CARY, N.C. -- Michael Mullinax isn’t a stranger to showcase events. He isn’t even a stranger to Coleman Field USA Baseball’s National Training Complex in Cary, N.C. His first event under the national spotlight came in 2021 as part of the 16U/17U National Team Development Program (NTDP), and looking back, he knew he let his eyes get too big for the moment.
“I remember the first year here I was a younger guy at the NTDP, and I felt that sensation of trying to outperform,” he said. “I don't even think I ended up having a single hit on the weekend. I think it comes a lot with experience. Just because you have a bad day and go 0-for-3, you don't need to change too much. We're good players, and we're here for a reason.”
On Tuesday’s opening day of the 2023 Prospect Development Pipeline (PDP) League, Mullinax stuck to his words and may have just outperformed the competition anyways. The Georgia native tripled, scored the winning run and reached base in all three of his plate appearances to lead Team Red to a 4-2 win over Navy in the second game of a PDP doubleheader showcase.
Batting second in the Red lineup as the team’s starting center fielder, the switch-hitting slugger singled in the first inning and walked in the fourth to start his perfect day at the plate, but his most dramatic moment came in the sixth with the two sides knotted at 2-2. Facing left-hander Talan Bell in his second inning on the bump, Mullinax had done his homework and put that research to work after going ahead 1-0 in the count.
“Earlier on, I was looking at the pitcher to see what he was doing with his glove,” Mullinax said. “When he went to offspeed, he would fiddle with it. He wasn’t fiddling around with the first ball or the second pitch that I hit. When he threw it in [for ball one], that eliminated anything else because I knew he was going to try to get back even. So I was sitting fastball, and I got it middle-middle.”
Batting from the right side, Mullinax struck the 89 mph heater from Bell out to left-center and raced around the bases for a leadoff triple, losing his helmet as he did so between first and second.
“Out of the box, you’re taught to think two [bases],” he said. “But then when I picked up the ball and where it was, I’m thinking three automatically.”
Mullinax scored two batters later when a Bell wild pitch scampered past Navy catcher Jaydon Kea and toward the third-base dugout.
While it was a complete day at the plate for the Georgia commit, Mullinax’s triple encapsulated what keeps getting him invites to national showcases like the PDP League. He has plenty of speed to burn, which will help get him center-field looks on loaded rosters, and he can jump on mistakes when he spots them or stay back on balls to drive them when needed. His right-handed swing might be a tick better than his one from the left side, but scouts who have seen him in recent years believe the sum of the tools could make the 6-foot-1 outfielder a first-round prospect in the 2024 Draft.
All he needs to do is let those tools do the work.
“The biggest thing I’ve found from doing these events is just trying to be yourself,” Mullinax said. “Obviously, we’re placed with a lot of expectations to perform based on what your name is or how people tell you you should perform. But the biggest takeaway is to do what I know I can do with my skill set. It paid off.”
Mullinax wasn’t the only outfielder to reach three times in Tuesday’s doubleheader. Derek Curiel went 3-for-4 with a pair of stolen bases for the Gray side in its 6-6 tie against Light Blue in the twinbill opener. Gray’s Carter Johnson hit a game-tying homer in the bottom of the seventh for the day’s only dinger from any of the four squads.