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Cedric Mullins - Budding Star or Flash in the Pan?

Welcome to my first article at RotoBaller. I am humbled to be allowed to write with this incredible team of writers and editors. Please enjoy, and I hope this helps you win with your fantasy teams.

One of the fantasy breakout players and MVP candidates this season is Baltimore Orioles center fielder Cedric Mullins. He has been on fire lately, exhibiting high average, power, and speed this season. Mullins is stuffing the stat sheet for fantasy managers despite leading off in a weak Orioles lineup. 

Fantasy managers are always looking for the next star. So is Mullins a budding star or just a flash in the pan? 

Be sure to check all of our fantasy baseball lineup tools and weekly lineup resources:


Prospect Pedigree

Cedric Mullins was categorized as a speed and on-base type with a great work ethic as he progressed through the Orioles minor league system. He was regarded as a dynamic baserunner, and his power was improving from both sides of the plate.

In 2018, Orioles center fielder Adam Jones’s contract expired, and the team decided not to resign Jones. His exit left the door wide open for a particular speedy prospect having a clear shot at the starting job.

The switch-hitting Mullins played sparingly and struggled in his first two seasons with the Orioles, batting .197 in 67 games. The Orioles finally saw flashes of Mullins’ potential at the big-league level in 2020. Mullins played 48 games in the COVID shortened season in 2020. He started to hit for average and showed growth in slashing .271/.315/.407 along with a .723 OPS.


The Turnaround

Mullins started to rework his swing coming into the season and discovered that he would ditch switch-hitting. The splits bear this out while hitting from the left side. He slashed .305/.348/.448 with a .796 OPS, which is backed by a .390 BABIP. In sharp contrast, the 26-year-old outfielder slashed .171/.216/.286  with a measly .502 OPS and a brutal .217 BABIP while batting right-handed.

The acknowledgment of the switch to a full-time left-handed hitter has produced one of the breakout fantasy players in 2021. Mullins is slashing .315/.388/.514 with an MLB top 15 3.0 WAR and a 158 OPS+. He is second in the American League with 81 hits, one hit behind Vladimir Guerrero while scoring 36 runs, smacking nine home runs, and stealing 12 bases.

Mullins came out of spring training on fire, hitting .337/.387/.545 and .932 OPS with four homers in April. However, many fantasy managers still had reservations about this type of consistent elite production from the Orioles outfielder. The doubts exploded after his numbers took a massive dive in May, slashing .255/.336/.396 with two homers but did steal six bases.

His April numbers were not sustainable but were the May numbers a sign of things to come? Mullins answered with a resounding "NO!". He picked up where he left off when the calendar turned to June.

In 14 games this month, he is raking .426/.516/.815 with a 1.330 OPS with five home runs, and he swiped four bases. It's time to get back on the Mullins fantasy bandwagon.



Should fantasy managers trust Baltimore Orioles outfielder Cedric Mullins?

I maintain that his breakout is the result of Mullins running more and hitting for increased power. His BABIP is high this season at .373, an improvement over his .350 last season. He is making more solid contact, as evidenced by his truly balanced batting distribution data with a 21% line drive rate and 40% fly-ball rate. Combine that data with his 38% hard-hit rate, and the breakout is legitimate.

Mullins has also greatly improved his plate discipline, producing his career's best walk and strikeout rates. He has lowered his strikeout rate to 18.3%, and his 7.2 SwStr% ranks in the top 10 among MLB outfielders while providing a power/speed combination that fantasy managers should target.

As you dig deeper, some fantasy managers may question his ability to sustain his current hit tool. His  .315 current batting average has to be examined, which is a career-high mark, and he is dramatically overperforming that number with a .271 xBA. His  .422 xSLG is also a far cry from his current .514 SLG.

However, suppose Mullins finishes as a 20/20 hitter who hits .270, although it's highly doubtful he loses 40-plus points on his batting average. In that case, Mullins is still going to be a must-start outfielder in your fantasy lineups.

Mullins also benefits from hitting in Camden Yards, slashing .350/.426/.618 with six home runs and 10 RBI, and an impressive 1.043 OPS. On the other hand, the left hand hitting Mullins is hitting .284/.351/.418 with three homers and nine RBI away from Baltimore.

His fantasy stock continues to climb as Mullins is now a top-30 outfielder, and if you are not buying now, you are neglecting a productive fantasy starting outfielder in 12-team leagues. Fantasy managers should buy into Mullins, at least for the 2021 season. He is for real based on his stolen base potential and improved batting eye, making him a necessary fantasy commodity.

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