The Orioles having the worst record in the American League isn’t helping one of the most surprising and best players in baseball so far in 2021 make the All-Star Game.
In the first All-Star voting update released Monday, center fielder Cedric Mullins ranked just 10th among AL outfielders despite entering Monday tied for the league lead in hits (78) and ranking in the top six in the AL in batting average (.321), on-base percentage (.387), doubles (17), triples (three), times on base (105), runs created, and position player wins above replacement (Baseball Reference and FanGraphs versions). The 26-year-old also leads the Orioles in average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage (.527), and doubles while ranking second in both home runs (nine) and walks (26). That surprising success at the plate doesn’t account for the highlight reel of defensive gems Mullins has provided through the first 2 1/2 months of the season, making him a very worthy candidate for inclusion at the Midsummer Classic in Denver on July 13.
Mullins remains one of the best stories in baseball after it was just two years ago that he was demoted from the majors all the way down to the Double-A level in a nightmare 2019 campaign.
Baltimore slugger Trey Mancini currently ranks fifth in voting among AL first basemen and figures to receive much support for inclusion in the All-Star Game after heroically defeating stage 3 colon cancer last year. The 29-year-old entered Monday ranked fifth in the AL in RBIs (47) and also leads the Orioles in homers (12) and walks (27) while sporting an .836 on-base plus slugging percentage. However, a slow start to June that’s included only one extra-base hit in his first 45 plate appearances isn’t helping his statistical argument in a league featuring standout MVP candidate Vladimir Guerrero, reigning AL MVP Jose Abreu, two-time Gold Glove winner Matt Olson, and Yuli Gurriel at first base.
Freddy Galvis was the only other Orioles player to land in the top 10 in AL voting at any position as he ranked ninth among shortstops.
Lefty ace John Means has been among the best pitchers in the AL, but his health status could impact his chances of being invited to the All-Star Game for the second time in three years. The 28-year-old remains on the 10-day injured list with a left shoulder strain.
In the new All-Star voting system, the first phase concludes June 24 and will determine the top three at each position and the top nine in the outfield. Fans will then vote for starters among those finalists. Pitchers are not part of the fan voting.
Outfield prospect Diaz beginning rehab assignment
The centerpiece of the Manny Machado trade is nearing a return after the latest injury to stunt his development and potential arrival in Baltimore.
Yusniel Diaz, 24, is set to begin a rehab assignment with Double-A Bowie this week and has been sidelined for over a month with a hip and quad injury. The Cuban outfielder has appeared in just six games this season, going 5-for-25 with a homer, one double, and six RBIs.
Ranked as Baltimore’s No. 8 prospect in MLB.com’s top 30 list and a consensus top 100 prospect in baseball entering 2019, Diaz continues to be hampered by nagging injuries and has yet to make his major league debut despite being considered a fast riser when he was acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers system in July of 2018. Even with the Orioles outfield having its injury and performance concerns beyond the superb play of Mullins in center, this latest absence may jeopardize Diaz’s chances of making his major league debut during the 2021 season.
Another pitcher moving up in Orioles system
Kevin Smith was the latest pitching prospect to receive a promotion Monday as the 24-year-lefty will advance to Norfolk.
Acquired from the New York Mets in the Miguel Castro trade last summer, Smith pitched to a sparkling 1.04 ERA and struck out 37 in 26 innings at Bowie. Ranked the Orioles’ No. 15 prospect by MLB.com and a seventh-round pick in the 2018 draft, Smith will now join the likes of Zac Lowther and Kyle Bradish in the Tides rotation and get to see how his stuff — which isn’t overwhelming despite a 6-foot-5, 200-pound frame — plays against Triple-A hitters.
Dean Kremer recently made two starts for the Tides, but he was recalled to make Monday’s start for the Orioles in Cleveland.