It’s the question that has hung over Cedric Mullins since he burst on the prospect season after making a two level jump to Bowie in 2017.
In the minors, Mullins showed top level speed on the base paths and in the outfield while showing some surprising pop for a guy generously listed at 5-foot-8. After jumping over Frederick, Mullins slashed .328/.368/.557/.925 over his first 216 AA PAs despite a hamstring injury that saw him miss the end of April and all of May that year.
However, the issue offensively has always been the same for the switch-hitter, he hits much better from the left-side of the plate than the right-side.
- 2016 – Low-A – .290/.333/.499/.831 vs RHP – .217/.282/.350/.632 vs LHP
- 2017 – AA – .293/.339/.524/.863 vs RHP – .208/.277/.327/.604 vs LHP
- 2018 – AA – .317/.373/.509/.882 vs RHP – .300/.317/.525/.842 vs LHP (40 PAs)
- 2018 AAA – .281/.337/.464/.800 vs RHP – .220/.322/.340/.662 vs LHP
- 2018 MAJ – .264/.319/.432/.751 vs RHP – .156/.296/.156/.452 vs LHP
With the access to statcast information, the concerns are magnified even more as Mullins crushed fastballs as a left-handed hitter, but was dominated by fastballs from the right-side of the plate. Even though the sample size vs LHP is small (35 PAs) the trend is the same as in the minors.
- Vs FB – RHP – .293 BA/.507 SLG/.416 xSLG/.372 wOBA/.326 xWOBA
- Vs FB – LHP – .115 BA/.115 SLG/.169 XSLG/.240 wOBA/.271 xWOBA
Another concern is that when teams shifted on the left-handed hitting Mullins (19 times) his wOBA fell from .365 to just .139 suggesting he will see a lot more shifts in 2019 or will need to make adjustments.
He also really struggled in September/October after starting off well in his first 72 PAs in August (317/.386/.556/.941) slashing just .187/.269/.243/.512 in his final 119 PAs of the season. The only good news is he may have been more tired than pitchers making adjustments on him since he saw similar pitch types in both months (just 2% less fastball % by RHP).
Other initial concerns was the fact he hit a lot of groundballs (7.9 Launch angle vs 10.9 MLB avg and 54.5% GB rate vs 45.8%), had below average exit velocity (85 MPH vs 87.5), and a 17.9% Line drive rate vs 25.6%.
The good news besides Mullins being young is that he showed above average plate discipline 20.7% vs 28.2% MLB AVG Chase % and his 18.2% WHIF is above the 24% MLB AVG.
Defensively he was below average in center field despite his 95th percentile sprint speed. He didn’t make any 5-star catches in seven chances, only made one 4-star catch in three chances, three out six on 3-star catches and all of his 2-star chances and below. His Rtot stats said he would cost a team 11 runs over an average CF over a full season (135 games). He also has a well below average arm that will see runners taking extra bases on most questionable situations.
With the Orioles trying to assess their current players in order to decide who will be part of a winning future in 2-4 years, Mullins may very well get the everyday nod in center field, especially since the only other true center field prospect they have in the minor league system is Ryan McKenna, who will most likely start 2019 in Bowie (AA).
On the bases, despite his 70 base running speed, he stole just two bases in five attempts with the Orioles and will need to improve on that greatly. Stealing bases has to be a part of his game.
While Mullins does have some talent, he’ll need to step up his defense and handle left-handed pitching or he’ll risk turning into a platoon 4th outfielder on a good team. The good news is he’ll get ample opportunity to play in 2019 so the Orioles should have a better assessment of his skills by the end of the year.