Gunnar Henderson named Most Valuable Oriole

Gunnar Henderson graduated from being baseball’s top prospect and is favored to win the Rookie of the Year award in the American League.

He’ll prep for that honor by walking onto the Camden Yards field before tonight’s game and receiving his Most Valuable Oriole award.

Keep ‘em coming.

Media covering the club selected Henderson first on a three-player ballot. The 22-year-old infielder is batting .257/.326/.492 in 148 games with 28 doubles, nine triples, 28 home runs and 82 RBIs. Baseball-reference gives him a team-leading 6.1 Wins Above Replacement (WAR), the highest in Orioles history for a rookie.

The 28 homers are tied with Anthony Santander for first. His nine triples are six more than Cedric Mullins and Ramón Urías have totaled. He’s second in RBIs and tied for second with 55 walks. He’s first in slugging and OPS (.818) and tied for second in OBP.

Henderson has made 68 starts at third base and 62 at shortstop, his natural position, and Fangraphs calculates his defensive runs saved at four and nine, respectively, and his ultimate zone rating at 5.4 and 7.2. His 13 total defensive runs saved lead the team, according to Sports Info Solutions.

“He’s a special player,” said catcher James McCann. “Obviously, the talent. That’s easy to see and talk about. But he runs hard every time he puts the ball into play. He expects perfection out of himself. So much so, there’s times where you’ve got to talk him off the ledge a little bit. Remind him how good of a year he’s having. That an 0-for-3, 0-for-4, he’s going to be all right.

“I think just the way he plays the game, how hard he plays the game. And he does the little things right. That, to me, is the best part about him. Obviously, the talent, and he’s hands-down Rookie of the Year. There’s not even another person I’d vote for.”

Henderson got off to a slow start, batting .189/.348/.311 in the season’s first month and .213/.315/.425 in May before taking off.

Going into last night, Henderson led all rookies in home runs and with a 6.1 bWAR and 65 extra-base hits, and was first in the American League with a 4.7 fWAR, 99 runs scored, 272 total bases and 10 game-winning RBIs, and in triples, RBIs and slugging.

The 99 runs are the most in Orioles history for a rookie, and he’s only the third to record 25-plus doubles and home runs. He’s tied with Cal Ripken Jr. for second-most homers by a rookie behind Ryan Mountcastle’s 33 in 2021. His extra-base hits tie the Hall of Famer for first.

“I’ve only played with one other guy that would be comparable to him, and that’s Corey Seager, but he’s faster. So, it’s pretty impressive what he can do on a baseball field,” said reliever Danny Coulombe.

“And I don’t even think he’s even close to reaching the potential that he has. He’s a special player, and I think he’s going to be a special player in this league for a long time.”

Henderson is the first Orioles rookie with 20-plus doubles, five-plus triples, 20-plus home runs and 10-plus steals, and only the 20th in major league history.

“He’s very, very impressive,” said starter Kyle Bradish. “First came up last year toward the end of the year, had success really quick, and then kind of struggled a little bit at the beginning of this year. But he got back to the kind of player that he is. Just a hard-nosed player, a little bit of old school in him. Always hustling.”

The club doesn’t announce second-and third-place finishers, but other players receiving votes were Santander, Bradish, Adley Rutschman, Félix Bautista and Ryan O’Hearn.

Rutschman was chosen Most Valuable Oriole last year, after Cedric Mullins in 2021 and Santander in 2020. Trey Mancini won it in 2019, in Brandon Hyde’s first season as manager.

Adam Jones was the last repeat winner in 2011-12. He earned the award again in 2018.

Henderson is the fourth rookie to earn MVO since the award’s inception in 1954, after Gregg Olson in 1989, Rodrigo López in 2002 and Rutschman in 2022.

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