submitted by Jared Pinder
The O’s have a very intriguing farm system with a lot of talent at the top and solid depth as one continues looking down through the system.
Most people know the names at the top – the Adleys, DLs, and Graysons – but one player has been a very fast riser this year and has shown the potential to be a key cog in the rebuild.
That would be Gunnar Henderson, who is in his first season, having a breakout year. The former second-rounder out of the Alabama high school ranks tore it up for the Low-A Delmarva Shorebirds this year, batting .312/.369/.574, with eight home runs and 39 RBIs. He was also rocking a .944 OPS and has 11 doubles with a 149 wRC+. These numbers were so impressive he got the call to High-A Aberdeen, where he struggled for the first couple of weeks. He has looked a lot better, hitting three home runs since then.
The main point for me with Gunnar is his power. The man crushes baseballs and has such a pretty left-handed swing. He can make a ton of contact, and it is usually loud contact as well. This is reflected in his high slugging percentage and ISO, which was at .262 when he got called up, which is just ridiculous.
Another impressive thing is that Gunnar has an excellent approach at the plate to drive the ball in different directions. He had 35% of his batted balls into left field, and 24.0% of his batted balls have gone to center. He has an all fields approach when it comes to hitting, and this approach can play very well as he gets older. He also walks a decent amount with a nine percent walk rate this year. He does a lot of things well, and he has shown a lot of ability. He has a very advanced approach for his age at the plate and (I’m going to keep saying it) a lot of power.
However, he is not a perfect prospect and is still very raw in some areas. For one, he strikes out a decent amount, with a 29.3 percent strikeout rate in Low-A. While I expect this to get better as he gets more seasoned, it’s worth noting. The second thing is his less-than-stellar defense. Henderson has always been a question mark at shortstop, and he has shown to be pretty raw at the position this year. Again, I do believe both areas can get better as he matures, but he is still very raw on defense and does have a little bit of swing and miss concerns.
It is worth mentioning that Gunnar just turned 20 last month, so it is still impressive to look at what he is doing right now. What is crazy is that he should only get better, and if this is the worst, we see Henderson as a powerful yet very raw prospect. I think Orioles fans will take that.
The Orioles have shown confidence in him as he has earned his promotion and has looked better playing in High A as the weeks have gone on. Mike Elias & Co. view him as a building block and will continue working with him through his ups and downs. Gunnar is also facing pitchers who are much older than him due to the minor leagues going from five to four levels this year, and he still has held his own.
In conclusion, Gunnar Henderson is a young prospect that has flashed great power with an advanced, hit-to-all-fields approach while making a ton of hard contact but also showing his rawness in his strikeouts and his fielding at shortstop. I once thought that the ceiling for Gunnar this year was a top 100 prospect ranking in the low 90s. With this start, he has blown my expectations for him out of the water. If he keeps this up, I honestly expect him to climb higher in the rankings this year and potentially reach the top 50 of a top 100 this year.
Gunnar Henderson has all the talent to be great. With a bit more seasoning, I expect to see him join the elite ranks of prospects.