The Rule 5 Draft has come and gone, and the Detroit Tigers welcomed two new players to their organization. Outfielder Akil Baddoo came in the major league phase of the draft from the Minnesota Twins, while right-handed pitcher Yunior Perez was a minor league phase selection from the Chicago Cubs organization.
The Rule 5 Draft is fun, but on the flip side, the players in question are often unknowns to fans of their new organization. That’s where taking to video can be extremely helpful. After all, neither of the two players drafted by Detroit have played at the Double-A level or higher, and haven’t reached any kind of lofty prospect status as of yet.
OF Akil Baddoo
Baddoo is the one who is under the MLB Rule 5 restrictions, so he must remain on the Tigers active roster for the full season. In 2019 he played a handful of games at the High-A level before suffering a season-ending elbow injury in early May.
It wasn’t just any injury — he needed Tommy John surgery. His recovery timeline overlapped the shutdown of minor league play, and a result, it’s been well over a year since he’s played in a professional game. There are avenues the Tigers can take to attempt to lift the Rule 5 restrictions and put Baddoo in the minors through trade. In doing so, he would face competition that might be more to his speed after such a long layoff. Jumping from a brief look at the High-A level straight to the major leagues is, shall we say, less than ideal for development? As things stand, he’ll be well out of his depth when the 2021 season starts up.
Baddoo has unusual upside for a Rule 5 pick, which isn’t a bad thing to shoot for in a draft like this. FanGraphs shares a similar sentiment.
Because of his blend of raw power and speed, Baddoo has unusually high upside for a Rule 5 pick but it’s also easy to envision him struggling to make a leap from A-ball to the big leagues considering that when he arrives at camp he’ll have barely seen any live pitching for about the last 20 months.
First and foremost, Baddoo’s speed sticks out. His long legs help him to easily a plus runner, which helps him on both sides of the ball. He can steal. In the injury-shortened 2019 season he swiped six bags in 29 games. Defensively, the speed serves him just as well. He gets good jumps on the ball and is rangy enough to make long runs to catch long fly balls. Unfortunately, his arm is not as strong, keeping his profile suited to center or left field. We’ll have to see how his throwing has come back from surgery because that is reconsidered.
At the plate, he keeps things pretty simple. His hands wiggle a little bit pre pitch, but they remain right at the shoulder, knees slightly bent. Baddoo utilizes a leg kick during load, but the hands are already in a good position so they don’t have far to go. In terms of the swing itself, he has very quick hands which is where most of his limited pop comes from.
One of the biggest strengths in Baddoo’s numbers is found in his walk rates. Going back to 2018 for a bigger sample size of 113 games, he posted a 14.3 percent walk rate. This comes from a really good feel for the strike zone. He’s able to watch pitches out of the zone more often than not, which occasionally helps him to get the right pitch. At the very least, there weren’t many instances in the 2019 sample that I saw where he was chasing egregious pitches.
On top of that, he took advantage of mistakes, like this hung changeup:
While Baddoo does have an understanding of the strike zone, he did have a tendency to chase some of the bigger breaking balls. Spin discipline, if it comes, can take a lot of repetitions to develop. As a Rule 5 pick who will be facing nothing but big league breakers, that could be a recurring issue.
Baddoo will be most successful by utilizing his good eye to capitalize on mistake pitches. His lack of feel to find the barrel of the bat is one of the bigger weaknesses. What he has a tendency to do is just throw his hands at the pitch once he decides it will be a strike. That results in whiffs, as evidenced by his 24 percent strikeout rate in 2018, which was pacing higher before the injury in 2019. The other outcome of this is bad and sometimes hesitant swings that result in poor contact.
He does have some pop, but as with the rest of his offensive game, it will be largely tied to finding the barrel. He’s got solid multipliers in his speed and raw power, but a somewhat grooved swing is going to hold him back in terms of making enough good contact to take advantage of his strengths.
There’s a lot to like with Baddoo. As it stands, he’s got a likely outcome as a fourth outfielder or a platoon player. If he can better utilize his strike zone knowledge to help force mistakes, maybe his ability to consistently find the barrel improves and with it so will his stock. In terms of the Rule 5 Draft as a whole, the Tigers could’ve done a lot worse. Should Baddoo stick around on the roster all year, there’s certainly a chance he becomes a MLB contributor at some point during his career. Still, for right now this is a huge leap in competition. Having proved their willingness to stash a player on the bench for a full season with Victor Reyes, hopefully they can convince the Twins to accept a relief arm for his full rights.
RHP Yunior Perez
The Cubs signed Perez out of the Dominican Republic in 2015 and he’ll be 22 at the start of the 2021 season. His frame is about as filled out as it can get and he uses it well. Since he was selected in the MiLB portion of the Rule 5 Draft, he doesn’t have to be on the Tigers’ active roster. Perez spent 2019 in Short Season A ball where he posted a 4.73 ERA with 30 strikeouts and 21 walks in 26.2 innings.
Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs listed Perez under the MiLB names he cares about.
The Tigers drafted wild arm strength lottery ticket Yunior Perez, who I’ve seen sit 92-96.
Perhaps the biggest strength Perez has is his velocity. Per FanGraphs, he is in the 92-97 MPH range. He uses this pitch all around the zone, which isn’t always by design, but it can play pretty well anywhere. It also does a good job to set up his offspeed pitches.
Perez’s stuff can be high quality. His arsenal consists of a fastball, a breaking ball, and a changeup. FanGraphs classifies the breaking ball as a slider, so we’ll go with that. The pitch gets good depth and it has a nice shape. It’s not plus offering, but with more consistency and minor improvements it may well get there in the end. The changeup looked good when he threw it well, but that wasn’t a common occurrence.
Here’s a look at the fastball.
And here’s the slider.
Finally, the changeup.
The big wart? Command. It was apparent in his walk numbers, but he has trouble finding the strike zone. When he loses it for a period of time, he seems to overcompensate and shoot for middle-middle, which is when things get bad. If the Tigers can help him drive to the plate more consistently without pulling offline, they may be able to sharpen him up. Still, like most prospects of this sort, he’s a wild card and expectations should be very low until he shows some improvement in this regard.
It’s the same story with his secondaries; they are all over the place. He seems to be able to consistently snap off the slider, whereas the changeup is totally inconsistent. When it’s on, though, it can flash close to average. As a reliever, he’ll likely rely on the fastball/slider combo that could both be at least average pitches with improved command.
From the jump, it’s important to realize that Perez is a relief arm all the way. His command is not good, but the stuff has a chance to give him a big league future. Even then, the best possible outcome is probably a low leverage role. Nothing more can be expected from the MiLB phase of the Rule 5.