While the Orioles are once again last in the AL East things feel a little different this year. For starters, MLB’s top prospect Adley Rutschman made his debut and while he is still finding his footing in the majors, things seem a little more optimistic around the Orioles. With the first taste of the future here, O’s fans are eager to see the debuts of fellow youngsters Grayson Rodriguez and Gunnar Henderson. While Rodriguez is closer to his debut, the way Gunnar Henderson is tearing up AA Bowie should have fans salivating.
How He Got Here
Gunnar Henderson’s Orioles’ tenure started with the incredible 2019 draft. Having already picked Rutschman with the first overall pick, the Orioles turned their sights on improving the left side of their infield. Naturally, the tall and incredibly athletic Gunnar Henderson, with his ability to hit for power to all areas of the field, was a natural fit.
Despite having previously committed to playing baseball at the University of Auburn, the Orioles pounced. Luring the talented righty for a $2.3 million signing bonus. After missing affiliated play in 2020 due to Covid cancellations, Henderson even made his way up to Bowie last season.
What’s Different in 2022?
While Henderson made it to Bowie last season, he didn’t fully look comfortable in the minors, which was to be expected for the 19 year old in his first normal season of professional baseball. Over 105 games across three different stops, Henderson struck out a whopping 143 times while walking a respectable 56 times. Despite his professional inexperience, he put up a more than respectable batting line for the season was .258/.350/.476, displaying good pop and speed, combining 17 home runs, 28 doubles, 4 triples and 16 stolen bases in 18 attempts.
While the Orioles were certainly pleased with what they saw last year, they should be over the moon excited with the early returns this season. Henderson has improved his batting line to .298/.450/.546 thanks in large part to improved plate discipline. With only 31 strikeouts on the year in 43 games, Henderson is striking out in just over 16% of his plate appearances compared to over 30% the previous season. Furthermore, he has walked in 21.1% (40 times) of his plate appearances way up from 12.9% last season.
Finally, Henderson is showing even more pop with 7 home runs and 10 more doubles and more speed with 2 triples and 12 stolen bases in 13 attempts already this season.
While he still has a ways to go before joining his 2019 draft mate, the combination of speed and power makes Gunnar Henderson one of the most intriguing youngsters in baseball. Now, Gunnar will take his talents to Triple-A. Hopefully, the next stop will be Baltimore!