Baseball America has told Nick Akins’ story once before, and it’s a story that keeps developing. Akins did not play in 2006, yet was the Dodgers’ 13th-round pick that year anyway. A draft-and-follow, he shook off some rust at Riverside (Calif.) CC in 2007, but wasn’t a consistent regular. His inexperience and raw skills also showed in the West Coast Collegiate League over the summer; he hit three homers for the Corvallis Knights, second on the team, but also struck out 40 times and hit .227 in 110 at-bats.
Akins remains one of the most talented players in Juco ball, however, and BA’s Prospects Plus scout, Dave Perkin, checked him out this Tuesday and sent in this report:
Akins has been well-known to scouts since his junior year in high school, and his path to JC ball at Riverside Community College has been complicated and tumultuous. Now in his sophomore year at RCC, Akins has begun to establish himself as one of the premier JC players in the nation. Akins has electrifying bat speed, and his raw power easily rates a 70 on the 20 to 80 scouting scale. The rap on Akins as a hitter has always been his maddening difficulty in handling the curveball down in the strike zone. While he is a stunning batting-practice hitter, he has often struggled to garner results in games.
That trend may be changing. In a road game at L.A. Harbor College, Akins blasted two tape measure home runs, one off of a hanging curve and the other off of a low fastball. Tuesday’s display left no doubt that Akins has remarkable natural hitting talent. He may need to make a few technical adjustments. His stance is square and well balanced, but he employs virtually no load mechanism or pre-swing hand movement, and his bat is held high, pointed diagonally above his helmet. He may benefit from moving his hands into a lower, less angled starting spot that will give him a shorter path to the ball.
Defensively, Akins has in the past played both the infield and outfield, but his current home at second appears to be the best fit. Akins is frustratingly inconsistent in the field, but he clearly has the hands, arm and fielding actions to adequately hold down the spot at higher levels. He will need a significant amount of practice and game experience to smooth out his defensive game, but his fielding ability is obviously present.
Akins’ speed is solid average, with his 60 times clocking in the high 6.9 range. Although Akins 6-foot, 190-pound frame has little projection, he is strong, fit, muscular and athletic, with broad shoulders and an enviously narrow waist. Perhaps the big leaguer he resembles most is Rickie Weeks of Milwaukee, another second baseman noted for his bat speed and tools but frustratingly inconsistent performance.
If the ubiquitous questions about his background and signability are set aside, Akins possesses as much bat speed and raw power as any hitter available in the June 2008 draft. To move up draft boards, Akins will need to continue to hit well in games and not just BP. He must also learn to handle the curve and the offspeed pitches, instead of feasting only on pitchers’ mistakes.
If Akins continues to dazzle as he did Tuesday, ballclubs once reluctant to consider acquiring him in the draft may rapidly change their minds.
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