Well the Detroit Tigers surprised us in Thursday’s Rule 5 draft. Expected to take a pitcher, the club instead went back to the outfielder well hoping to repeat their relatively successful 2018 selection of Victor Reyes. General manager Al Avila plucked Minnesota Twins outfielder Akil Baddoo with the third pick in the draft.
Baddoo is 22 years old, and hasn’t played above the A-ball level yet, so he can only be viewed as a very long term project, meaning the Tigers are going to have to stash him on the bench in 2021. Rule 5 selections have to stay on the active roster for the full season, or be offered back to their team of origin. That’s a bit frustrating in a year when the free agent market is bound to be stacked with cheap major league talent. On the other hand, in the rare chance that this works out, the Tigers will have long-term control of a fairly interesting young outfielder.
Baddoo does have some quality tools. He’s a 6’1, 210 pound plus runner who can theoretically play all three outfield positions, though he lacks the arm for right field. He hits and throws left-handed, and draws above average marks for his raw power. The Twins originally selected him as a prep pick with a comp B round pick back in the 2016 draft.
The problem here is that, as you’d expect, Baddoo has a lot of question marks in his contact ability and hasn’t faced any advanced pitching yet. He didn’t reach full season ball until 2018, and missed most of 2019 at the Advanced-A level due to a UCL injury that required Tommy John surgery. On the other hand, when he has played, he’s shown some plate discipline and power, along with notable trouble hitting left-handed pitching. FanGraphs currently had a 30 grade on his hit tool, with a future grade of 40 projected.
The Tigers will have their work cut out for them developing Baddoo as a hitter, but he also hasn’t been seen in action since May of 2019. Hopefully they have some insight into his development behind the scenes. It’s not impossible that he’s made strides that have gone unnoticed by prospect observers who had little chance to get eyes on him in 2020.
Twins take OF Akil Baddoo. Like this pick. CF who (like most in this draft) is far away because of lost season, but upside with power/speed.— JJ Cooper (@jjcoop36) December 10, 2020
Here’s Al Avila on Akil Baddoo pic.twitter.com/DXwljcyJ6w— Cody Stavenhagen (@CodyStavenhagen) December 10, 2020
Initial reactions to the pick are pretty mixed. If you’re going to try this again, Baddoo is a solid candidate, but in the current market, holding a roster spot for a long-term developmental project can also be seen as a waste. It’s one thing to try a pitcher, bring them to spring training and see how things go. The Tigers can’t expect any contributions from Baddoo at the major league level other than solid outfield defense, so this roster spot is going to be dead weight in 2021.
We’ll have to wait a good while to see if the Tigers hit the jackpot here, but it’s a real longshot and certainly curious in an offseason where the free agent market is stocked with inexpensive major league players. The club is trying to hit a home run here by the relatively low standards of the Rule 5 draft. If it works out, however, they’ll have a young outfielder with speed, good power, and plenty of team control.
Presumably, the likes of Derek Hill, Travis Demerritte, Troy Stokes Jr., and even Christin Stewart just saw their odds of getting a real look at the major league level in 2021 diminish significantly in the bargain.
In the minor league phase of the Rule 5, the Tigers selected righthander Yunior Perez from the Chicago Cubs. The 6’4, 190 pounder will turn 22 years old shortly and packs a plus fastball. His control and secondary offerings still leave much to be desired.
The Tigers also lost a player in the Rule 5 draft as well. They left hard-throwing righthanded reliever Will Vest unprotected, and he was selected by the Seattle Mariners.