Cedric Mullins, the first Oriole ever to record 30 home run and 30 steals in a season, was named the Most Valuable Oriole on Wednesday. Mullins was a unanimous choice for the award, which is voted on by members of the media who regularly cover the Orioles. Members were allowed to make three choices, and Mullins received all the first-place votes.
Mullins has had a breakout year, hitting .297 with 173 hits, 59 RBIs and an .897 OPS. He’s one of seven players in the majors and two in the American League with an average above .295 and an OPS above .895.
Mullins also has been stellar in center field, making a number of acrobatic catches, the most notable coming against the Yankees when he went high above the wall to take away a home run from Gary Sanchez.
Mullins ranks fourth in the American League in hits and second in stolen bases. He was the starting centerfielder in the All-Star Game, getting the nod after Mike Trout was injured.
What makes Mullins’ season even more impressive is that he wasn’t with the Orioles at the end of the 2019 season. He began that season as the team’s centerfielder, went 6-for-64 (.094) and was demoted to Triple-A Norfolk and then to Double-A Bowie.
“I’d say the amount of confidence I have now as compared with two years ago is significantly different,” said Mullins, who turns 27 on Friday. “Looking back at where I was, I feel like there were certain things I was continually worrying about and trying to be competitive as a switch-hitter was one of them.”
After Mullins hit .271 with three home runs, 12 RBIs and seven steals in 48 games during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, he decided to stop being a switch-hitter and came into this season as strictly a left-handed hitter. Mullins said he was surprised by the results.
“The success that I had against left-handing pitching, being that I hadn’t done it in 10-plus years. The goal was trying to be competitive on the field every day and that was the best decision for it,” he said. “I’m glad it worked out in my favor.”
Oriole manager Brandon Hyde noticed early this season that Mullins was a different player.
“He’s got a ton of confidence,” Hyde said. “He really believes in himself. I think he puts more pressure on himself than he’s going to feel from the outside. How consistent he’s been this year without any dropoff during the course of the year shows you how confident he is and how consistent he can play.
“There are going to be higher expectations next year, no doubt. That comes along with the territory of having a good major league season and people expect you to do it again. I just want Cedric to be Cedric. If he hits 30 homers again, great. If not, he’s going to put up great numbers the way he’s been putting up numbers all year.”
Mullins has played in 154 of the Orioles’ 157 games and should get some votes for American League Most Valuable Player, even though he’s on a team that is 51-106.
Trey Mancini, John Means, Ryan Mountcastle, Anthony Santander and Ramón Urías also received votes in the top three. I voted for Mullins, Mountcastle and Means. Ballots were due on August 31st.
Mullins will receive his award before Wednesday night’s game.