While the Orioles continue the process of deciding which players need to be protected in the Rule 5 draft, one of their better prospects isn’t vulnerable to it.
Outfielder Cedric Mullins doesn’t need to be added to the 40-man roster. His time is coming, but not this winter.
Hamstring injuries limited Mullins to 76 games at Double-A Bowie, but it wasn’t a lost season in the eyes of the organization.
The Orioles were comfortable bumping Mullins from Single-A Delmarva to Bowie after he batted .273/.321/.464 with 37 doubles, 10 triples, 14 home runs, 55 RBIs and 30 stolen bases in 124 games with the Shorebirds. He hit .265/.319/.460 with 19 doubles, a triple, 13 home runs, 37 RBIs and nine steals with the Baysox, his at-bats dropping from 517 to 309 due to the hamstring.
“Mullins had a really good year,” said director of player development Brian Graham. “He went from the South Atlantic League to Double-A and his statistics were very similar. They’re very similar minus the number of at-bats.”
There also was the occasional highlight reel catch. Exclusively a center fielder in his first two professional seasons, Mullins also made eight starts in left and seven in right this summer.
“Mullins is a solid average major league center fielder and he’s an above-average left fielder,” Graham said. “People probably wonder why you’d say that. The answer is, the left fielders aren’t as good as the center fielders, so if you put Mullins over in left field he’s better than most left fielders. You put him in center field and he’s solid average.”
At the very least, the Orioles believe that Mullins is capable of serving as a fourth outfielder in the majors. His tools will play. But they’re not putting him in that box so soon in his career. He just turned 23, with only three seasons under his belt since being selected in the 13th round out of Campbell University.
“That’s a guy that can help your big league club,” Graham said, “because he can go in center field and catch the ball, he’s a switch-hitter, he gets on base, puts good at-bats together, and plays with poise and composure. He runs well. Those are the kind of guys who can help you in the big leagues.
“He’s a good little player.”
I wrote in July that Pat Connaughton was eligible to be taken in the Rule 5 draft, but the Orioles aren’t likely to protect a guy who’s still playing in the NBA and hasn’t pitched in a game since 2014 with short-season Single-A Aberdeen.
The “updates” on Connaughton can be recited in my sleep, though the Rule 5 angle is somewhat fresh. He wants to keep playing basketball and the Orioles think his future is in baseball. They’re leaving a candle burning in the window. The wick, and their patience, is getting shorter.
Wake me when he’s dusting off his 96 mph fastball.
The Orioles selected Connaughton in the fourth round of the 2014 draft out of Notre Dame and gave him a $428,000 signing bonus, which they haven’t tried to recoup. They hold his rights through 2020.
Connaughton scored a career-high 24 points off the bench Tuesday night in the Trailblazers’ 124-76 demolition of the Suns - the largest margin of victory on opening night in NBA history. Maybe this whole basketball thing will work out for him.
MASNsports.com’s Steve Melewski provided a partial list of eligible players.