Talk about achieving desired results. Let’s talk about still 20-year-old infielder Gunnar Henderson, a player that is at least three years younger than the average age in the Double-A Eastern League for the Bowie Baysox.
He told me in a preseason interview how he used foam baseballs to improve his plate discipline stats and cut down on his swings and misses. The early returns for him have been remarkable. He is striking out a lot less and walking a lot more. His OPS is well over .900.
He is looking every bit the top 100 prospect that he is.
Before the opening game this year he explained some improvements he was looking to make and how a foam baseball would help him do that.
“Some stuff I said to them (the coaches) that I wanted to work on is flattening out (my swing) just a touch to eliminate some of the miss and fouls balls in a sense that I know I should be hitting,” Henderson said then at Bowie’s Prince George’s Stadium. “One big thing for me was hitting foam balls off the machine that had good ride to them. Felt that was a really good help. It overexaggerates, but it helps. The second thing was just being a little more adjustable and not so stiff, letting my body do the work, so I kind of loosened up. Just relax everything, not trying to be a robot in a sense.
“I have natural loft in my swing, so just flatten out just a touch. And having more contact (ability) at the top of the zone.”
Henderson’s solid batting line in 2021: .258/.350/.476/.826
Henderson’s even better line in 2022: .304/.469/.489/.958
His walk rate at high Single-A Aberdeen last year was 13.8 and late in the year at Bowie it was 11.8. Now it is 23.8. That leads all O’s farm players. His strikeout rate in 2021 at Aberdeen was 30.1 and a whopping 58.8 in the small sample then at Bowie. Now it is 16.9.
And if a player with Henderson’s power potential starts doing less chasing and more zoning in on his pitch, the damage he can do can just increases.
Through Friday’s games, he had 31 walks to 22 strikeouts and that was the second-most walks among all minor league players in all leagues. He has a 1.41 walk-to-strikeout ratio. The only other O’s minor leaguer at 1.00 or better is Aberdeen outfielder John Rhodes at exactly 1.00.
“Gunnar is a fierce competitor on the field and in his practice,” O’s director of player development Matt Blood said. “He listens to the things the organization has said that matter and he’s taken them to heart. And he’s worked really, really hard on them. He’s got incredible aptitude and raw ability and is just taking advantage of every single day. I think we are seeing a young, athletic, high aptitude kid blossom. I love watching him play.”
The use of the foam balls, by the way, has been implemented up and down the O’s organization to help batters, including at the big league level.
Henderson is currently rated as MLB’s No. 58 prospect by Baseball America, No. 62 via MLBPipeline.com, No. 68 by FanGraphs.com, No. 73 via The Athletic and No. 96 on ESPN.
Baysox dealing with issues: The Baysox have been hit hard by what is a non-baseball injury issue. Several players are out right now, including several of their key pitchers, but should be returning over the next week or so. Players included in this group are pitchders Drew Rom, Zach Peek and Cam Bishop and infielder/outfielder Adam Hall.
What is that?: Several readers have asked the question about minor league rosters – What is the development list? Each organization must account for all of its players – as many as 180 – on a roster somewhere. They don’t have to be active on that roster or even physically with the team they may be listed with. So players are put on a “development” list. They are part of the organization just not currently active. Right now pitcher Matt Harvey is on Norfolk’s development list. It is not an indication either that he will later be on Norfolk’s roster but of course he could. It is just how they account for him right now as he is on a minor league contract.
Tough weekend so far in Detroit: Scoring two runs and no runs is not getting it done this weekend for the Orioles in Detroit. They have just 12 hits and have gone 1-for-14 with runners in scoring position in two games at Comerica Park. Detroit was 9-23 with nine losses in 10 games when this series began, but they could sweep it today.
The Orioles were starting to hit. But now over the last four games they have plated just six runs and gone 2-for-21 with RISP. In the six games before this stretch they scored 33 runs batting .300 (15-for-50) with RISP.
The Orioles have been swept twice this year previously and both by AL East teams on the road by the Rays and Yankees.
Starting Monday night the Orioles begin a week-long homestand within the divison against New York and Tampa Bay. Then they play a week-long road trip within the division at New York and Boston.