Could O's send two to All-Star Game in '21?

Notes: Giants hanging around; Pujols move intrigues

May 19th, 2021

It’s been five years since the Orioles had two players represent the American League on the All-Star team, and while is racing toward a second trip to the Midsummer Classic, he might have company on his flight to Denver.

has emerged as one of the season’s biggest surprises, thrusting the 26-year-old into early contention for a spot on this summer’s AL squad.

Through his first 40 games this season, Mullins had a .312/.374/.516 slash line with six home runs, 12 doubles, 12 RBIs, 22 runs scored and five stolen bases. His 40.9% hard-hit rate marked an improvement of more than nine points from 2020 and nearly 24 points from 2019.

“He’s driving the ball more than I would have expected,” an AL executive said. “The fact that you have to respect his power makes him a much tougher out.”

Though Mullins entered the season with a career 0.4 fWAR in 115 games since he debuted in 2018, his 1.7 mark this season ranks 10th in the AL.

Another AL executive who hadn’t seen Mullins play since 2019 came away very impressed after watching him a few times this season.

As productive as Mullins has been at the plate, his play in center field has been even better; he ranks in the 93rd percentile in Outs Above Average and the 83rd percentile in Outfielder Jump.

“I walked away thinking he’s the most improved player we have seen [this season],” the executive said. “Though not comparing the players head-to-head -- despite some similarities -- the relative improvement reminded me of Michael Bourn’s transformation between 2008 and 2009.”

Staying power?

The longer the Giants hold on to first place in the National League West, more and more people around the league are beginning to believe San Francisco may have the staying power to compete with the Padres and Dodgers through the summer.

“They are really good defensively and fundamentally, and they have a lot of different ways to match up,” an NL executive said. “They are a bit old, but they also have prospects pushing, so they may get an energy jolt from young players midseason -- and obviously they can add more. I believe they will be tough.”

Another NL executive pointed to the cumulative success the Giants’ core has had, noting that , and “just know how to win,” which is invaluable to a club in their position.

“With Posey playing like he’s 25 again, they are a completely different team,” the exec said. “And like most years, they can really pitch. If they keep that up, they can keep winning for sure.”

Posey entered Tuesday with eight home runs and an astonishing .362/.444/.649 slash line in 27 games.

“It’s fun to be reminded of what he was like in his prime,” the second NL exec said. “I think people had even forgotten how great an offensive player he was during those World Series runs.”

As good as the Giants have been, it was just three weeks ago that 24 of 25 execs polled chose the Dodgers as the best team in the Majors. Los Angeles’ 7-7 record to open May -- combined with the club’s notable injury issues -- has prompted some to wonder whether the Giants (or Padres) could snap the Dodgers’ eight-year stranglehold on the NL West title.

“The Dodgers are a mess right now,” one NL talent evaluator said. “If they don’t straighten themselves out soon, things could really spiral out of control.”

Worth the risk

Speaking of the Dodgers, their decision to sign raised some eyebrows this week, but given his prorated league-minimum price tag and his ability to still hit left-handed pitching, the move could pay off for a Los Angeles team whose .656 OPS against lefties ranks 13th in the NL.

“I love it for a team like that,” an NL executive said of the signing. “Why not? Low risk and they are so deep they don’t need a lot; they can take risks on guys like that.”

Pujols, who had an RBI single against Madison Bumgarner in his Dodgers debut on Monday, has an .857 OPS against lefties this season.