Black MLB Players #30: Cedric Mullins
Background + Path To Professional Baseball
Cedric Mullins is a 26-year-old centerfielder that plays for the Baltimore Orioles, the organization that drafted him in the 13th round of the 2015 MLB Draft out of Cambell University in North Carolina. He is from the greater Atlanta area, graduating from Brookwood High School in Snellville, Georgia.
He played the game with a lot of support from his family, who have a close relationship with the sport of baseball. Mullins is a part of a large wave of Black American MiLB/MLB players from Atlanta, the current baseball hub for the Black American demographic of the African diaspora. He played on a talented high school team, not seeing a lot of playing time on the varsity squad until he was a senior in high school. He wasn’t looked at by most college and pro scouts due to his small stature even though he made hard contact from both sides of the plate as a switch hitter and played centerfield well, and started at a competitive junior college(JUCO) in North Carolina called Louisburg before transferring to Cambell College and performing there.
The Baltimore Orioles began scouting Mullins when he was at Louisburg and drafted him because of the hard contact he made from both sides of the plate to go along with the blazing speed that allowed him to roam the outfield and run the bases with skill. His professional career started during the 2015 MiLB season, playing 68 games with Baltimore’s Low-A affiliate. He went .264/.333/.375 with 15 doubles, stole 17 bases while only getting caught four times, and hit five triples. He was 12% better than the average player in the New York-Penn League with a 112 wRC+ in his first professional season., as the NYPL is a pitcher-friendly environment.
He played 124 games with the Orioles Low-A affiliate in the South Atlantic League, going .273/.321/.464 with 37 doubles, 10 triples, 14 home runs, and 30 stolen bases. He scored 79 runs and led the team in plate appearances, which highlights his role as a primary run-scorer and his effectiveness at undertaking it. He put up a 123 wRC+ in the process and impressed managers across the South Atlantic League with his defense in centerfield.
In 2017 Mullins struggled with injuries while playing with Baltimore’s Double-A affiliate, but was still productive when he was on the field. He continued to flash the signature combination of contact skills, speed, power, and quality defense at an up-the-middle position in a diminutive frame that he possessed since high school. During the 2018 MiLB season, Mullins put up a .818 OPS through 109 games between Double-A and Triple-A before making his MLB debut. He had three hits, a walk, scored two runs, and drove in two runs versus the Red Sox in his MLB debut, starting in centerfield. He was passed the torch from Orioles centerfielder Adam Jomes, another great Black centerfielder.
Mullins scuffled during his rookie season, putting up a .671 OPS in 191 plate appearances scattered across 45 games. The next year, he struggled again as he spent most of his time with the Baltimore Triple-A affiliate trying to figure out his wings. Showing signs of life during the shortened 2020 season with a .715 OPS with solid defense in centerfield, the 5'8'’ centerfielder got another chance. He did this while battling the symptoms of Crohn’s disease and other complications in his stomach area, and spent his offseason recovering from surgery.
Before the 2021 MLB season, Mullins decided to stop switch-hitting and solely bat left-handed. Throughout his professional career, his splits as a left-handed hitter were far better than his splits as a right-handed hitter. He also made multiple adjustments to his swing and approach between 2019 and 2021, implementing a lot of video and technology.
Easily the most improved position player in Major League Baseball during the 2021 season, Mullins was thoroughly impressive. He was the first position player in Baltimore Orioles history to accrue at least 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases in a season, placed ninth in AL MVP voting, won a Silver Slugger award, and represented the American League in the All-Star Game. He went .291/.360/.518 in 159 games played, hitting 37 doubles and scoring 91 runs during the season.
Cedric Mullins is 5'8'’, weighs 175 pounds, and bats and throws left-handed. He is extremely athletic, very muscular with a plus-plus frame. Strong wrists, flexible and strong hips, and lower half.
Mullins has a loose, fluid left-handed swing that is very efficient and repeatable from start to finish. He involves his entire body well, and gets the most of it, especially his hips and legs. He starts in a slight crouch close to the inner edge of the back of the batter’s box, his hands holding the bat perpendicular to his ear. He employs a simple, modest leg left toe then brings his foot to the ground and rotates his hips as he steps through, keeping his hands back for excellent separation before bringing them forward and generating a ton of bat speed. His contact skills and eye at the plate are average, as neither are much to write home about in terms of being good or bad. His on-base skills are more than respectable, and his ability to control the strike zone is competent based on a walk rate that constantly hovers around 8%.
His approach at the plate is centered around hitting the ball to his pull side and up the middle. He hits flyballs at a high rate due to the natural loft in his swing and posts above-average percentiles for barrel rate, average exit velocity, and maximum exit velocity for a centerfielder. His speed helps inflate his BABIPs on groundballs.
Mullins is a top-tier baserunner, ranking in the top 20 amongst all qualified position players in stolen bases and BsR since becoming a full-time player in 2020. His primary job is to score runs, and he does that at a rate that is better than his most of his peers. His speed allows him to be a slightly above-average defender in centerfield, where he has taken over the reins patrolling Camden Yards from Adam Jones. His arm is average at best in terms of strength, but he has accuracy and hits his cut-off man consistently.
Cedric Mullins was one of the best breakout stories of the 2021 MiLB season and has supplanted himself amongst the waves of young Black talent reaching MiLB & MLB from all over the African diaspora. Another young Black player making his mark after taking the mantle of centerfield in Baltimore from Adam Jones is a big deal, and I am glad to have witnessed it. I am looking forward to watching the rest of Cedric Mullins’ career play out, as he is extremely talented.