Last season “Baddoo Mania” was the hottest thing since sliced bread, as he had one of the greatest beginnings to a career in Major League history. However, after a slow start in his sophomore season, Baddoo was sent down to Triple-A Toledo this past weekend.
Akil Baddoo was a 22 year old Rule 5 Draft pick who had never played above A-ball. He then hit 5 home runs and had an OPS over 1.200 in Spring Training to make the Tigers' Opening Day Roster
This is the first pitch he saw in the big leagues… pic.twitter.com/HPpqJseIdy
— Stark Raving Sports (@StarkRaveSports) April 5, 2021
Akil Baddoo electrified the city of Detroit from the first plate appearance of his career. He hit a home run on the first ever swing in his Major League career. The coming out party would not end there.
AKIL BADOO WALKOFF! THE LEGEND CONTINUES pic.twitter.com/OILyu1jP0R
— Jack (@jjackea) April 6, 2021
Baddoo became the only player in the history of modern baseball with a home run, grand slam, and walk-off hit within the first three games of his career. Although he did not receive any votes for American League Rookie of the Year, Baddoo finished 2021 with a .259 average, 13 home runs, 18 steals, 55 RBI and 20 doubles.
The Tigers missed the playoffs after finishing 16 games behind the White Sox, but showed plenty of promise as their record was near .500 – in large part to Baddoo, who appeared in 124 games for the team.
During the off-season, the Tigers made a few new additions and called up some of their top Minor League talent. There was hope in Mo-Town the team could be ahead of schedule; competing for a playoff spot in 2022 with Baddoo as one of their main pieces.
AKIL BADDOO SPRING TRAINING NO DOUBTER
WE’RE BACK BABY 🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/ATQijhnJH1
— Calico Joe (@CalicoJoeMLB) March 18, 2022
He got off to a similar hot start in Spring Training this season – which was where he earned his spot on the Big League club, after never playing higher than A-Ball in his career previously.
However this season, Baddoo is going through the dreaded “sophomore slump” some second-year athletes experience.
Baddoo only had seven hits in 50 plate appearances this season leading up to his demotion. His average only reached .140 and his on-base percentage was a woeful .218. He has one home run and two RBI.
“You have always got to make the best out of it,” Baddoo told reporters Monday after his demotion. “It’s unfortunate. I’m going to go down there and get the reps that I need and be ready to come back.”
— Bally Sports Detroit (@BallySportsDET) May 9, 2022
Detroit Tigers manager A.J. Hinch says Baddoo was sent down in order to work on his swing and get constant at-bats rather than be in a platoon.
“This was unexpected when we started the year,” said Hinch. “I’m sure he didn’t expect it. We didn’t expect it. But the reality is this is where we are at. We need him to decompress and get himself right and play everyday. It could be a short stint, it could be longer, but hopefully he can work on things to be more consistent.”
The Tigers want Baddoo to become more of a contact hitter and swing less for power. He struck out in nearly 30 percent of his at-bats this season and for a player of his caliber of talent, those numbers are not acceptable. I believe Baddoo will be one of the best players on the Tigers, sooner rather than later, but this demotion will be an important crossroads on where he can take his career.
For now, outfielder Derek Hill will take the majority of reps in center during Baddoo’s absence.