Gunnar Henderson Starts Hot
Shortstop Gunnar Henderson strolled to the plate for his first at-bat with a full-season affiliate and launched a ball 404 feet to the opposite field for a home run.
The Orioles already knew about the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Henderson's power. That was but one of the tools that prompted them to select the lefthanded hitter in the second round of the 2019 draft out of Morgan Academy in Selma, Ala.
They just wanted to see how quickly he’d adapt to a higher level of competition.
The response came in loud and clear.
Henderson had not stopped hitting with Low-A Delmarva. He was honored as the Low-A East player of the week for May 10-16. He helped fuel a six-game sweep of Fredericksburg by going 10-for-23 (.435) with four doubles, one home run, 13 RBIs and seven runs scored.
Three doubles in one game tied the Shorebirds franchise record set by current White Sox rookie Yermin Mercedes in 2016.
“Gunnar’s off to a nice start,” Orioles farm director Matt Blood said. “He’s highly competitive and plays with energy every night. His defense at shortstop has been impressive, displaying athleticism and a plus arm. And at the plate he’s shown opposite-field power and is taking his walks.”
The Orioles signed Henderson for $2.3 million as the first pick of the second round, more than $500,000 above slot value. Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias scouted Henderson about 30 times while serving as Astros scouting director.
The 19-year-old Henderson had a commitment to Auburn but chose to begin his professional career. So far it had unfolded exactly as the Orioles imagined.
Through his first 15 games Henderson hit .339/.417/.661 with five doubles, five home runs, 25 RBIs and nine walks.
“He’s a really good athlete,” Elias said. “He was an all-state basketball player in Alabama. He runs well, he can throw and he’s got some power and he’s a lefthanded hitter. The ceiling’s really high here.”
— Triple-A Norfolk outfielder Yusniel Diaz was placed on the seven-day injured list with a strained right hip/quadriceps muscle. Diaz sustained the injury May 9 while running to second base on an RBI double.
— Norfolk second baseman Jahmai Jones went on the injured list with a strained left oblique. The Orioles acquired Jones from the Angels in the Alex Cobb trade and he appeared in six games with the Tides before the injury.