Outfielder Nick Akins - Prospect #29

Outfielder Nick Akins has overcome a number of difficulties to get his chance in professional baseball, and although scouts have expressed concern about his ability to hit curveballs, that will a much more benign demon to hurdle than what he has encountered on his way to our prospect #29.

Nick Akins, through no fault of his own, picked up a bad reputation when an on-field fight resulted in his being banned from playing baseball. That made it difficult for scouts to gauge his talents and, along with the cloud he was under, some scouts avoided him all together, according to John Manuel of Baseball America.

Akins grew up in a tough, South Central L.A. neighborhood and was selected to play on youth travel teams. Nick embellished his remarkable talents as a shortstop at Los Angeles High School and he transferred as a junior to El Camino Real High, a move that required him to take two-hour bus rides each way.

Things never worked as he had hoped, was switched from shortstop to center field and his coach Matt LaCour says while Akins' tools were certainly evident, he wasn't a dominant player although he hit just under .400 in his one season with El Camino.

"He struggled a little on game days. He just hadn't played as much as the other guys on the team," LaCour said. "But you could definitely see the tools that everyone talks about--he has a pro body and he can really run."

His season ended after an ugly melee in the middle of a game. He was apparently taunted racial epithets and then intentionally hit by a pitch. No one disputes that after Akins was hit with a pitch, he trotted to first base while his father approached the other team's dugout.

A scuffle ensued in the dugout, "I was very wrong for doing that," his father Damon Akins said later. "Only when the players started swinging at me did Nick leave first base. He came to get his dad's back."

"Nick's story is clear-cut on what happened that day," LaCour said. "I wish somebody else could verify it. I don't think there were any scouts at the game, so when you hear something from scouts about that incident, it's second-hand.

"Nick didn't come to me when (the racial epithet) happened. If he had come to me, I would have gone across the field and confronted their coaches about it. If that incident had not happened, who knows where Nick's story goes."

LaCour and El Camino Real administrators decided Akins should not continue playing with the team. Akins transferred back to Los Angeles High, his home school, for his senior year. Where he was not allowed to play on the baseball team despite a number of hearings and a lengthy appeals process.

So scouts had to watch Akins in an adult league weekend games, which one scout called "an insult. This guy has not faced a lot of top talent, and now here he is playing with 40-somethings who probably didn't even play in high school but are still living the dream. These guys are terrible players."

Akins' father says the Royals brought him to their extended spring training camp in Arizona, and Akins worked with Jim Lentine, an agent who has been a hitting instructor in the Rangers organization.

He was recruited by San Diego State and after being drafted twice out of high school, by the LA Dodgers as an infielder out of high school in the 2006 draft but elected to attend Riverside Community College. Akins was drafted again in 2008, selected in the 20th round by the Washington Nationals, but chose to attend Vanguard University. at Riverside in California before the Dodgers landed him in 2009 with their 20 selection -- well below the projected third or fourth round some scouts had predicted.

Akins isn't extremely fast but is an above-average runner, and has remarkable bat speed on a 6-foot-1, 190-pound frame. He possesses an above-average arm.

"He doesn't have the footwork, the hands or the actions for shortstop and maybe not the range," one scout said. "He does have the best bat speed in my area, and my area is good. He's got 70 raw power, but it's hard to know how usable it is. He's represented by Jim Lentine, which really helps, and you can see he's got a chance to hit.

"But he's missed a lot of time and he's really raw. Plus, he's been painted as some kind of inner-city black kid thug, and that's not him. He's a good kid who's gotten a bad reputation."

"Nick just has to learn the work ethic that it will take for him to be successful," LaCour said. "He's a nice kid. He's not disrespectful. He has the tools; for him it's about controlling the beast in terms of his swing."

Akins started 45 of 47 games while batting .314 for first-year Vanguard head coach Ralph Grajeda. Primarily playing left field for the Lions, Akins led Vanguard in home runs (13), hits (53), runs (37), doubles (15), at bats (169), and runs batted in (35). A strong player (6'1", 215 lbs.) with good foot speed, Akins was third on the team in stolen bases with nine, and also had 70 putouts and four assists from the outfield.

Predicted by Baseball America to be the No. 2 pre-draft prospect among NAIA players this January, Coach Grajeda was not surprised by Akins' selection. "I am extremely pleased for Nick and his family," commented Grajeda. "I've had the pleasure of coaching Nick for the past three years (two at RCC and one at VUSC), and feel he has made tremendous strides not only as a player but also as a person. I know Vanguard Baseball is proud of this accomplishment and wish him continued success with his professional career."

He was sent to the Dodgers entry in the Arizona Rookie League and pounded out a .333 average over 21 games with 22 extra base hits (.658 slugging average), including 12 doubles and seven home runs good for 34 runs batted in and a blistering 1.055 OPS (on-base plus slugging).

Moved up to Ogden, where curve balls are more plentiful, he had a double and a grand slam home run in his first two at-bats. He hit .260 in 27 games with four homers and 16 runs batted in but finished strong in August, hitting in seven of his final nine games and batting .281.

In the final accounting when the season ended, he finished second among Dodgers short-season players in doubles and runs batted in while earning a top-10 spot on 12 of the 13 different franchise statistical categories.

Scouts worry about his inability to handle breaking and off-speed stuff as he moves up through the franchise. If he can, the Dodgers have themselves a solid prospect. 2010 will be a real test for him, one of many he has already overcome during his young life.

Nick Akins  6-1  190  br  tr
Born-December 25, 1987 in Los Angeles
School- Vanguard University

year  team	    ave   obp  gm   ab   r   h  2b 3b hr  bi  sb
2009  AZ Rook      .333  .397  32  120  21  40  12  3  7  34   3
2009  Ogden        .260  .359  27  100  15  26   8  1  4  16   0
----------------------------------------------------------------
 Totals		   .300  .379  59  220  36  66  20  4 11  50   3

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