Rookie Akil Baddoo has been a steady piece for the Tigers this season.
Through his first 78 games in the Majors, Baddoo is batting .272 with nine homers, 38 RBIs and 14 stolen bases. His 113 OPS+ leads all American League rookies entering Sunday.
While Baddoo has had some success in the big leagues, Tigers manager A.J. Hinch hopes to see another adjustment from the 22-year-old in the form of improvement batting against left-handed pitchers. The left-handed-hitting Baddoo has posted just a .173 average in 52 at-bats against southpaws this season.
“I’ll give him days off here and there, and the majority of his days off are going to be against lefties because it’s convenient, but I’d also like to give him more opportunities as we get deeper into the season against these guys,” Hinch said.
Baddoo, a 2020 Rule 5 Draft pick, is on pace for his most playing time since playing in 113 games for Low-A Cedar Rapids in 2018 after his 2019 season was limited to 29 games with High-A Fort Myers due to Tommy John surgery.
The youngster’s ability to continue finding success in the Majors has impressed Hinch.
“I like his adjustments the most,” Hinch said. “He’s learning and he’s watching and he’s experiencing. I can see him grinding whenever things don’t go his way. Maybe he has a bad at-bat or maybe something happens in the outfield. … He knows the strike zone, and as long as we keep him in a good mental state of just trying to be a productive hitter … he could be a pretty good, well-rounded hitter.”
Hinch points to Baddoo’s final at-bat during Saturday’s 9-8 loss to the Royals as an example of the level of player Baddoo can be.
With the Tigers down three in the ninth inning, Baddoo sent a fastball from closer Greg Holland over the right-field wall for a two-run homer to bring Detroit within one before the comeback fell short.
“I think last night is a good example where he really wasn’t trying to do too much,” Hinch said Sunday prior to the series finale against Kansas City. “He’s just trying to keep the line moving and ends up hitting the ball out of the ballpark. He’s got a ton of potential.”
Candelario hard to ignore
Jeimer Candelario‘s recent success has made it hard for Hinch to keep him out of the lineup.
“Just when I want to give him a day off, he starts swinging the bat like he’s doing now,” Hinch said of Candelario, who has slashed .303/.418/.561 with three homers and 10 RBIs in his past 19 games.
Candelario said the ability to hit for power has been something he knows he’s capable of. He showed off that power on Saturday by belting a 434-foot, three-run homer that had an exit velocity of 104.5 mph.
During his recent success — which also includes a 19-game on-base streak entering Sunday — Candelario said it feels like everything is coming together.
“I’m working really hard all the time,” Candelario said on Saturday night. “I know the home runs will come. I’m a line-drive guy. I know I can hit the ball for a home run or double. It’s happening right now. [I’m] hitting the ball the right way.”