Gunnar Henderson on slow batting start, being the No. 1 prospect and more

SARASOTA, Fla. – Almost any major outlet that ranks the top 100 prospects in baseball has the Orioles' Gunnar Henderson topping their list at No. 1.

In fact, he tops the rankings for Baseball America,, ESPN, and Baseball Prospectus.

But it won't surprise anyone around the O’s minor leagues, or O’s fans that are getting to know the 21-year-old Henderson, that accolades won’t change him.

“I mean, it’s really humbling to hear that,” he said of No. 1 rankings. “Growing up, those are things you dream of, but to accomplish it is really cool. But it doesn’t mean anything until you go out there and do the work. That is what I’m going to do, and just looking forward to helping this team win.

“No, sir (accolades won’t change me). I feel that is just what my parents taught me: No matter what happens, good or bad, stay the same. Just know it could all change in an instant. Keeping a humble mindset.”

Henderson debuted in the majors last Aug. 31. In 34 games and 132 plate appearances he batted .259/.348/.440/.788 with an OPS+ of 123.

Then he went home last winter to work on continuing to hone his skills, even after establishing himself as an everyday big leaguer.

“Honestly, just honing in on every different angle of pitching," he said. "Strength-wise, just keep filling out my body. I’m still growing. Just trying to fill out my body and stay as healthy as I can for the long season ahead.

“It was awesome to have that experience (from last year) going into the offseason. Just took it and felt like I ran with it. Looking forward to continuing that this year and making a playoff push."

Henderson is batting just .095 (2-for-21) in spring games, and manager Brandon Hyde said yesterday he is very definitely not concerned about the young infielder.

“You know, I just think he’s honestly pressing a little bit,” Hyde said Tuesday morning at Ed Smith Stadium. “I didn’t see his game (Monday), I was at the other place, but I think he’s got a typical young person’s spring (going), honestly. I just want him to relax and play. He’s such a good player, he’s going to be fine. I think he is just having young-guy at-bats right now. He’s trying to get hits, and I’m not worried about it all.”

When I asked Henderson about his swing recently, he said he was working to get his timing down.

“Feels really good," he said. "Just working on a little bit of directional things right now. Body feels good. Getting ready to go."

Getting ready to make a run, perhaps, at an American League Rookie of the Year award while hoping to lead the Orioles back to the postseason.

“We know we can make the playoffs," Henderson said. "But we know there will be tough stretches too. Just need to limit that, and we will have each other’s backs."

Quick takes: I am heading back to cold Maryland today after a week at O's camp. It was enough time to have a few lasting impressions, and here they come at you, rapid-fire.

* Don't worry about Henderson. He is going to hit, and soon.

* The position-player, non-roster group has been impressive, and now we see if any of them can win a roster spot and/or how many the team will try to stash at Triple-A among players including Josh Lester, Ryan O'Hearn, Nomar Mazara and Lewin Díaz.

* The young prospects showed so well here, from Jackson Holliday to Heston Kjerstad and plenty of others. Handled themselves like pros while flashing big talent. Very excited for the future watching this group.

* Félix Bautista is sure to soon have some bumps in the road, but yesterday he looked in mid-season form.

* The O's truly added some vets that are clearly good clubhouse guys, and Kyle Gibson and Adam Frazier are two I had enjoyable interviews/long exchanges with.

* In the games I saw, I loved the way both Austin Hays and Ryan Mountcastle were swinging it.

* Still have the same starting five many probably had projected when camp started: in some order, Kyle Gibson, Cole Irvin, Dean Kremer, Kyle Bradish and Grayson Rodriguez. 

I came home with a bunch of interviews to work up for stories coming soon here, including some interviews with minor league players at Twin Lakes Park. Being at spring training can get one excited for the new season ahead, and two weeks from tomorrow it will be here.  

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