In 2015, Mullins got drafted by the Orioles (see Transactions below).
Baseball has always been Cedric's top priority. He recalled a holiday season when he was around three years old.
“Around Christmas,” Mullins remembered, “my aunt and uncle got me a mini plastic golf club set, back when Tiger Woods was doing his thing [in 1997]. Instead of hitting the ball on the ground, I was tossing it up and hitting it to myself, and I’m chasing the ball back and forth.”
Growing up in suburban Snellville, Georgia, with two younger siblings, Mullins’ attention was on baseball. Opposed to many prospects who come up having played a selection of sports through high school, Mullins held steady on the diamond as his primary passion. Trying out for football one season, he saw players getting badly hurt, and “didn’t feel like risking it.”
“I knew I wanted to [play baseball] from the jump,” Mullins noted. “I was playing baseball, and finally just decided to stick with it.” Despite getting bits of attention from Division I programs as a junior looking to be recruited to play college ball, scouts soon recognized that Mullins was actually not a starter on his team at Brookwood High School.
“As soon as they realized that, they kind of fell off the table,” Mullins recalled, “and I was going into my senior year [of high school] without a clue of where I wanted to play baseball.”
It wasn’t until the World Wood Bat Classic in Jupiter, Florida, that the coaching staff at Louisburg College noticed Mullins. He recollected that, “After senior year, going into summer still trying to find a school. I had a decent showing there, and they asked if I had ever considered a junior college. At the time, not really, but it definitely seemed like a good option.
“It was funny because as soon as I went to [Louisburg], the coaches that recruited me, they left,” Mullins quipped. “And then as soon as I committed to Campbell, the head coach and one of the assistant coaches left from there, too. After that happened, I got some calls from other programs, like UNC-Chapel Hill and Clemson. But at the time, I was just like, I made my decision and I’m going to stick with it. And it turned out to be beneficial.”
Expectations leading up to the draft varied, as Mullins knew about the business side of the draft while others around him insisted that he was going to be a high-round pick. Dealing with scouts pushing him to reveal what he was willing to take bonus-wise in different rounds, Mullins shared that it was an anxiety-ridden process more than anything, capped off by hearing his name called on day three of the draft.
There was no big party in store for Mullins on June 10, the final day of the draft when teams rattled off their selections for rounds 11 through 42. In fact, Mullins sat by himself at home in Georgia that day.
“My brother was upstairs, he was asleep," he said with a laugh. "My mom and dad were both at work, my sister was at a cheerleading camp. So I was actually by myself just listening to names getting called out, talking to my advisor, who is now my agent.” (Avi Miller - Baltimore Sports Report - 8/28/2015)
Cedric is very level-headed. And he is very likeable to teammates and the coaching staff. Mullins admits that the way he carries himself dates back to his younger days and a message passed on to him from a youth league mentor.
“There was one coach when I was about 11-years-old, and he continuously drilled this in my head,” Cedric explained. “He just wanted me to be professional in everything I did. When it came to baseball all the way down to just talking to somebody in a normal conversation. Be professional about it. Carry yourself in a way that people will respect you. When it all comes down to it, that you made a name for yourself in a positive manner.”
Justin Haire, Mullins' coach at Campbell University, shared an antidote of one experience with Cedric. “My nephews come up to visit from Atlanta, big Braves fans, they called me after Cedric got drafted and said, “Hey, did you know that the Orioles are my new favorite team,” just because that’s how he carries himself. My son is two years old and I’ve got video of him saying, “Get a hit, Mullins.” That’s just the kind of presence that he commands, he’s just one of those guys that makes such a positive impression," Haire said.
In 2017, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook rated Cedric as the 26th best prospect in the Orioles organization. They moved him all the way up to #9 in the off-season before 2018 spring training.
2018 Spring Training Interview.
MLB Pipeline: It's March 23. Are you surprised you're still here in big league camp?
Mullins: I'll say I'm humbled to still be here, let's put it that way. I'm just continuing to come out every day and be around this group of guys. It's a huge learning experience on top of it, so it's been fun.
MLB Pipeline: What have been your biggest takeaways for whenever you do go back and get ready for your Minor League season? What things do you know you need so you can keep moving up the ladder?
