Akins wants to show game power

SURPRISE, Ariz. – Former two-sport standout Jordan Akins is extremely raw, but he offers an excellent package of raw tools with his bat speed, strength, speed, and overall athleticism. Lone Star Dugout caught up with the 18-year-old outfielder to discuss his development.

The Texas Rangers snagged outfielder Jordan Akins with their third-round pick in last summer's MLB Draft and eventually signed him to a $350,000 bonus.

The club signed Akins away from his commitment to the University of Central Florida, where he was set to play both football and baseball. Considered to be among the top athletes in a deep 2010 Georgia high school class, Akins also had football-only offers from Georgia, Ole Miss, UConn, Georgia Tech, and Maryland, and others.

Having never focused solely on baseball while growing up, Akins' skills are undoubtedly raw. His swing and timing are a work in progress, and he must work to improve his outfield reads while learning to get the maximum carry behind his throws.

However, the 6-foot-3, 192-pound prospect may have the best package of tools in the system. Because of his raw swing mechanics, Akins doesn't yet drive the ball consistently in games. But he shows definite plus raw power and strength in batting practice. And while he lacks elite first-step speed, he is a lightning-fast runner once he gets going.

Despite his plus arm strength, the 18-year-old is still learning how to use his arm––and get his throws to carry––from the outfield. After playing right field with the rookie-level Surprise Rangers last season––where he struggled to read balls off the bat––Akins has been playing in center this spring. As Akins explains below, he finds it easier to read balls from center, and his athleticism allows him to track balls down in both gaps.

Akins appeared in 36 games with the rookie club last season, batting .187 with three doubles, two triples, five walks, and 35 strikeouts. He stole five bases in six attempts.

The Georgia native will have to show a high aptitude and a good work ethic (which he has earned plus marks for thus far), and he undoubtedly has a ways to go before he's even ready for full-season ball. But with his bat speed, strength, speed, and athleticism, his ceiling is among the system's highest.

Prospect Video:

Jordan Akins takes batting practice from Jason Cole on Vimeo.

Jason Cole: How did you feel about how you finished up in the Arizona League last summer, in your first pro season?

Jordan Akins: I didn't do as well as I thought I should have. I'm still learning a lot. I'm working on my swing, my footwork, and my balance. Now, I think I'm coming along. I've got my balance right and the path of my swing. I'm starting to put the bat on the ball.

Cole: Obviously you haven't had a full-time baseball focus until just recently. What did you do over the offseason to prepare for the long season?

Akins: I went back to my high school and worked out with my coach. And I worked out with Team Elite––I played for Team Elite, so I went back there and hit a couple. I did one-on-one drills, front tossing, and short bats. I worked on my throwing a little bit. I just worked around at home pretty much.

Cole: You're used to throwing the ball as a quarterback. But can you talk about what you have to do in order to get the maximum carry behind your throws as an outfielder?

Akins: Weights. I use weights a lot. I throw the football, which strengthens me a little bit. I use the bands a lot, too. I just really work on hitting my targets as much as I can, pretty much. A lot of players just work on hitting their targets, and they don't really work on trying to throw as hard as they can to hit the target. I've been doing both.

Cole: Did you throw much as a quarterback in high school or were you more of an option guy?

Akins: I threw a good bit, but I ran the majority of the time. I did a good bit of option.

Cole: You mentioned some of the work you're doing to improve your swing. What exactly are you doing in that area?

Akins: We're working on not leaking––keeping that front foot square to the ball. I'm working on keeping a good path to the ball, so we're doing a lot of short bat. I'm doing lots of drills and hitting weight balls so I can keep the front foot square and really drive the ball.

Cole: How do you feel you've been playing since you've been out here?

Akins: Great. A lot better than last year. I feel a lot more comfortable in the field and a lot more comfortable at the plate.

Cole: Since you've never been a full-time baseball guy, are you slowly starting to gain confidence in your game as you go along?

Akins: Oh yeah, it's pretty much like football now.

Cole: You've been playing most of your time this spring in center field, right?

Akins: Yeah, center field.

Cole: And you were in right field last year?

Akins: Yeah.

Cole: Have you been a centerfielder in high school?

Akins: Yes. I played right field during my junior year––but that was pretty much my first time playing in right field.

Cole: What are some of the differences between playing in center and right?

Akins: In center, I can judge the ball better. Right field is just a different angle, so you don't know if the ball is going to slash or not. You've really got to read the bat path. In center, I can just track down more balls.

Cole: What have you been looking to improve defensively while you've been in camp?

Akins: My steps––my crossover. We took away the drop step, so I'm really working that front crossover and going straight back. I'm really trying to get back on the ball.

Cole: You've got five or six games left out here in spring training. What would you like to accomplish out here?

Akins: I'd like to drop some bombs (laughs). I'd like to really get behind the ball and show my power.

Cole: As you look forward to the regular season, talk about what your expectations are for yourself.

Akins: Hopefully I'm going to Spokane, but my goals are really just to have good plate appearances, move the base runners, get on base, and do what I can for my team.

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