Avila, the Tigers Executive VP of Baseball Operations and GM thinks that he can be a high-level defender in the outfield. That should provide a safe floor for playing time, which will be needed because there will be slumps. It helps that the Tigers aren’t competing for anything so they can absorb the ups and downs to develop young players.
The walk rate should tick up which should provide more opportunities for stolen bases. The power is coming down but I think he’s going to hit his fair share. The power is real and the approach is very mature. As long he gets the plate appearances, I think 20/15 is viable with a .240-ish batting average. The ceiling? You’re witnessing it now.
VERDICT: A Bear with horns?