Mullins: It's all in the details. I see these guys come in every day and they stick to their routine, whether that's getting in the training room early to work on something if they have a tweak, or getting in the cages, just putting in their work. They make sure they stay with it and that's how they stay consistent.
MLB Pipeline: You got to see a level of pitching here that you haven't seen before. In terms of your approach at the plate, what are some of the things from at-bat to at-bat you've noticed you need to improve on?
Mullins: It's just understanding what they're trying to do to you. After a while, it started to get a little consistent from team-to-team. I looked at videos and made those adjustments from there. You have to know that just like I shouldn't give at-bats away, they don't give away a pitch. They stick to it and they're not afraid to throw a 3-2 off-speed pitch. They trust their stuff and it's my job to trust my swing.
MLB Pipeline: Going back to your amateur days, it's clear you've had to prove yourself every step of the way. Were there times where you asked, "What do I have to do to get noticed?"
Mullins: Oh, absolutely. From high school forward, it was just one of those things where I had to continue to push. There were days where I thought at any moment, I thought my career could be ended prematurely. I had to stick to my routine and had to have faith that the work I put in would show. Having that mentality every day helped out.
MLB Pipeline: How much do you have to tip your cap to Louisburg College, the junior college that gave you a chance to keep playing? And then Campbell, too? You were able to find places that at least kept giving you the chance to play.
Mullins: I always stay in contact with those schools, even though the staff is always changing and the players are constantly moving through. I keep those relationships because they are the schools that gave me the opportunity to play. That's the main thing. Coming out of high school, I just wanted to keep playing. It didn't necessarily mean I needed a huge offer or a big school. I just wanted the chance to continue my career and continue to get my education.
MLB Pipeline: And was that really the only option for you?
Mullins: At that time, Louisburg was my only option. A little later, I got a little interest from other schools, but at that time, I was already moving in and I told them I was going to stay true to my first pick. It paid off big time. Putting up the numbers I did there and being able to go to a school that was still able to give me the looks I wanted. I trusted the process.
MLB Pipeline: You went in the 13th round. You look around this big league clubhouse and you'll see some players from that part of the draft, but do you realize in some ways you've already exceeded the odds or expectations? Is that something that fuels you at all?
Mullins: In a way, it never bothered me. After you get drafted, you all start at the same level. That's how I looked at it. The first-round guys get placed in the same spot as the last-round pick. It just depends on what you make of it. Going to Aberdeen, I thought, 'We're all professionals now.' There's no hierarchy in terms of the level we're at, all together in the same place. Just go out there and continue to play hard.
MLB Pipeline: Typically guys taken in later rounds do have to prove themselves at every level. But the Orioles aggressively moved you from Low-A to Double-A in 2017. Were you surprised at all by that?
Mullins: Those surreal moments hit you and it takes a while for it to settle in. Based off the Spring Training I had, I went in competing for a spot in High-A, that's what I was told, but they said, 'Don't cut yourself short. Continue to fight for that next level.' I went out there and had a great Spring Training. Getting sent to Double-A, I thought, 'Wow, this doesn't happen often.' At that point, I had to readjust to make the best out of that opportunity.
MLB Pipeline: Now you're close to officially knocking on the door. People might look at you and see someone who is an overachiever, someone who was overlooked. Does it excite you that maybe you can be a role model for younger players who think they aren't being noticed?
Mullins: Absolutely. Back at home in general, guys know I'm easy to talk to. For them to get advice along the way, it's no big deal for me to talk to them about it. I can let them know it was a grind. I've gone through a lot of failure along the way and a lot of disappointment. But that didn't stop me from pursuing my goals and my dreams of playing in the big leagues.
MLB Pipeline: You clearly take pride in your defense. But you also have some pop. If you had the choice between hitting a game-winning home run or robbing a game-winning home run, which would you choose?
Mullins: I'd definitely rob it. I'd definitely rob the home run. You're on defense, you're in a situation where the game is over and you're the person who stopped someone else from having that success. That's a huge feeling. You have the success yourself while hitting, but to rob a home run? Everyone hits home runs, but to rob one? That doesn't happen too often. That's why I would pick it. (Jonathan Mayo for MLB Pipeline - 2017)
April 2018: Mullins hasn't made it to the big leagues yet, but he's already formed a relationship with Orioles center fielder Adam Jones.
