It’s the age old question for all hardcore fantasy baseballers: Is a player legitimately breaking out, or is he just on a hot streak?
That’s especially difficult to say for someone like Baddoo, who is just seven games into his MLB career and never played a game above High-A ball.
Everyone knows about the numbers so far. It’s why he’s gone from a non-factor in fantasy to being owned in 71% of CBS Sports leagues, 63% of ESPN leagues and 52% of Yahoo leagues.
Reasons to pick up Baddoo
Through seven games (21 plate appearances), Baddoo has hit three home runs, a triple and a double. He has seven hits and a walk while striking out just four times.
Obviously, some of the league-wide hype surrounding Baddoo is for reasons that don’t matter in fantasy baseball. Hitting a home run on the first pitch of your career doesn’t count for extra points. Unless walk-off hits are a category, his game-winning single against the Minnesota Twins last week was only worth an RBI and a few batting average points.
But Baddoo’s potential is alluring. He stole four bases during spring training and has one this season, despite being on first base only five times. The power gains that helped him hit five home runs in the spring have carried over into the regular season with five extra-base hits.
As early as it is in Baddoo’s career, the underlying indicators show he deserves to be a starting MLB outfielder. His hard-hit rate, and strikeout rate are both better than league average. His expected wOBA, slugging percentage and batting average, along with his barrel rate, are all 95th percentile or better.
His sprint speed is 92nd percentile, and he showed during spring training that he’s more than willing to steal a base.
Even his low walk rate through seven games isn’t really a concern. For one, his strikeouts have remained low. But also, he drew 10 walks in 50 plate appearances this spring and drew 140 walks in 233 career minor league games.
In short, the first seven games have, at the very least, proven that Baddoo has MLB skills, and that’s perhaps the most difficult hurdle for any young player. He has the speed, the power and the contact ability to be a fantasy asset, and that’s a great start.
Reasons for concern
The most obvious reason for skepticism is the sample size. Baddoo is just 19 at-bats into his MLB career. Anyone can have a hot couple of weeks.
Another glaring issue is that manager A.J. Hinch doesn’t seem motivated to play Baddoo against left-handed pitchers. He has just one at-bat against lefties this season, and the Tigers have both JaCoby Jones and Victor Reyes competing for those starts.
Also, though strikeouts haven’t been an issue for Baddoo, his whiff rate suggests that could change, and he’s been prone to chase pitches out of the zone.
Maybe the high whiff and chase rates combined with a low strikeout rate suggest Baddoo is simply shortening up with two strikes and focusing on putting the ball in play. If so, maybe strikeouts won’t be an issue. But typically when the whiff and chase rates look like this, strikeouts follow.
So should you pick up Baddoo?
Should you add Akil Baddoo to your fantasy team? The answer is yes. You probably have someone boring and replaceable on your bench, so it’s worth taking a big swing at the upside of Baddoo.
If the fairytale ends, you can find someone else on the waiver wire in a few weeks to replace whoever you dumped. Finding intriguing bats is never difficult in this era of fantasy baseball.
But if it turns out Baddoo is a legitimate power-speed threat who the Tigers start on a near-everyday basis, this could be an addition that makes a true difference in your fantasy season.
Plus, he’s a fun player to root for, and adding him to your team will give you a reason to tune in and see what he’ll Baddoo next.