Cedric Mullins (OF, BAL): 3-4, 1 2B, 2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
With close to a full month in the books, we’re starting to see some trends stabilize as sample sizes reach a critical mass. Strikeout rate has likely stabilized for most everyday hitters with walk rate to follow in the next week or two. And that’s, well, most of it. So when we say Orioles outfielder Cedric Mullins had himself a day yesterday—going 3-4 with a double and two solo homers—to continue his hot start to the year, it seems like maybe it’s just that: a hot start. And we mean scorching—Mullins is slashing .365/.419/.576 en route to a 183 wRC+, good for 10th in the league. With a monstrous .444 BABIP, there’s no way his current production is sustainable.
But maybe there’s something more. The 26-year-old has now accumulated close to a full season’s worth of games since he first debuted back in 2018. Even then, last year was his first “full” MLB season, so Mullins has only amassed around 500 major-league plate appearances. Looking at his entire body of work, we have a large enough sample to start to see some important statistics stabilize, like OBP (.314) and SLG (.386). It’s not a profile that screams “superstar in the making.”
However, there’s plenty to like in Mullins’ profile. He’s never going to hit 30 home runs, and days like yesterday are going to be few and far between for the outfielder. Despite the projections, though, I think he’s guaranteed at least a .250 AVG and a solid handful of stolen bases. With solid defense and the Orioles’, well, gestures wildly, he’s likely to remain in an everyday role. He’s good enough at getting on base to score runs and swipe a few bags at a consistent level, which is plenty valuable on its own.
And hey, maybe this breakout is legit. Mullins is still just 26 and—as our very own Scott Chu noted in his writeup when Mullins first start pulverizing the baseball at the beginning of the month—he’s made some adjustments over the offseason, giving up switch-hitting to focus on the left side. It’s worked—he’s cut down his groundball rate and even if it never translates into bonafide power, they could turn into consistent extra-base hits in the forms of doubles, which, in the hitter-friendly confines of Camden Yards, could make their way out of the park from time to time. Mullins will fall back to Earth at some point here (he’s not actually better than Mookie Betts) but I think he won’t quite as fall as some might be expecting.
Let’s see how the other hitters did Monday:
Mike Trout (OF, LAA): 4-5, 1 2B, 2 RBI.
Obviously Mike Trout isn’t available on your waiver wire but boy is he fun to watch. After missing a few games from taking a Cristian Javier fastball to the elbow, Trout has allayed our fears by getting right back to doing what he does best: hitting the baseball. He’s slashing .426/.539/.820 with six home runs so far through his first 18 games. He’s just the best hitter in baseball.
Jared Walsh (1B/OF, LAA): 3-5, 1 2B, 2 RBI.
What’s particularly interesting is Trout’s teammate, Jared Walsh. A first baseman by trade but an outfielder by necessity (a very expensive necessity), Walsh broke out in a big way last season, clubbing nine home runs over just over a hundred plate appearances. He’s picked up right where he left off, slashing .319/.395/.556, buoyed by a boosted walk rate. As long as the Angels are paying Pujols $30 million a year they’re going to keep playing him, which will prove an impediment to consistent playing time. Still, the Angels seem committed to finding a way to get Walsh in the lineup, as he’s started 18 of the Angels’ 21 games: 11 in right field and seven at first base. And as long as he’s in the lineup, he’ll keep mashing.
Nate Lowe (1B, TEX): 2-4, 1 HR, 1 R, 3 RBI.
Always blocked from a consistent role in Tampa Bay, Nate Lowe has settled in nicely to his new job as the Rangers’ everyday first baseman. While he’s still striking out over 27% of the time, he’s maintained a solid walk rate and had more success putting balls into play this season, a trait that might be around to stay as he’s still in line with his career BABIP. He’ll continue to hit homers and is likely to remain in the Rangers’ cleanup spot, so expect him to continue to drive in quite a few runs.