Mullins, with the Double-A Bowie Baysox early in 2018, said Jones has served as a mentor.
"Being around Jones is huge; we were locker mates during spring training," Mullins said during a Glenn Clark Radio interview April 11. "Just creating that comfort level with him, being able to talk to him, him taking me under his wing in terms of how the game is played, playing it correctly, playing it hard, and just being smart, continuously understanding situations. Being able to watch his approach on a daily basis was a great learning experience."
Mullins, 23, has climbed his way through the Orioles' farm system after being a 13th-round draft pick out of Campbell University in 2015.
Known as a speedster, Mullins has recorded 56 stolen bases during his minor league career, including 30 with Single-A Delmarva in 2016. Mullins said he learned the importance of hustling from Jones.
"Hustling balls out, just being a grinder, taking every day seriously, there's no days off," Mullins said. "The respect that he shows for the game on a daily basis, that's a thing a lot of people can look up to, including myself."
In seven games with Bowie this season, Mullins is batting .250, with a double, a triple and two home runs.
Mullins hasn't received his call up to the Majors just yet, but when he does, he's hoping Jones will still be with the Orioles. The Orioles' center fielder is set to become a free agent after this season.
"You grow up watching guys like him and you pray for that opportunity to play with him," Mullins said. "That being the case it would be a surreal moment, being able to share the outfield with him, even the time during spring training, being out there with him, it was just very exciting. To have a more consistent basis on the playing time with him, that's a moment that's hard to describe." (Evan Raigrodski - Pressbox - April 12, 2018)
August 10, 2018: It took no time at all for Cedric—who at veteran Adam Jones' behest led the team out from the dugout—to fit in at Camden Yards. After being called up earlier that day, the rookie doubled in a run in his first big league at-bat and came around to score on Jones' two-run single in the Orioles' run-filled 19-12 loss to the Red Sox.
The 23-year-old Mullins showcased his speed in center field, his smile in the dugout as he high-fived new teammates and his energy as he gave a last-place Baltimore club, and its fans, a jolt of good in what has been an Orioles season filled with frustration.
"It's hard to explain," Mullins said of what it felt like when Jones, who has now moved over to right field, told him to lead the team. "It kind of felt like a pass-the-torch situation. Just being able to feel like you're taking charge of your debut. That's the only way I can describe it."
Yes, the future is now, even if the present still looks less than desirable.
The kids are coming, with Mullins' debut—a 3-for-4 night which included two doubles and two RBI.
Buck Showalter said, "I'm so happy [Mullins] has got someone like Adam to be there for him. It had to be the right guy. We think Cedric may be the right guy."
Jones told Cedric that center fielders led the team out of the dugout. Mullins thought he was joking. "And [then] all the players were saying, 'Hey go, you're leading it.' So I took their word for it, went out on the field," Mullins said. "And then I took the scenic route. The long way around." (Ghiroli - mlb.com)
- Living up to his nickname: Cedric's Players' Weekend nickname, "The Entertainer," comes from comedian Cedric the Entertainer.
"Just simply because of Cedric the Entertainer," Mullins said. "Growing up, I was given that nickname pretty early, and just people enjoy watching me play and kind of my style and how I go about things, it kind of just came naturally."
"He's hilarious," Mullins said. "I remember watching him on The Steve Harvey Show and all that stuff, it was awesome." Mullins says the most entertaining part of his game is his speed. "The speed on defense, tracking balls down, and running on the base paths," Mullins said. (Aaron Rose -MLB.com - Aug, 20, 2018)
September 14, 2018: Mullins and lefthanded pitchers Keegan Akin and Zac Lowther were recognized as the Orioles top Minor League players for 2018.
- In 2018, Mullins was named MLB Pipeline's Prospect of the Year for the Orioles.
2018 season: Since becoming the first Oriole to record three hits in his debut, the center fielder—who moved Adam Jones over to right—has showcased his range and speed and has become a table-setter for the lineup.
Jan 18, 2019: This spring is set to be different than last for Cedric. On the outside of the roster looking in last year, Mullins figures to enter Spring Training this season with not only a chance to win the Orioles' center-field job, but the leadoff-hitter role as well.
