It’s happening! Gunnar Henderson is here! The Orioles announced on Wednesday afternoon that the team has selected the contract of their top prospect from Triple-A Norfolk, making his promotion to the big league team official.
MASN’s Roch Kubatko had first reported on Tuesday night that Henderson, along with pitching prospect DL Hall, was headed to Cleveland to join the Orioles taxi squad. This was presumed to be in advance of activating Henderson tomorrow, when rosters expand by two to 28 players, but it seems the Orioles don’t see the point in waiting the extra day.
In the shuffle that brings Henderson onto the 40-man roster as well as the active MLB roster, Tyler Nevin was optioned back to Norfolk and pitcher Denyi Reyes, who appeared in three games for the Orioles earlier this year, was designated for assignment. The team announced that Henderson will be wearing #2.
With Henderson showing so much progress in his development with his minor league performance this season, and with obvious holes in the Orioles lineup from struggling infielders, the team did not wait any longer. It will be interesting to see if he gets one position regularly or whether the team ends up moving him around.
Henderson getting some reps at second base and first base in recent weeks seemed to be done with the goal of giving him some positional flexibility. He has been mostly playing shortstop and third base in the minors up until this.
None of Ramón Urías, Ryan Mountcastle, and Rougned Odor are exactly hitting since the All-Star break like they deserve to be playing every day. The Orioles have some choices for how they want to fit Henderson in there. Not that anyone asked me, but I’d just have him play third base, bounce Urías to second, and have Rougned Odor more often on the bench. Maybe they will bounce him around between third, second, and first on different days.
Over the last ten days or so, we’ve gotten comments from Mike Elias pointing out some slight flaws in Henderson’s Triple-A results. While Henderson batted .288/.390/.504 in 65 games there overall, that’s included a strikeout rate of 26.4% - even higher at 30.5% in the month of August. The lefty-batting Henderson has also posted just a .711 OPS against left-handed pitchers this season even while OPSing .946 overall.
It’s something to keep an eye on, but we now know these things aren’t going to keep the Orioles from having Henderson debut to try to help the team in the 2022 postseason picture. Elias probably knew the plan was to have Henderson arriving now even as he was making those observations.
One other notable angle about the timing of this promotion is that the Orioles have likely ensured that Henderson will retain his rookie eligibility into the 2023 season. If Henderson performs next year at something close to the level that we’re all now hoping he can based on his success at Triple-A at 21 years old, the Orioles will have themselves in position to gain an extra draft pick two years from now.
The Orioles social media team was prepared for this promotion with a hype video:
Adding another piece to the puzzle pic.twitter.com/e3we7xHemr— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) August 31, 2022
Over the last week, the Orioles are hitting just a .561 OPS. Over the last two weeks, it’s not much better at .644. The offense needs a jolt. Getting just one hit last night as they lost to the Guardians and fell three games back of a wild card spot, was not an isolated incident. Hopefully some people’s #1 prospect in all of baseball, Henderson, can help get things started again. I’m excited to see what happens next.