Orioles outfield prospect Cedric Mullins was named the Eastern League’s Player of the Week for last week’s performance, and this week he took time out of his schedule dominating opposing pitchers to chat about his continued development and hot start at the dish in Bowie.
Through 12 games this year, Mullins is hitting .412, cracking 10 extra base hits with four home runs. Thus far, the jump from Delmarva to Bowie hasn’t been an issue to worry about. In fact, Mullins says the pace of the game somewhat better suits his style of play.
“Everything is just a little bit more precise,” he noted about the adjustment. “Everything is a little bit quicker… the strike zone, pitches are all relatively in the zone so you’re able to have a bit of a better eye at the plate I’d say, which has been very beneficial for me.”
Mullins has struck out just six times in 51 at-bats on the year, tallying 21 hits and crossing the dish 16 times as Bowie’s leadoff man. He noted that throughout his work this spring, he and the coaching staff placed a heavy emphasis on keeping pace with the speed of the game that the promotion would bring.
At just 22 years old, Mullins received plenty of instruction inside the organization within key areas of the game. Even as national rankings don’t recognize him on the top of prospect rankings, it’s very clear that Mullins is near the top of the in-house watch lists.
When asked about the spring’s most important coaching point, he noted his increased work against the fastball.
Said Mullins: “The biggest part about spring training was getting timing down in terms of everything really, getting good reads when you’re on the field and being able to time the fastball, which is the biggest part of spring training in my opinion because that’s the pitch you have to hit. You have to be able to hit the fastball and adjust to the other stuff.”
Adjust Mullins has, seemingly without any bumps in the road. And while his current .750 slugging percentage isn’t exactly the most sustainable number as the season moves along, it is an encouraging sign that the move to Bowie hasn’t altered too much in his swing.
At just 5’8”, Mullins provides anything but a weak bat. He slugged .464 at Delmarva last season with 14 HRs, using his speed (30 stolen bags in ’16) to rack up his fair share of doubles as well.
According to Mullins, the utilization of his pop at the plate is noteworthy but not a focal point of his training. If anything, he says, his focus during the year is to train toward a traditional leadoff hitter’s role.
“It is an absolute maintain mindset,” he said. “The biggest focus is on my legs because I’m a speed guy, so maintaining my legs throughout the season is a big part of it…
“You’re continuing to get stronger as the years progress, and they always talk about the “man strength”. So, naturally, I’d say my body is going to continue to develop and get stronger. [Power-hitting] is part of my game, but I don’t necessarily focus on it. My main focus is to be on base and be able to allow my teammates to get their RBIs and me to be able to put a run on the board.”
For the current makeup of the Orioles roster and organization, it’s safe to say a leadoff bat with ability to hit balls over the fence would be a welcomed addition in the years to come. And while he’s roamed center field during his time within the organization, don’t think the Orioles aren’t adjusting as Mullins’ development continues.
No matter the long-term future of 31-year-old Adam Jones in center, the organization is already planning ahead with Mullins’ playing time in the outfield. After playing in center for 122 games in Delmarva last year, he’s started in left twice already in 2017. And with his estimated time of big-league arrival seemingly becoming closer by the day, there’s reason to believe he’ll be doing more of the same in the coming weeks.
On the adjustment, Mullins noted that the stress level normally associated with moving around doesn’t notably exist in his case. Falling back on his experience playing the corner spots “his entire life”, the 2015 13th-round selection says he’ll be prepared, especially with the abundance of help within the walls of the Baysox clubhouse.
“There are some situations that I might not have been in playing a corner spot, so I can ask someone else, ‘Hey, where am I supposed to be in this situation,’ including the coaching staff,” he said. “Being able to ask those questions and them having answers to them, I’m able to be out there and still be able to think clearly about what I’m supposed to do in the corner spot.”
As Mullins continues his 2017 journey, he says it’s all about routine and continuing to work on the small stuff — pardon the baseball cliche, but it’s fitting for Mullins’ projected path. The natural abilities aren’t lacking in his current game. Moving ahead, it’s all about taking hold of the small advantages that can help him climb the ladder.
“We do a lot of outfield work and we’re going to throughout the season, so those things will be able to get fine-tuned over the course,” Mullins said. “It’s basically all sticking to a routine. If you wake up a certain time, continue to wake up at that time. Eating healthy in the mornings, making sure you have a healthy dinner at night… it’s just being able to make those quick adjustments that keep you healthy and keep you on the field.”