His heightened status comes on the heels of a 2018 season Mullins calls "surreal." Mullins reflected on his first big league action at MLB Rookie Career Development Program in Miami, where he joined 106 other prospects for a crash course in what to expect in the Majors.
The annual seminar is designed to prepare rookies for off-the-field demands like dealing with the media, financial planning and inclusion training. Mullins arrived with more experience than most, having climbed three development levels last summer 2018.
"It felt weird at the end of the season—I'd almost forgotten I'd started at Double-A," Mullins said. "It was about continuing to progress, and proving I belonged at each level I was at." Though Mullins probably has a leg up on the center-field job at the moment, that could change if the Orioles add an outfielder via free agency. Either way, Mullins will at least be battling for playing time with the likes of Austin Hays, Yusniel Diaz and others.
"Processing information a little faster, thinking ahead of the game, that's something I still need to work on. The talent is there for me to continue to compete. Now it's about getting smarter," Mullins said. "That cycle never stops. It comes down to the point of being better than myself, always competing against myself. Continuing to grow, to develop, and making the most of my opportunities." (J Trezza - MLB.com - Jan 18, 2019)
2020 Season: Mullins has been in this position before. After an impressive spell at the end of the 2018 season, he had a firm grasp on the Orioles' center field job, only to fall apart in 2019 and lose it. After playing well down the stretch in 2020, Mullins is in a similar spot. This time, he feels as if everything he did to rebuild himself will put him in a much better place entering spring training.
“I think on a maturity standpoint, I know how I’m going to approach that time in spring training — just embracing that I have a solid shot, but I do have some competition,” Mullins said.
Mullins' up-and-down journey back to this point, one he’s familiar with, has been difficult at times for both he and the Orioles. When he held his own in that 2018 call-up as the center field heir to Adam Jones, much was expected of him as one of the young faces of the Orioles' rebuild in 2019, the first year under executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias and manager Brandon Hyde. Looking back, Mullins believes he prepared for that season wrong and never got into a groove. He was 6-for-64 as the Orioles' everyday center fielder before being demoted to Triple-A Norfolk, and when it didn’t get better there, he was at Double-A Bowie by the All-Star break.
Mullins settled things and got back to himself down the stretch with the Baysox, and went to work with hitting guru Rick Strickland outside St. Louis in the early part of the offseason to try and rebuild his swing. The 26-year-old switch-hitter spent two weeks there, taking some time to get used to the data-driven processes and determine what he wanted to get out of the work. It was geared, ultimately, to “obtaining a more consistent barrel with your at-bats,” Mullins said. His swing now features a leg-kick, but the feeling he spent carrying through the 2020 season was a familiar one.
“Over time, between time spent in 2018 and 2019, I had lost that feeling,” Mullins said. “It was a matter of me breaking down and starting from square one to figure out I can get back this feeling to get in a strong position and give me the best chance to hit the ball hard.”
The changes were clear to Mullins and the Orioles coaches in spring training, even if the results weren’t there. He knew he’d likely start the year in the minors, but wanted to erase the poor impression from a year before.
“Coming back after that year, there was a lot of positive that came out of the spring training,” Mullins said. “They said my swing looks really good, I was able to make adjustments pretty quickly. It was just a matter of getting my timing back. It’s a brand new swing, and to try to replicate that as much as you can before you have to go into a season was probably the hardest part, especially when you have to go into the season at the highest level. But the turning point I think was during the spring training where even if I wasn’t having the success early, my at-bats still looked completely different.”
Mullins was optioned to Norfolk after spring training was cut short but ended up making the team after the season restarted from the COVID-19 pandemic anyway. His bat never came around, though, and he was sent to the secondary camp in Bowie for some more consistent at-bats and opportunities to work on his swing. He was summoned back after his close friend Austin Hays had to go on the injured list with a fractured rib he’d tried to play through for over a week. When Mullins rejoined the team and saw Hays in the training room, Hays' message was clear.
“He basically was telling me in that moment, this is your opportunity," Mullins said. "Do what you do and make it happen.”
