In baseball, more than any other sport, we seem to be gifted with a player who bursts onto the scene seemingly out of nowhere. Last year, it was Randy Arozarena, particularly through his ridiculous run with Tampa Bay. To start this baseball season, carrying over from a white-hot spring training, it’s been Detroit Tigers’ Akil Baddoo.
It’s a small sample size, to be sure. Baddoo has only had 19 at bats this young season. However, all he’s done in that time is rake. He’s batting .368 with a 1.000 slugging percentage, 1.381 OPS, three home runs, nine RBI, and a stolen base for good measure.
Those numbers look very similar to spring training, where he hit .325 with a .750 slugging percentage, 1.210 OPS, five home runs, 11 RBI, and four stolen bases over 40 at bats. That checks out.
The average major league starter gets roughly 550 at bats a year, meaning that between spring break and the start of this season, Baddoo has logged roughly one-ninth of a full season’s worth of at bats, and he has done nothing but produce at an incredibly high level, including tagging Zack Greinke with a 450-foot bomba last night.
Baddoo is exactly what baseball needs — young, ascending stars who combine performance and passion — and that’s precisely what he has been. The last game action he saw before this spring training was A-ball in the Twins’ system in May 2019, before hurting his elbow and missing a season. This past December, the Tigers selected Baddoo in the Rule 5 draft, taking a shot on the 22-year-old outfielder.
“Akil had standout tools when he signed out of high school, and we’ve definitely seen them on display during his time in professional baseball,” Tigers General Manager Al Avila said in a statement. “We’ve seen the power, speed and defense from him, and are excited for him to work with our coaching staff. He’s got the rare athletic ability to be a high-level defender in the outfield and really impact the ball from the left side of the plate, and we look forward to him showing it this coming season.”
So far, Avila looks to be right. Since homering on the first pitch of his MLB career, he’s been a sensation that Tigers fans — and fans of baseball alike — can rally around. From A-ball, to Tommy John surgery, then making the leap straight to the big leagues, Baddoo’s unlikely story is just the type that people root for.