Cedric Mullins left today’s game with what Orioles manager Brandon Hyde told reporters was a strain in the outfielder’s right abductor/groin area. Mullins suffered the injury in the eighth inning of the 5-0 loss to the Guardians, as the center fielder was trying to beat out a grounder to first base.
More will be known about Mullins’ condition after he undergoes testing, but it certainly looks like he’ll be headed to the 10-day injured list, and the only hope is that his strain is of the relatively mild variety. In the interim, the Orioles will have to make do without their team leader in fWAR (1.8), and a player who has been a somewhat underrated all-around contributor since the start of the 2021 campaign.
Over 224 plate appearances this season, Mullins has hit .263/.356/.479 with eight homers and 13 steals (in 15 chances). That translates to a 133 wRC+, which is only slightly behind Mullins’ career-best 136 wRC+ mark over 675 PA in 2021. It’s worth noting that Mullins’ .362 wOBA far outpaces his .318 wOBA this year because his hard-contact numbers are below average, but (ironically, given the circumstances of today’s injury) Mullins’ excellent speed has often allowed him to turn that soft contact into base hits. The outfielder’s strikeout and rate walks are well above average, and Mullins’ 11.8% walk rate is easily his career best, and a nice improvement for a player who has sometimes struggled to consistently get on base.
Offense is only part of the story for Mullins, who is also a standout defender in center field. The Outs Above Average metric has always loved his glovework, and while the UZR/150 and Defensive Runs Saved metrics are a bit more mixed over the years, he got unanimously positive grades across the board for his center field work in 2022.
Replacing Mullins in the event of a longer-term injury will be very difficult for the Orioles, but the team has enough outfield options to get by if he is only sidelined for a couple or weeks. Ryan McKenna and Austin Hays are the only other players besides Mullins to see any action in Baltimore’s center field since the start of the 2021 season, and since Hays is already getting regular action in left field, so the O’s might just go with a platoon of McKenna and Terrin Vavra up the middle.
Baltimore has top outfield prospects Colton Cowser and Kyle Stowers down at Triple-A, though both are themselves currently sidelined with injuries. The Orioles could turn to their prospect depth in another fashion, as The Baltimore Banner’s Andy Kostka suggests Joey Ortiz could be recalled, which shifts Adam Frazier into the outfield mix with Hays, McKenna, and Vavra. Perhaps the simplest move would be for the Orioles to select the contract of Daz Cameron from Triple-A, as the former first-rounder is hitting well at Triple-A in his first season in the organization.