Mullins was happy to oblige. He came back from the Bowie camp swinging a hot bat, hitting .291 with a .796 OPS after his call-up. But what meant the most to him was Hyde’s declaration in the middle of September that Mullins was worthy of Gold Glove consideration.
“It was awesome to hear Hyde bring me up in the Gold Glove conversation,” Mullins said. “It didn’t even cross my mind that that was a possibility until he said that, and it created this atmosphere around the clubhouse, like, ‘This is awesome.’ You’ve got guys cheering me on and just hoping that I can make things happen.”
Hitting coach Don Long also singled Mullins out for praise at the end of the year, noting that he’d really improved from the left side while his right-handed swing was a work in progress. Still, he said Mullins' ability and willingness to bunt his way on base showed what kind of player he was.
“He’s really shown a lot of progress,” Long said. “You can see it in his demeanor and personality, he’s a lot more expressive this year. He’s not holding back. He feels comfortable being who he is, and he’s certainly played excellent on defense.”
Mullins, having been through this before, knows he needs to continue to improve in the offseason and arrive in Sarasota, Florida, in February ready to win a job. With Ryan Mountcastle now in left field on a regular basis and Anthony Santander expected back healthy in right field, he and Hays could be competing for center field time with one another. He recognizes, though, that the work he’s shown as a hitter has allowed him to take some pressure off himself on that front and continue to focus on other aspects of his game.
“Now that I’ve been able to make progressions in that, there’s a touch on the hitting, continuing to improve on that, but how do I become a better base stealer? How do I become a better runner?” Mullins said. "I’m able to focus on more aspects and not just have to solely worry about just trying to get on base at the plate.” (Jon Meoli - Oct. 20, 2020)
July 2021: Mullins was chosen as a reserve outfielder for the MLB All-Star Game.
July 13, 2021: They came strolling down the carpet outside Coors Field like a unit, shoulder-to-shoulder, three generations of Mullins in their sharpest dress. For Cedric Mullins, his first All-Star Game was a family affair, and they enjoyed it in style. Donning suits, ballroom gowns and designer sunglasses, Mullins and his family made their entrance known before the American League’s 5-2 win over the National League in Denver, where nine members of the Mullins' clan descended from their North Carolina homes. The group included Mullins’ grandmother, whom he convinced to make the trip despite her fear of flying.
They watched Mullins make an impact despite going hitless in the AL’s eighth consecutive Midsummer Classic win. Batting ninth and starting in center field for the Junior Circuit, Mullins struck out against Brewers righty Corbin Burnes in his first at-bat in the third and reached on an error by the Giants' Brandon Crawford in his second at-bat in the fifth. Mullins later scored the AL’s fourth run on an RBI single by the Red Sox's Xander Bogaerts off Marlins lefty Trevor Rogers, who also allowed Mullins’ infield grounder three batters prior. All told, Mullins played five full innings and handled the one fly ball sent his way defensively before he was replaced by the Rangers' Adolis García in the sixth.
During the Stand Up to Cancer segment between the fifth and sixth innings, Mullins honored teammate Trey Mancini (as did Blue Jays slugger, and eventual All-Star Game MVP, Vladimir Guerrero Jr.), who famously defeated Stage 3 colon cancer last season. Mullins was a constant supporting presence on Mancini’s side during Mancini’s gripping run to the Home Run Derby finals, despite his eventual loss to champion Pete Alonso. Starting in place of the injured Mike Trout a day later, Mullins became the first Orioles outfielder to start the Midsummer Classic since Adam Jones in 2014.
The honor was the culmination of a remarkable career turnaround executed by Mullins over the past two years, and one of the most productive first halves of any player in baseball. Demoted all the way to Double-A two years ago, Mullins remade his swing and broke out as one of the best leadoff hitters in the game this season, hitting .314/.380/.541 with 23 doubles, three triples, 16 home runs, 35 RBIs, 16 steals and 3.7 WAR during the first half. He’ll enter the second half leading the AL in hits (106) and among the leaders in a slew of other offensive categories. (J Trezza - MLB.com - July 14, 2021)
Aug. 8, 2021: In the first inning of a 9-6 loss against the Rays at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Mullins launched a ball down the right field line that kept fair and gave the O’s an early 1-0 lead. The home run was Mullins’ 20th of the year, making him a part of the 20 home runs/20 stolen bases club for the first time in his young career.
