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The unexpected 2021 ballad of Cedric Mullins

Cedric Mullins won leagues for a few people in 2021.

Baltimore Orioles v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images

Cedric Mullins entered the 2021 season as a mid-300’s pick and ended the season with 91 runs scored (36th most in Majors) , 59 RBIs (120th) 30 stolen bases (4th), a .291 batting average (22nd best among qualified batters), an OBP of .360 (30th), and a slugging percentage of .518 (26th). So, despite entering the season as an afterthought, he ended up among the top 30 in every category save RBIs, and finished as one of the top outfielders in all of fantasy baseball. What happened here?

For starters, every stat listed above are all career highs for the 13th round pick out of Campbell University, who will enter his fifth MLB season in 2022. Mullins stole seven bases in 2020 across 48 games. That would extrapolate out to 21 bases, and yet he stole 30 in 2021. Meanwhile his averages all improved, as did his run output (he had just 16 runs scored across his 48 games in 2020). Mullins emerged as an All-Star player, and Baltimore’s first ever 30/30 player. Again I ask—what happened here?

New York Yankees v. Baltimore Orioles Photo by Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Three things

1.) Mullins abandoned switch-hitting. His ability as a lefty improved dramatically from last season, as he cleaned up his swing and timing to increase his launch angle (and ISO) which improved his batting average (by almost 2X). He was a bit more aggressive against lefties, but he was patient against right-handers, walking almost 10% of the time.

2.) Mullins thrived early in counts. He didn’t push the pitchers deep into counts. Over 62% of his at-bats were resolved within the first three pitches, where he had a .262 batting average. Likewise a majority of his RBI’s came in similar situations.

3.) Luck? He exceeded many of his expected outcomes. Mullins exceeded his expected outcomes especially in average and slugging...and some of that might have been due to limited sample size coming into this season. However, his BABIPs will run higher given his balanced approach—he’s been comfortably above .300 in both of his last two seasons.

At the end of the day, the overachievement in his stats coupled with the aggressive approach are things that will need to be factored into next season, as pitchers will have a lot more tape to view. I think Mullins has top 100 potential and will thrive in average and stolen bases (where he could continue to be a top 5 player) but I would expect a majority of his stats to have a slight regression and put him in the 60-80 draft space.