Orioles 2021 #6 Prospect Gunnar Henderson – SS/3B

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The 20-year old left-handed power swinging shortstop-third baseman made his way all the way to Bowie (AA) in his first full professional season and comes in as the #6 prospect.

Gunnar Henderson
Pos: Shortstop/ Third baseman
Bats: L
Throws: R
Age (as of Jun 30th) : 20
2021 Level: A-/A+/AA

Tools (current/future value)
Hit: 30/50
Game Power: 40/60
Raw Power: 55/65
Run: 50/45
Defense: 30/50

SeasonTeamLevelAgeHRBB%K%AVGOBPSLGOPSISOLD%GB%FB%wOBAwRC+
2019BALR1819.1%23.1%.259.331.370.701.11117.3%44.4%38.3%.338103
2021BALA2088.9%29.3%.312.369.574.944.26226.3%41.1%32.6%.417147
2021BALA+20913.8%30.1%.230.343.432.775.20218.1%38.1%43.9%.341109
2021BALAA20011.8%58.8%.200.294.267.561.0670.0%25.0%75.0%.26361

Most Likely Future Role: Starting 3rd Baseman
Ceiling: Starting shortstop, Occasional All-Star

What we know: Bringing a unique combination of athleticism and power, the 20-year Henderson started off 2021 dominating Low-A pitching. Putting up an impressive .417 wOBA and 147 wRC+, Henderson showed off his power collecting 20 extra base hits and a .262 ISO in 35 games over 157 PAs. His .404 BABIP though suggests he was a bit lucky and his 29.3% K rate and 8.9% BB rates were not great. Henderson showed the ability to hit for power to all fields and in fact, most of home runs in Delmarva went to left or left-center. His swing though can get long at times and he was beaten at times on the inside part of the plate.

Promoted to Aberdeen (A+) where he was the youngest player on the team, Henderson struggled in his first 11 games going 1-for-31 (.032) with 17 Ks, but he walked 12 times to get on base in 9 of those first 11 games. He then settled down and slashed .254/.344/.478/.823 with 26 extra base hits including 9 home runs in 241 PAs. Despite playing in a pitcher friendly park in Aberdeen, he eventually put up 109 wRC+ as one of the youngest players in the league.

He received a late season taste of Double-A where he struck out in 50% of his PAs (14 of 28) during the regular season but did hit a home run. He was one of the Baysox better players in the playoffs.

Overall, Henderson had a good year with the bat, showing an ability to make adjustments. He can be hard on himself (and umpires) in at bats, frequently showing frustrations on getting called out on strikes. He’s still learning the strike zone and developing a better plan at the plate, but he’s got the raw tools to become a plus major league hitter with more experience.

Defensively, he’s a work in progress who has the athleticism and arm to make outstanding plays at shortstop. Unfortunately, his hands are a bit stiff and his throwing can be inaccurate at times, particularly when he has to throw hard. He struggled at times throwing accurately during relay throws and he had some bad errors where balls just went under his glove on what should have been routine plays. At 6-foot-2, 210 pounds already, there’s a good chance that he’s going end up a too big to stay at shortstop where his range is average right now. At third base, Henderson’s athleticism really shines, but he just doesn’t have the experience at the position and made a lot of errors, particularly from errand throws. If his hands don’t soften up or the accuracy of his throws don’t improve, he still could have a chance to end up a Jonathan Schoop like second baseman.

What we don’t know: Besides the K rate that needs to improve and should improve with experience, Henderson struggled against lefties slashing .190/.295/.352/.647 with 16 BBs and 46 Ks in 122 PAs vs southpaws. That does mean he slashed an impressive .278/.365/.512/.877 against righties, but the poor numbers against left handers is a bit of a yellow flag, particularly the 37.7% K rate. Henderson can have a bit of a long upper cut swing at times and there is a some miss so he’ll need to prove he can hit upper velocity while adjusting to good offspeeed pitches with more mature pitchers.

While its more likely he will have to move from SS, this is not a situation like when the Orioles were playing Ryan Mountcastle at SS with no chance of playing there. If Henderson can improve his consistency he does have an outside chance of sticking at SS, but the Orioles would be smart to make a decision on what position they think he will play in order to give him the repetitions and experience at that position. This moving back and forth between SS and 3B really does not help his development in either position.

What we think: Henderson is a high ceiling player due to his raw tools and success against older competition. This was just his first full minor league season, and for him to reach and play well at times in Double-A is a great accomplishment. While he will have to improve his hitting against left-handers and settle into a position, Henderson has all the makings of a quality 1st Division regular at the major league level with a ceiling of being an All-Star player.

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Tony has owned and operated Orioles Hangout since 1996 and is well known for his knowledge of the Baltimore Orioles organization from top to bottom. He's a frequent guest on Baltimore-area sports radio stations and can be heard regularly on the 105.7 FM The Fan. His knowledge and contacts within the Orioles minor league system and the major league baseball scouting industry is unparalleled in the Baltimore media and is known as an expert on the Orioles prospects.