Sept. 29, 2021: The Orioles announced that outfielder Cedric Mullins has been voted the unanimous winner of the Most Valuable Oriole Award.
2021 Season: Mullins became the first Oriole to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases. He started in center field for the American League in the All-Star Game after an injury to Mike Trout.
His play in center field was outstanding. The highlight came on September 16, when Mullins made perhaps the best catch in Oriole Park’s 30-season history, perfectly timing a jump on which his left shoulder was even with the top of the wall as he reached high above it with his glove to take away a home run from the New York Yankees’ Gary Sanchez. Fans immediately started comparing it to Trout’s exceptional grab of J.J. Hardy’s drive in 2012.
Along with teammate Trey Mancini, Mullins has been nominated for the American League Comeback Player of the Year in the Major League Baseball Players Association Players’ Choice Award.
It was a remarkable season for a player who abandoned switch-hitting for 2021 to bat left-handed exclusively. Two years ago, Mullins was an afterthought in Orioles’ outfield plans. After a 6-for-64 (.094) start to 2019, Mullins was sent to Triple-A Norfolk, and then to Double-A Bowie and wasn’t recalled in September.
After Mullins rebounded in 2020 (.271 average, .723 OPS in 48 games), manager Brandon Hyde began campaigning for him to win the Gold Glove in center field during the 60-game season.
His position on the Orioles for 2021 seemed set, but no one dreamed that Mullins would play as well as he did. He’ll be mentioned on MVP ballots this year and has raised expectations.
Any player who experiences a breakout season faces the pressure of repeating it.
Mullins had a far better first half than second half. At the All-Star break, Mullins was hitting .314 with 16 home runs and 16 stolen bases and a .921 OPS.
In the second half, Mullins hit .261 with 14 homers and 14 steals, but his OPS fell to .822. That second-half OPS was still better than any other teammate’s full-season mark.
There’s no question that Mullins grew tired down the stretch. He played in 159 games. In parts of his first three major league seasons, Mullins played in only 115. Mullins’ 146 starts in center, three fewer than Cleveland’s Myles Straw, were the second most in the majors.
Mullins stole his 30th base on September 18, and in the last 13 games he didn’t attempt another one. He hit his 30th home run on September 24. He hadn’t homered in his previous 11 games nor did he in his final eight.
On August 13, Mullins was still hitting .322, but lost 31 points on his average to finish at .291. After a third-inning triple on September 22, Mullins was just 3-for-35, including that 30th home run.
Mullins had a sore hamstring late in the season, and Oriole manager Brandon Hyde tried to give him some rest.
The Orioles have two other outfielders who can play center — Austin Hays and Ryan McKenna. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Hyde play them more often in center next season to give Mullins more time off.
Mullins and Ryan Mountcastle both hit at least 30 home runs for the Orioles this past season. No one has done it in consecutive seasons since Adam Jones, Mullins’ predecessor in center field, hit 32 and 33 in 2012 and 2013. (Rich Dubroff - OCT 27, 2021)
In 2021, his 5.3 WAR led the Orioles.
- June 2015: Mullins was the Orioles 13th round pick, out of Campbell University in Buies Creek, North Carolina via scout Rich Morales. Cedrick is the sort of player who flies under the radar both because of his short stature at 5-foot-8 and because he was a high-round pick from a small college.
|Birth City:||Greensboro, NC|
|Draft:||Orioles #13 - 2015 - Out of Campbell Univ. (NC)|
Mullins uses a mature, professional hitting approach with gap-to-gap power and plus speed. Cedric is a solid lefthanded hitter. He was a switch-hitter until 2020, dropping his righthanded swing to hit left only.
In 2016, he filled up the stat sheet at Low Class A Delmarva with 61 extra base hits, including 14 home runs, 79 runs, and 30 steals in 124 games.
While he doesn't strikeout excessively, Mullins will need to make more contact to profile at the top of the order.
“They definitely want me to continue to learn a true leadoff approach, and that’s what I’m basically getting a feel for. But definitely being able to show in certain situations that I can put some pop into (the ball) probably opened their eyes.”
