Baltimore Orioles outfielder Cedric Mullins had mixed results in his two-month stint in the majors in 2018. What can we expect from Mullins next year, and how will the Orioles define success for him in 2019 and beyond?
When you think of Baltimore Orioles outfield prospects, the first name to come to mind might be Austin Hays. However, injuries deflated Hays’ stock in 2018, which paved the way for the Orioles to call up Cedric Mullins to take over every-day duties in center field.
Drafted in the 13th round in 2015, out of Campbell University in North Carolina, Mullins exceeded expectations in every minor-league stop he made.
At single-A Delmarva in 2016, Mullins posted a .785 OPS with 61 extra-base hits and 30 steals. Though his 2017 season at double-A Bowie was derailed by hamstring injuries, he still hit .265/.319/.460 with 13 homers in 346 PA’s.
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Mullins got off to a torrid start this year at Bowie, hitting .313/.362/.512, which led to a promotion to triple-A Norfolk in June. He continued to rake in Norfolk and after two months at triple-A, was called up to Baltimore in early August.
Mullins made a splash his first month in the big leagues, posting a .941 OPS with 3 homers and 7 walks to just 11 strikeouts. However, he went full-Chris Davis in September, going .187/.269/.243.
Mullins is a switch-hitter and he’s had more success from the left side of the plate than the right. He’d struggled to hit left-handed pitching in the minors, but that was magnified once he got on the big stage.
In the majors this year, Mullins hit just .156/.296/.156 against lefties. Some have suggested that Mullins be used in a platoon role, but at just 24-years-old (his birthday is October 1st), there’s no reason to stunt his development. The only way he’s going to learn to hit lefties is to face them in game action.
There are certainly improvements to be made by Mullins going forward. He needs to learn to hit lefties if he’s going to be truly successful in the majors.
He also needs to continue to improve as a defensive outfielder. Mullins has plenty of speed, and Camden doesn’t have a huge outfield; two factors which should lead to Mullins being an above average defender.
But his batted ball profile from his stint in the majors isn’t exactly encouraging; he ranked 49th of 51 qualified rookies with a 26.7% hard hit rate, and his 50.8% ground ball rate was 12th highest in that group.
Granted, Mullins’ speed will allow him a better infield hit rate than most, but the Orioles aren’t exactly looking for Mullins to turn into a speedy-slap hitter. He’s shown that he can be a 12-15 homer, 20 steal guy in the minors, and there’s really no reason to assume he can’t be that guy in Baltimore as well.
Two things to pay attention to in 2019, are whether Mullins can do a better job making solid contact, and if his speed translates to stolen bases. He was just 2 for 5 stealing bases this year, but his plus-speed should allow him to remain aggressive in 2019.
Jonathan Villar brought an aggressiveness on the base-paths to the Orioles in 2018; hopefully he and Mullins can continue that trend next year.
We can expect Mullins to be the Orioles everyday center fielder in 2019, and as long as he’s healthy, he should start 150+ games. Mullins is still young, but there’s plenty of room for improvement next year.
If he can make improvements at the plate against left-handed pitchers, do a better job of barreling up the ball, and remain aggressive on the base-paths, Mullins will be successful in 2019.