Prospect Report: Gunnar Henderson Cracks First Spring Home Run

Image credit: Gunnar Henderson (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)

Canaan Smith-Njigba, OF, Pirates — Were it not for some bad injury luck last year, Smith-Njigba might have gotten a longer look in Pittsburgh and graduated from prospect consideration. Instead, the outfielder who hits the ball very hard will take a second crack in 2023 at establishing himself in the big leagues. On Monday, he went 3-for-4 with three singles and a run against the Red Sox. Smith-Njigba is now 11-for-34 this spring with a pair of home runs. 

Mason Englert, RHP, Tigers — Englert, whom Detroit plucked from the Rangers in the Rule 5 draft, has quietly had a solid spring. The 2018 fourth-rounder out of a Texas high school didn’t make his pro debut until 2021 thanks to injuries and the pandemic but made enough of an impression in 2022—when he struck out 136 in 118.2 innings between High-A and Double-A—to earn the Tigers’ Rule 5 pick. The righthander pitched three perfect innings on Monday with three strikeouts. For the spring, he’s allowed three runs and struck out 14 in a dozen innings. 

Gunnar Henderson, SS, Orioles — Wrist soreness has led to a slow spring for the game’s top prospect, but Henderson got on track in a big way on Monday, when he socked his first Grapefruit League home run. In total, he was 1-for-2 with the longball and a pair of walks, two runs scored and three RBIs. The homer, which came off of Connor Brogdon, produced an exit velocity of 99.8 mph and traveled an estimated 417 feet. 

AJ Smith-Shawver, RHP, Braves — The Braves’ system is thinned-out, but there are still a few gems lurking. Smith-Shawver—and his electric arsenal—is high on that list. The righthander, whom the Braves selected out of high school in Texas in the fourth round of the 2021 draft, boasts a pair of potentially double-plus pitches in his fastball and slider. Those two offerings complement a fringy changeup and spotty control. On Monday, Smith-Shawver made his Grapefruit League debut and struck out three in two scoreless innings. He walked two and allowed two hits as well. 

Josh Jung, 3B, Rangers — It’s been said many times, many ways, but when Josh Jung is on the field, Josh Jung hits. On Monday, Josh Jung was on the field. Thus, Josh Jung hit. Specifically, the third baseman went 3-for-3 with a pair of doubles in the Rangers’ tie with Cleveland. On the spring, Jung is 13-for-38 with five doubles, a triple and three home runs. 

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