“There’s a couple signs that tell us that Mullins is a natural player,” president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said in 2017. “He’s one of five players (in the minors) who had double figures in doubles, triples, homers and stolen bases last year. So that’s one of them."
Cedric is a switch-hitter with average potential and a line-drive swing from the left side who still is developing as a righthanded hitter. But his quick-twitch swing and reactions at the plate intrigue scouts. (Spring, 2018)
Mullins began the year 2018 at Double-A Bowie, excelling to a .313/.362/.512 line in his second crack at the level. He then performed well enough at Triple-A Norfolk to earn a promotion after a flurry of midseason trades cleared space on the O's roster. Mullins provided an immediate spark, hitting .317/.386/.556 over the month of August while playing mostly center field, before slumping in September.
All told, the 24-year-old hit .289/.346/.472 with 12 home runs and 21 stolen bases in the Minors, and then .235/.312/.359 with four home runs and two steals in 45 big league games.
Sept. 7, 2019: Mullins hit for the cycle as the Double-A Bowie Baysox clinched the Eastern League division series, three games to one, with a 12-5 win over Harrisburg. Mullins finished the day 5-for-6 with three RBIs and three runs scored out of the leadoff spot and completed the cycle with a double in the ninth inning after tripling in the seventh.
When the sun set on what amounted to a lost season in 2019, Cedric Mullins sought answers. An offseason later, he’s set to touch down in Spring Training with something to prove. Mullins spent two weeks this winter with private hitting instructor Rick Strickland in St. Louis, retooling his swing with an eye toward 2020. One of the early adopters of Blast Motion technology, Strickland runs a high-tech operation that is considered cutting edge. He boasts Andrew Benintendi as another client.
“I got introduced to a lot of different technology that’s a part of baseball nowadays,” Mullins said. “Being able to come to terms with that terminology for my approach and swing, that was very helpful. The intent this offseason was to put the past in the past and keep pressing forward.”
The 2019 season was one to forget for Mullins, who went 6-for-64 (.094) to begin the year before being demoted, first to Triple-A. Hitting .205 with a .578 OPS there resulted in Mullins finding himself back at Double-A Bowie, where he finished the season. All told, it was the inverse of the significant strides Mullins took in 2018, when he began the year at Bowie and concluded it in the Majors. In the meantime, Austin Hays, Anthony Santander and others passed Mullins on the organizational depth chart.
“It was frustrating,” Mullins said. “It was rough. In terms of the entirety of my career, I’ve never had that much failure. It was humbling, going back to square one and trying to create success for the future.”
Square one wound up being the Midwest, where Mullins pulled double two-hour sessions daily for two weeks, sometimes hitting until “I was getting blisters on my hands.” With the help of Blast Motion sensors and other technology, Strickland and Mullins reimagined both of the switch-hitter’s swings from the ground up. Mullins said introducing a leg kick to his left-handed approach was the most drastic adjustment made.
The result? What Mullins hopes amounts to “a clean slate,” both in his mind and the organization’s. The fact that he remains on the 40-man roster means he might achieve it, and DJ Stewart's ankle injury makes Mullins’ path clearer in the short term. As it stands now, he’ll have to beat out at least Dwight Smith Jr. to win the fourth outfielder job, though No. 13 prospect Ryan McKenna poses competition as well.
Few in O’s camp are able to match the Mullins’ wheels, who posted a sprint speed in the 94th percentile and ranked as Baltimore’s best defensive outfielder by Outs Above Average in 2019. If he plays his way back to the Majors, he could give the Orioles an element they lacked for long stretches last summer.
“I probably put a little more pressure on myself than I needed,” Mullins said. “The game stays the same; it’s just with a bigger crowd. I need to remind myself that and go out there and play my game.
“The biggest thing is that I’m not down on myself. That I’m staying optimistic. That what happened in the past doesn’t hinder me in the present. That’s what I’m looking forward to doing when I get [to camp].” (J Trezza - MLB.com - Feb 8, 2020)
2021: Mullins decided he will hit only lefthanded going forward.
September 24, 2021: Cedric’s surprise, superlative breakout season now also ranks historic. Not until now has an Oriole player hit 30 home runs and stolen 30 bases in the same season, throughout 67 years of O’s baseball in Baltimore. In that respect, Mullins now stands alone.
