The Orioles have officially picked up the contract of a top prospect Gunnar Henderson. In corresponding moves, infielder Tyler Nevin was optioned to Triple-A and a right-hander Deny Reyes was appointed for a task.
There was widespread speculation that Henderson would receive his first MLB promotion when the rosters expanded on September 1, although by calling Henderson up to the big leagues today, the Orioles have now made the infielder eligible for inclusion on a postseason roster should Baltimore pursue theirs. a surprising season with a playoff spot.
A second-round pick by Baltimore in the 2019 draft, Henderson played in just 29 Rookie League games that season and then naturally didn’t play at all in 2020 due to the canceled minor league campaign. His first proper pro season saw Henderson play well enough to jump from A ball to Double-A in 2021, and it put him on the top 100 prospect radar entering the 2022 season.
Fast forward to August, and the 21-year-old is now the top prospect in the sport in the eyes of Baseball America, with MLB Pipeline ranking Henderson second and Fangraphs ranking him fifth. Over 503 combined plate appearances at the Double-A and Triple-A levels in 2022, Henderson hit .297/.416/.531 with 19 home runs, as well as 22 steals in 25 chances.
To go along with his power, speed and hitting tools, Henderson is also an accomplished fielder with a plus throwing arm. Drafted as a shortstop, Henderson looked good at the position, but he also saw a lot of time as a third baseman this season and also played a handful of games at first and second base. The Orioles have so many other promising young infielders (ie Jordan Westburg, Jackson Holliday) in the pipeline that the team is trying to be flexible in determining the ideal future position for any of these prospects, and Henderson’s usage could also hint at how the O’s will use him during the tight run of the 2022 season.
The left-handed hitting Henderson could spell anyone Ramon Urias, George Matthewor Ryan Mountcastle (all righty bats) at third, short or first base, and Henderson could also take playing time away from Rough Odor at second base. Henderson certainly isn’t called upon to sit on the bench, and he could quickly become a fixture if he performs well in his first look at Big League pitching.
Of course, it’s not a given that Henderson will get off to such a fast start, as countless top prospects have taken some time to get used to the bigs. In Henderson’s case, his high strikeout rate in the minors is something of a red flag, even though he reduced his swing and miss in 2022 compared to 2021. He also posted tremendous BABIP numbers in the minors, though the Henderson. velocity (and ability to beat out grounders) is certainly a factor in those BABIP totals beyond just batting wealth.
These are heady times for the Orioles, who emerged from years of rebuilding sluggishness to post a 67-61 record and enter contention for a wild-card spot. Adley Rutschman – an exception to that “top prospects usually take time to adjust” belief – has already become one of baseball’s best catchers, and other rookies like felix bautista, Dean Kremerand Kyle Bradish played enormous roles in the team’s success. Kyle Stowers and Terrin Vavra there are two more rookies making their MLB debuts in 2022, and Henderson is just one of several other top prospects waiting to emerge from Baltimore’s loaded farm system.
As recently noted Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic, Henderson will also continue to retain his rookie status for 2023 if he gets fewer than 13o at-bats, and thus the Orioles can still benefit from the Prospect Promotion Initiative included in the new collective bargaining agreement. This would put the O’s in line for a bonus pick if Henderson remains on the active roster for the entire 2023 season.
Reyes made his major league debut this season, posting a 2.35 ERA in 7 2/3 innings over three appearances. A starter for much of his seven-year pro career in the Red Sox and Orioles farm systems, Reyes hasn’t had much consistency at either the Double-A or Triple-A levels, and he has a 7.50 ERA over 42 innings with Baltimore. Triple-A affiliate this season.
Reyes allowed 10 home runs in those 42 frames, continuing a problem with the long ball that has now appeared over the last two seasons. Surrendering more home runs has erased any gains Reyes has made with his strikeout, and he has shown excellent control throughout his career, with a paltry 1.4 BB/9 over his 584 1/3 minor league innings.