Garrett Cooper (1B/OF, MIA): 2-5, 1 2B, 1 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
Ever since Matt Wallach wrote about how Garrett Cooper hits the ball farther than nearly anyone else in the league, I’ve kept my eye on him. He seems like he’s always been slightly underrated since he’s stuck in the pitcher-friendly Marlins home ballpark. Even if they don’t end up leaving the park, the power is real—yet again he ranks in the top 10% of max exit velocity in the league. The problem is, well, he doesn’t do it very often. A 32.4% K rate, with just a 7.4% BB rate, just isn’t going to get him enough chances to show off that power. If he can improve that plate discipline though, he’ll be a formidable force.
Corey Dickerson (OF, MIA): 3-5, 1 2B, 1 HR, 1 R, 3 RBI.
Perennially underrated, Corey Dickerson is just doing what he always does: amassing a ton of hits. After a down year last season, Dickerson has apparently given himself a mulligan on 2020 like the rest of us have. He’s back to hitting over .300 and while Miami’s lineup isn’t exactly the Dodgers, they’re not as terrible as they have been and Dickerson should continue to bat in the heart of the order and collect more counting stats.
Jazz Chisholm Jr. (2B/SS, MIA): 2-5, 1 2B, 1 R, 2 SB.
The most fun player to explode onto the scene this season, Jazz shows no signs of slowing down. He kicked off the game with a leadoff single in the top of the first and promptly stole second and third, adding a double later in the game as the Marlins finally broke Corbin Burnes. The batting average—which currently sits at .279—is bound to come down eventually, but the power and speed are absolutely real. 80-grade name, too.
Nick Castellanos (OF, CIN): 2-3, 1 2B, 1 R, 1 RBI, 2 BB, 1 SB.
Is this the season Castellanos finally grows into his bright-red Statcast profile? He’s had stretches of brilliance before but they were usually offset by ice-cold ones. He’s striking out way less than usual en route to a .317/.364/.659 slash line. He bats third for a Reds lineup that should be very good in a hitter-friendly home park—as long as those strikeouts don’t regress horribly he’ll continue to be awesome. The odd stolen base doesn’t hurt, either.
Jesse Winker (OF, CIN): 2-5, 1 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
Winker has been one of my favorite hitters and I’m thrilled to see him continue to show off his skills. After putting up an impressive 146 wRC+ last season, he’s currently crushing last year’s pace with a 200 wRC+ (sixth in the league) and just smacked his fifth homer on the year. I have high hopes for Winker this season and the Reds’ lineup as a whole, especially as long as he keeps hitting second.
Buster Posey (C, SF): 4-5, 1 2B, 1 HR, 3 R, 3 RBI.
What year is it? Posey finished with four hits (a triple shy of the cycle) while catching Tony Disco’s CGSO, finishing with more hits than the Rockies’ hapless lineup. After opting out last year, it’s been a resurgent season for the 34-year-old catcher, currently slashing .327/.397/.654 through 15 games. Maybe 2019 was just a down year, maybe the year off has given the veteran the rest he needed, but so far we’re seeing the Buster Posey of yore.
Jose Altuve (2B, HOU): 3-5, 1 R, 2 RBI, 1 SB.
He’s only 30 but it feels like Altuve has been around forever. Altuve is back after missing two weeks with COVID and seems to have recovered nicely, collecting three hits and a stolen base in the Astros’ win over the Mariners. 2020 was rough for the second baseman but like with so many others it feels weird to put too much stock into that season’s results. Despite everything over the past few years, the Astros lineup is still plenty dangerous and Altuve should score a ton of runs this season if he can stay healthy.
Rhys Hoskins (1B, PHI): 2-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
The Phillies’ OBP machine has… just four walks on the season so far? Apparently, it’s because instead of taking a free base, he’s electing to seize all of them, doing so twice last night to account for all of the Phillies’ scoring in their win over the Cardinals. His OBP has suffered as his walk rate has plummeted, but he’s already just two home runs away from matching his total from last season. I’m not sure this is a sustainable development (he’s striking out a lot) but it’s hard to argue with the production so far. I expect Hoskins to settle into his usual plate discipline at the cost of some of those homers, and batting in front of Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto should provide him a lot of runs.
Featured Image by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter)