Why Detroit Tigers’ 2020 Rule 5 draft pick Akil Baddoo thinks he can stick with team

Detroit Free Press

Evan Petzold
| Detroit Free Press

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When the Minnesota Twins declined to put outfielder Akil Baddoo on the 40-man roster ahead of the 2020 Rule 5 draft, he made sure to inform his mother of what might happen next.

“I might possibly get picked up,” Baddoo told her, adding there must be a team out there willing to take a chance on his five-tool projection, even despite his offensive struggles in recent years.

“Well, let’s listen and hear,” she responded. “Let’s see what happens.”

It didn’t take long, as Baddoo, 22, was selected Dec. 10 by the Detroit Tigers with the No. 3 overall pick. Though he hasn’t played above High-A and underwent Tommy John surgery in May 2019, he will likely get his chance in the big leagues sooner than expected.

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Baddoo must stay on the Tigers’ active roster for the entire regular season or be offered back to the Twins. He is back to full health and ready to compete for a job in the outfield this spring.

“Once I got TJ and everything, I was able to take a step back and know how to nurture my body and work throughout the whole process,” Baddoo said Friday. “It was definitely tough and a grind, but my arm is completely fine. It’s 100% ready to go. Cleaned up some mechanics and have a fluid arm action, so it’s good to go. Better than ever.”

Baddoo, a left-handed hitter, had a mere .214 batting average in High-A Fort Myers during the 2019 season, adding four homers, nine RBIs, 12 walks and 39 strikeouts in 29 games.

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Elbow surgery corrupted the remainder of his campaign. And with the minors canceled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, he hasn’t competed in an official game since May 11, 2019.

The good news is Baddoo was cleared to participate in the Twins’ instructional league camp in October and November, where he got his timing back. During his rehab, he did yoga to rediscover his flexibility and help avoid minor injuries in the future.

“No restrictions,” Baddoo said. “Everything’s good to go.”

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Joining the Tigers, Baddoo finds himself searching for his way back to the five-tools that led him to be selected in the second round (No. 74 overall) of the 2016 draft out of Conyers (Georgia) Salem High School.

Baddoo is ranked as the Tigers’ No. 25 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. He was No. 13 in the Twins’ system.

“I’m just excited to display all my tools, and just controlling what I can control. I’m going to do what I can in the offseason to prepare me for that and see where it takes me. I’m feeling really confident.”

To learn more about the task at hand, he found a mentor in Tigers veteran Niko Goodrum. They train together at the Home Plate Baseball facility in Peachtree City, Georgia. (Goodrum was drafted by the Twins in 2010 and played for them in the majors in 2017.)

“I was actually working out with him before I was a Tiger,” Baddoo said. “And then I stopped because he was working out somewhere else and I picked up on something else (at CrossFit Ransom). But now I’m back working out with him.”

Also, Baddoo plays Call of Duty with two other Tigers, JaCoby Jones and Christin Stewart. Known for his power in the minors, Stewart could be Baddoo’s top competition for a job on the Opening Day roster. He hit .167 with three home runs and nine RBIs in 36 games last season. The outfield is expected to include Jones, Victor Reyes and Daz Cameron (unless the Tigers add in free agency), with an opening for a fourth member.

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If all goes as planned, Baddoo will be the guy.

“Wherever they want me,” Baddoo said about his specific position. “That’s what I’ll play. I’m practicing everywhere, just so I’m ready at each position. Wherever they want me, I’ll be ready to go.”

Evan Petzold is a sports reporting intern at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.

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