Black MLB Players #28: Akil Baddoo
Akil Baddoo is the 1st player of Ghanaian/Trinidadian descent to wear a MiLB/MLB uniform. He personifies the influx of African & Afro-Caribbean players in MiLB/MLB, an important development that is needed in order for the African diaspora to develop and maintain a healthy relationship with the sport of baseball.
Akil Baddoo is a twenty-two-year-old first-generation American of Ghanaian and Trinidadian descent from Atlanta, Georgia who plays for the Detroit Tigers. His father is from Ghana and his mother is from Trinidad & Tobago, and they nurtured his love for baseball at a very young age. Baddoo’s career is an important milestone for the African diaspora’s relationship with the game of baseball, as he is the first person of Ghanaian and Trinidadian descent to play in Minor League Baseball and Major League Baseball. He also personifies the influx of African and Afro-Caribbean players in MiLB/MLB, especially those who are first-generation Americans with one or both foreign-born parents.
After getting drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 2nd round(74th overall) of the 2016 MLB Draft out of Salem High School Baddoo signed his professional contract, accepting a $750,000 signing bonus to forgo a commitment to the University of Kentucky. Baddoo was lauded by scouts for his fluid left-handed swing and athleticism, projecting that he could remain in centerfield full time. Baddoo’s performance in the minor leagues was lackluster, due to injuries that the outfielder suffered every year. The worst of these was a UCL reconstruction via Tommy John surgery, which kept him out for a whole year.
The Detroit Tigers selected the Ghanaian-Trinidadian prospect with the third overall pick of the 2020 Rule 5 Draft and really talked him up after selecting him. After a scorching performance during spring training Baddoo’s name started to ring out some, and it preluded a breakout performance once the regular season started.
Akil Baddoo made his major league debut on April 4th versus the Cleveland Indians, hitting a home run on the first pitch he ever saw. The next day he hit a grand slam, achieving a ridiculously rare feat by hitting a home run and a grand slam to begin his career. Baddoo has been one of the best rookies in all of baseball in the 78 games he’s played so far this season, as he is 3rd amongst rookies in fWAR, 6th in wRC+, and is 1st in BsR. He has 9 home runs, 14 stolen bases, and 38 RBI on a .272/.348/.485 slash line with a 27% K rate and a 10% walk rate.
Akil Baddoo is 6'1'’, weighs 214 pounds, and throws and bats left-handed. He is very athletic and very well built, as he looks more like a Division I wide receiver than a baseball player due to his filled-out frame. His athleticism and strength show in his whippy left-handed swing, and he is to develop exit velocities up to 109 mph. With 9 home runs, Baddoo’s raw power is showing but if he truly taps into elevating the ball he could hit 25 home runs a year. Baddoo has a great approach at the plate and strike-zone awareness, buoyed by a 10% walk rate in his first stint at the MLB level after never playing above High-A.
Akil Baddoo is an above-average corner outfielder that can moonlight in centerfield in a pinch. Due to a weird arm action and Tommy John surgery, Baddoo has a very weak throwing arm. Despite this, Baddoo makes up for it in the field with good range, foot speed, and route-running skills. Baddoo’s foot speed also enhances his baserunning prowess, as his 2.5 BsR puts him among the best in baseball. His athleticism allows him to rotate and get the bat into a prime position to make contact, and if he focuses on elevating the ball and also tweaks his swing decisions he will be a very good hitter.