BALTIMORE -- As the Orioles head into a transitional phase that started with a rebuild and will soon include a new general manager and manager, Baltimore's beleaguered farm system has shown some promise. Leading the charge is outfielder Cedric Mullins and left-handed pitcher Zac Lowther, who were named MLB Pipeline's Prospects of the Year for the Orioles.
Each team's Hitting and Pitching Prospects of the Year were chosen by the MLB Pipeline staff. To receive consideration, players must have spent at least half the year in the Minors and appeared on the team's Top 30 Prospects list.
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Mullins, a 13th-round Draft pick in 2015, started the season at Double-A Bowie and hit .289 with 12 home runs and 29 doubles between there and Triple-A Norfolk. He made his big league debut on Aug. 10, taking over center field duties from longtime outfielder Adam Jones. Mullins became the first Oriole ever to record a three-hit debut and was a bright spot for the O's in a tough 2018.
Mullins, who turned 24 last week, hit .235/.312/.359 with nine doubles, four homers and 11 RBIs in 45 big league games. His mentality was immediately impressive to former Oriole manager Buck Showalter.
"I saw that calmness, [bench coach John Russell] and I were talking about it in Spring Training the first time he came over [to big league camp]," Showalter said after Mullins' first week. "He's not a guy that has to try to see how easy he can make things look. There's just a flow to his game. I think it's one of those guys that, when you do the analytics and stuff -- his closing speed and all that other stuff --you might be surprised by how good he is, compared to the way it looks to the naked eye."
Lowther is ranked as the O's No. 17 prospect. A competitive-balance pick in last year's Draft, he dominated at Class A Delmarva, compiling a 1.16 ERA in six starts. He was promoted to Class A Advanced Frederick, going 5-3 with a 2.53 ERA in the Carolina League. Between the two levels, he posted a 2.18 ERA in 123 2/3 innings with a 0.98 WHIP.
Mullins was named the Brooks Robinson Orioles Minor League Player of the Year, while Lowther was Co-Jim Palmer Pitcher of the Year, sharing the honors with Double-A Bowie's Keegan Akin.
The 22-year-old Lowther, who was selected out of Xavier, is listed at 6-foot-2 and 235 pounds.
Last year's winners were outfielder Austin Hays and lefty Alex Wells. Hays, a candidate for the big league club, dealt with injury all season. Wells went 7-8 with a 3.47 ERA in 24 starts for Frederick. Hays is the Orioles' fourth-best prospect while Wells is listed at No. 25.