Zach Wilt: Sample size is small, but Cedric Mullins has impressed so far

The 2018 campaign is a lost season for the Orioles that resulted in the front office disassembling the team at the trade deadline and planning for their long-term future. Fan favorites like Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop and Zach Britton were shipped off the Dodgers, Brewers and Yankees for prospects. Left in Baltimore was the team's leader and current longest-tenured Oriole, Adam Jones, who is in the final year of his contract. The veteran center fielder watched as his team was stripped for parts and how did he react? By graciously moving to right field to mentor the Birds newly promoted prospect, Cedric Mullins.

Jones played 11 seasons and more than 1,000 games in center field for the Orioles. To date, the 23-year-old Mullins, has just 12 games under his belt. Admittedly, they have been an exciting 12 games to say the least. Overlooked in a disappointing season for the O's, has been Mullins' debut. To date, he's slashing .310/.396/.571 with a pair of homers, eight runs scored and four RBIs. Mullins really hit the ground running, going 3-for-4 with two doubles, and two RBIs in his major league debut against the Red Sox on Aug. 10. In fact, he became the first Orioles rookie in history to record three hits in his major league debut.

Fans have certainly needed something to be excited about for the remaining month-plus of the season, and Mullins is the answer. While we're definitely examining a very small sample size, a few things about Mullins' performance over the last couple of weeks have been encouraging. While it has been great to see such a strong ability to pick up extra base-hits, I've been just as encouraged by Mullins' ability to pick up walks. In 49 plate appearances, the rookie has recorded six base on balls. Mullins has demonstrated an ability to be patient at the plate, which is something that is rare among rookies. He is swinging at just 21.2 percent of the pitches he sees outside of the strike zone, well below the league average of 30.8 percent this season.

On top of that discipline, Mullins has been making a lot of contact in his plate appearances. So far, 80.3 percent of his swings result in contact, a smidge higher than the league average (77.2 percent). He's also swinging and missing at a lower pace than the league average this season. In an era where strikeouts are all too common, it's great to see a rookie performing above average in terms of contact. Even better is the fact that Mullins is making contact with 86.7 percent of the pitches he swings at in the strike zone, also a tad above the average this season.

One of the common learning curves for hitters promoted in the big leagues is their ability to handle off-speed and breaking pitches. Prospects can handle the fastball in the higher levels of the minors, but often have problems reading and hitting off-speed stuff at the big league level. According to Statcast data, Mullins is hitting .400 on those pitches and .259 on fastballs. It is worth mentioning, though, that five of his extra base-hits were recorded on fastballs.

Overall, we are talking about a guy who has a .325 BABIP, which is sure to fall. Still, he has been an encouraging story in an otherwise disappointing season and a sign that the future is bright. MLB.com ranked Mullins the Orioles' ninth-best prospect in their most recent list, which says a lot about how much the farm system has improved in just a few short weeks.

While the win total is much lower than we all expected, there's still a reason to watch the Birds the rest of the way this season. As Jones passes the torch to Mullins, a new era begins in Birdland and it's exciting to see a small part of the future take shape.

Zach Wilt blogs about the Orioles at Baltimore Sports Report. Follow him on Twitter: @zach_wilt. His views appear here as part of MASNsports.com's season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our pages. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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