After his 2021 season, what should we be making of Akin?

After ending the 2020 season looking like he could be a key member of the 2021 Orioles rotation, lefty Keegan Akin was not even on the opening day roster this season.

But he would eventually get to Baltimore. And partially because the minor league season didn’t start until May, he wound up throwing just one game and two innings at Triple-A this year and pitching in 24 games and throwing 95 innings in the majors for the Orioles. After May 10, he never went back to the farm.

Akin was one of just two O’s pitchers, along with John Means, to produce a seven-inning start in 2021, and he finished fourth on the team in innings and starts with 17.

But even though it ended better than it started for him in some respects, Akin, the club’s second-round pick in 2016, finished going 2-10 with a 6.63 ERA. Over 95 innings, he allowed 110 hits with 40 walks to 82 strikeouts. He yielded 10.4 hits per nine with 1.6 homers, 3.8 walks and 7.8 strikeouts. The Orioles went 4-13 in his starts.

Thumbnail image for Akin-Throws-Black-Home-Sidebar.jpgAkin had an ERA of 8.13 in mid August, but then went 2-3 with a 4.21 ERA over his last seven starts. In 36 1/3 innings in that span, he allowed a .205 batting average and .692 OPS. It was encouraging. But then he ended the year on the injured list with a left adductor strain that will require a surgical procedure.

In 10 games (seven starts) versus American League East teams, he went 1-5 with a 6.42 ERA. In his 17 starts only, he went 2-10 with a 6.90 ERA and a 1.65 WHIP.

But he did pitch better after mid-August, as he at times used his fastball a little bit less and his slider a little bit more. It seemed to be a good pitch mix for him.

Manager Brandon Hyde talked about Akin’s season in late September when he announced he would not make his final two starts due to the injury.

“I thought Keegan had a rocky start, but improved over the course of the year,” Hyde said. “Credit to him is that he has been pitching with fatigue, the core (adductor) thing was something he’s been dealing with for a while now and he posted for us. Give him and our medical staff a ton of credit for getting him out there every fifth day for us.

“We feel like now is the right time to kind of shut him down and get him ready for next spring. But especially the last couple times he took the mound, I thought the off-speed stuff improved, especially after the first or second inning. I think he learned a lot this year, dealt with some adversity. It was more of a normal year than what he experienced last year. He was able to pitch against AL East teams as well as teams from outside our division and learn how hitters are going to react to his stuff, understand what he needs to improve on going into next year. So I think there’s a lot of positives from kind of an up and down season for him.”

While Akin’s ERA+ of 69 for the season was well below average, he did show some promise with his slider and changeup. He needs to trim his average of 18.6 pitches per inning and he needs to better minimize damage when he finds himself in big jams.

While he scored in the top 29 percent in the majors in fastball spin rate, which allowed a heater that averaged 92 mph to play up at times, there were several other categories where he didn’t score well, including hard-hit percentage, where he was in the bottom 20 percent in the game.

Surely more chances are coming Akin’s way but so is more competition for rotation spots with pitchers like Grayson Rodriguez, DL Hall and Kyle Bradish yet to debut.

Akin can’t have another rough spring like the last one in his quest to build on a solid ending to his 2021 season before the injury.

The honors for Mancini, Mountcastle and Belanger: The Orioles earned three Major League Baseball Players Association Players Choice Awards on Thursday night. Trey Mancini was named Comeback Player of the Year. Ryan Mountcastle was named Outstanding Rookie in the American League.

The awards are voted on by other MLB players. The Sporting News also named Mancini earlier on Thursday as its AL Comeback Player of the Year.

“It means the world,” Mancini said on ESPN. “I’m so honored and humbled to receive this award. Especially when I got my diagnosis, I wasn’t totally sure that I’d be playing baseball again. So to be able to come back and play an entire season and receive this award just means everything to me.”

Also on Thursday, longtime O’s shortstop Mark Belanger, an eight-time Gold Glove winner, was named the 2021 recipient of the Curt Flood Award. It is given by the MLBPA to a “a former player, living or deceased, who in the image of Flood demonstrated a selfless, longtime devotion to the Players Association and advancement of Players’ rights.”

Belanger, who worked in the MLBPA offices after retirement as an assistant to executive director Donald Fehr, died of lung cancer on Oct. 6, 1998 at 54.

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