Keegan Akin could make Western history in MLB draft

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Keegan Akin, the 54th overall pick by the Baltimore Orioles, told The News on Tuesday night he has agreed to a slot-value deal worth $1,177,200.

What a time to be a Bronco.

And what a time to be Keegan Akin.

Akin, a hard-throwing left-hander from Midland, Mich., is fresh off winning Most Valuable Player honors in the Mid-American Conference tournament, his two wins — including one in the championship game — leading the Broncos to a stunning berth in the NCAA Tournament, their first since 1989.

Akin will get the ball Friday night in the opener at Louisville, and, oh, next week, he'll be one step closer to his dream — being a major-leaguer.

ESPN's Keith Law and one Midwest major-league scout expect Akin to be the highest draft pick from the state of Michigan, when teams make selections from June 9-11.

Every one of MLB's 30 teams has done its homework on Akin, a first-team All-MAC selection, to the point WMU coach Billy Gernon quipped, "I felt like his secretary, but it was fun."

Akin, with a fastball in the low to mid 90s and a slider and change-up, was 7-3 with a 1.46 ERA, including 129 strikeouts in 105 innings.

At 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds, he's 17-12 for his three-year career, and, interestingly, his first start as a Bronco was against No. 7 Louisville as a freshman. Louisville again is ranked No. 7, ahead of the game against WMU.

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WMU is hopeful Akin will be a first-round pick, which would be a first in program history. One Midwest scout, asked to be unnamed, believes he'll go in the top two rounds, which still would be historic. WMU has had just two second-round picks, none since the 1960s.

Law, the ESPN amateur and prospect expert, said he thinks third round is more realistic. Law said Akin's fastball runs 90-94 with some sink, he calls the breaking ball average — saying it gets a little "slurvy" — and said the change-up is below average, not unusual for an amateur. The change-up always seems to be the last pitch to get perfected, and usually not till the majors.

"I'd send him out as a starter," said Law, "but I think he ends up a reliever in MLB."

Even the third round still would be a heck of an accomplishment, considering WMU has had just 10 major-leaguers, with outfielder John Vander Wal, a third-round pick in 1987, having the best career.

Akin, 6-4 with a 3.46 ERA as a freshman and 4-5 with a 4.33 ERA as a sophomore, attended Bullock Creek High School in Midland, though his pro career likely will take place outside of his hometown state.

While the Tigers are said to really like the potential of Akin, have heavily scouted him, and believe he's easily the best prospect, position or pitcher, in the state, they probably won't get a crack at him. They have a first-round draft pick, but forfeited their second- and third-round picks to sign marquee free agents Jordan Zimmermann and Justin Upton during the offseason.

Akin admitted he was a bit nervous coming into the season, knowing he needed a good year to get on the major-league teams' radar. The Broncos' tough start — 1-12 — could've hurt his confidence, but, like with the rest of the team, in the end it really didn't.

"At this point, things, I don't want to say are set in stone, but things are going pretty well," Akin said. "My big focus was on the MAC championship, and moving on to the regional. One game at a time, get to that day, get to that day."

Twitter: @tonypaul1984