Who is 2022’s Cedric Mullins?

C’mon, be honest, this time last year you didn’t know Cedric Mullins II. Yet now, he is the number one reason to switch on a Baltimore Orioles game.

In 2019, Mullins hit below .100 AVG in the big leagues and scraped a .233 batting average (.648 OPS) in 117 games in the minors between Double-A and Triple-A.

As a 25-year-old in the Covid-shortened 2020, the 13th rounder from the 2015 draft hit three homers in 48 games for the Orioles. Definitely, nothing to write home about.

Last year, however, was a completely different story.

Mullins was the only player in MLB to go 30/30 (that’s 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases).

Over the last ten years, only six players have had 30/30 seasons, and we are talking about some of the greatest players of the era.

So, who is this year’s Cedric Mullins?

In fantasy baseball terms, Mullins was the 427th player off the board in 2021. Currently, the 427th player in consensus ADP is… Twins’ catcher Ryan Jeffers. Hmmm, it won’t be him.

Here are three contenders for the “Next Cedric Mullins” title.

Bradley Zimmer

To play at MLB level is an incredible accomplishment for a sportsman. For two brothers to reach The Show demonstrates a remarkable combination of genes, opportunity, and determination. The fact that injuries have waylaid both Bradley’s and Kyle’s careers is an unfortunate example that sometimes you need good luck as well as genes, opportunity, and determination.

In 97 MLB games stretching back to the start of 2018, Zimmer hit .198 AVG with three home runs and 10 swiped bags. He looked an unlikely candidate to go 20/20, so 30/30 was out of the question.

And Zimmer’s struggles against left-handed pitchers (.559 OPS in 2021) and striking out 35% of the time further dampen reasons for optimism.

However, since 1 July (58 starts), the outfielder hit eight homers with 11 stolen bases, which almost equates to 20/30 over a full season. Give him a 162-game slate of healthy production, and he has the tools to become Cedric Mullins mark two.

Anthony Alford

It is a cliche to say that development is not linear. As we have seen recently, some prospects like Randy Arozarena hit the ground running, and others like Jarred Kelenic take longer to adjust to the jump up to MLB level.

Former Top-25 prospect, Anthony Alford, debuted for Toronto as a 22-year-old. Over four years with the Blue Jays, he appeared in a total of 46 games and was DFA’d with a dismal slash line of .155/.200/.254.

Picked up by the Pirates, Alford hit .083 AVG in April 2021 before heading unclaimed to the minors. In a career-transforming 56 games, Alford hit 14 home runs with nine stolen bases and an attention-grabbing 1.013 OPS. He spent the rest of the season in the majors, and for once, he looked like a major-league calibre player.

The Pirates are not overflowing with outfield talent, so Alford should get plenty of opportunities to make the left-field job his own and maybe put up the kind of figures prospect evaluators knew he had in him.

Manuel Margot

Despite 600 major-league games, the 27-year-old has never recorded a season above 100 OPS+. He is elite defensively – top outfielder in “Outs Above Average” – so his skills ensure playing opportunities, especially if Tampa Bay moves on from Kevin Kiermaier.

On the base paths, Margot has speed to spare (87th percentile in sprint speed) and the outfielder has swiped 25 bags over his last 162 games despite erratic playing time.

So it is the power numbers that he needs to improve. Double-digit homers in 2021 (125 games) is a positive trend, which was helped by the significant increase in his hard-hit ball rate from 33% to 40%. If you are looking for the next Cedric Mullins, it may be Margot.

These are our three options. Who have you got? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter @BatFlips_Nerds

Photos by Ed Zurga, Mark Goldman

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