He earned the distinction with his three-run home run off Rangers righty Spencer Howard in the second inning an 8-5 loss, tying something of a bow on the season. Mullins is the 43rd player in MLB history to record a 30-30 season. (Trezza - mlb.com)
2021 Improvements: When we recap the 2021 campaign, it’s hard to think of a more surprising performer in 2021 than Baltimore Orioles outfielder Cedric Mullins. Seriously, try. How can a guy go from slashing .094/.181/.156 with a negative -12 wRC+ in 2019, to a .271/.315/.407 line and a 95 wRC+ in 2020, to a fantastic .291/.360/.518 and a 136 wRC+ this season?
Mullins was the majors’ only 30-30 player this year, he scored 91 runs on a lousy Orioles’ team, and had a .228 ISO packed in his 5’8” and 175 pound frame. To say he achieved a lot would be an understatement. But how did he do it?
It all starts with handedness. A switch-hitter for most of his pro career, right-handed Mullins was a serious liability at the plate. As a righty, he slashed .147/.250/.189 with a putrid .439 OPS in 111 plate appearances. His wRC+ was 25. Coming into camp this season, he decided to bat left-handed exclusively, and the decision paid off handsomely: he showed he could handle pitchers of his same hand by hitting .277/.337/.451 with a .788 OPS and a 113 wRC+ against southpaws, which is excellent.
Of course, he also put in a lot of hard work over the last couple of seasons. Talking with FanGraphs’ David Laurila in August, Mullins explained that he did make some tweaks to his stance with the help of tech resources.
“I’ve made some tweaks. We brought the technology and the robots out and got some numbers on what my swing path looks like and how I could make a few [changes] to be more consistent through the zone. For me, it’s more or less just ‘see the ball, get a pitch to hit, put a good swing on it,’ but at the same time, the game has changed so much. Now you can see what your body is doing on certain things. It’s a matter of being attentive to those things.”
He said that the changes began to take place after the 2019 season, after he had the -12 wRC+ in 74 plate appearances. “I was out in St. Louis working with a hitting guru, Rick Strickland. He had all that stuff available and ready for me. We talked about what my swing has been doing. We put the K-Vest on, and it matched what I felt in games. It was just a matter of trying to progress from there with different drills,” he explained.
Now, his approach is similar to 2019, but he is standing more upright than he used to, and “I have my barrel flatter as a starting point as opposed to more vertical. Those small adjustments helped make my swing more consistent, just more useful in games.”
Some of these gains were starting to show after 2020 when he was a league-average hitter, but embracing the changes, getting more familiar with his stance, and ditching right-handed hitting helped him take off. (Andrés Chávez Nov 2, 2021)
In 2021, Mullins won his second AL Silver Slugger.
Mullins not only hit .291/.360/.518 but was also the lone MLB player to join the 30/30 club (30 homers, 30 steals) in 2021. His Silver Slugger is the first by an Oriole since Mark Trumbo in 2016.
Cedric is a plus defender in the outfield. His speed enables him to cover lots of ground though his arm grades a tick below-average. He is already big-league-ready as far as defense goes. And you can’t say that about a lot of guys coming out of college.
Mullins has very good range in the outfield. And he plays with a calmness and confidence.
Mullins is a truly premium defender in center field. But his below-average arm allows him to profile best in left field.
“I take a lot of pride in my defense,” Mullins quipped. “If there’s a ball in the gap, even if people think it’s impossible to get, I always say it’s in my game to go get that ball.”
- Cedric has very good speed. He can be a game-changer on the bases.
- June 14, 2021: For the first time in his career, Cedric stole two bases in one game. His 11th and 12th stolen bags came in the top of the eighth inning
April 21-June 4, 2017: Mullins was on the DL with hamstring problems.
July 8-23, 2017: Cedric was again on the DL with hammy issues.
- Spring 2020: Mullins’ lower abdominal discomfort first surfaced. Butt wasn’t until last offseason (2021) that he was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, which impairs the body’s ability to absorb nutrients from food.
- Feb. 2022: Mullins had intestinal surgery after Crohn's disease diagnosis.