05 April 2017

The Orioles Have Cedric Mullins Fever

The Orioles are always good for a few surprises, especially during spring training. This year was no different, with the influx of optionable arms, the emergence of Craig Gentry, Trey Mancini's strong spring and switch to the outfield, Pedro Alvarez's re-signing (as an outfielder, naturally), and more. And while every team talks up their own prospects, I wasn't prepared to read so much praise heaped upon Cedric Mullins.

If you didn't know of Mullins before this spring (or maybe you still don't know who he is), he's a 22-year-old outfield prospect who played for Single-A Delmarva last year. He was a 13th-round pick in 2015 out of Campbell University, so it's not like he came highly regarded.
To the prospect-ranking world, Mullins is not highly regarded either. MLB Pipeline has Mullins 19th among O's prospects (and it's not like the O's farm system is stocked with talent). In February, John Sickels of Minor League Ball ranked Mullins 18th. And Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs listed him 17th in March. That's far from a comprehensive search, but you get the idea. Mullins is relatively new on the scene and seems to project out as a bench outfielder.

Mullins had a strong showing in front of the big league staff this spring, though, and this is where we are now:
The Orioles and Red Sox continued trade discussions today that fell flat, and [Dan] Duquette brought up Mullins as one reason. Mullins had a .321 on-base percentage last summer at low Single-A Delmarva and totaled 37 doubles, 10 triples, 14 home runs and 30 stolen bases in 124 games. The Orioles counted seven home runs this spring, including a B game when he slammed a ball off the batter’s eye in center field and games at the minor league complex.
Not only will Mullins be skipping High-A Frederick altogether as he makes the leap from Delmarva to Double-A Bowie, but apparently the O's rebuffed any lofty trade demands from the Red Sox in an effort to keep recent Rule 5 pick Aneury Tavarez because of Mullins. General managers and coaches say some ridiculous things, but get a load of this from Duquette:
“We worked hard on that. We exchanged a number of names with the Red Sox,” Duquette said. “Obviously, we liked Tavárez. We drafted him. But I can tell you under different circumstances we might have given up more in the trade to acquire him, but we were so impressed with Cedric Mullins, coming into spring training and doing what he did, that we have him in Double-A and we can take a look at him. And he might be able to do the job that we had in mind for Aneury Tavárez later in the season. You never know. [...]

“When we saw what Mullins can do, it wasn’t as urgent for us to acquire a player with similar ability. And that’s why we tendered Tavárez back to the Red Sox. So that’s good for us, right? We found a player that we like, that we already had in the organization.”
Teams don't like to lose players, but again, remember that we're talking about a Rule 5 pick here in Tavarez. How weird is it for a GM to basically say, "Hey, we're not giving up too much for a fringe major league outfielder when we have someone who hasn't even started playing Double-A ball yet"? No pressure, right?

There's also not a limit of one on the number of speedy, impressive outfielders a team hopes to keep around. At least Tavarez has plenty of experience in Double- and Triple-A.

In all likelihood, Duquette is just propping up Mullins's skills and his possible bright future. It's not like Duquette runs away from hyperbole. (Remember when he compared Ben Rowen to Darren O'Day?) The Orioles like Mullins's speed, and they like his power (Duquette also made sure to mention Mullins's seven spring homers).

As noted in Roch Kubatko's article above, in Mullins's lone full season in Delmarva, he posted an on-base percentage of just .321, but he tallied a bunch of extra-base hits and stole 30 bases. That's a good start, even if he was old for that level. His age is surely a factor in why they're seeing what he can handle by skipping a level and hoping he can perform and maybe even get to Baltimore "later in the season" (mentioned in Duquette's quote above, which seems ridiculous) or in 2018 (somewhat more realistic).

Hyun Soo Kim and Seth Smith, the team's two left-handed outfield options, are scheduled to be free agents beyond 2017, after all. Plus, Adam Jones is a free agent after 2018 (though so are Duquette and Showalter, for that matter). You can never be too sure what Duquette is actually thinking or planning, but it will sure be interesting if Mullins rakes in Bowie from day one.

1 comment:

btwrestler119 said...

I don't know if it'll continue, but he definitely raked on Day 1.