While the Orioles wait to make official their decision to pick up the option on José Iglesias’ contract, the only potential glitch tied to finances, they’re in the developmental stages with a handful of shortstop prospects who could vie for the position.
Don’t bother checking out the fall instructional camp in Sarasota, Fla. because it’s closed to the public, but the group of 55 includes Baseball America No. 8 organizational prospect Gunnar Henderson, No. 10 Jordan Westburg, No. 15 Adam Hall, No. 20 Anthony Servideo and No. 30 Darell Hernaiz.
Cadyn Grenier, the 37th overall draft pick in 2018 out of Oregon State, didn’t make it, but Baseball America rates the glove-first shortstop as the No. 29 prospect in the system.
The Iglesias signing over the winter proved to be one of the finest in baseball, but the Orioles are hoping to reach a point soon where they won’t need a stopgap. Flood the position with young talent.
There’s a prevailing theory in baseball that you should draft plenty of shortstops because their athleticism allows them to move around the field.
Hall, for example, has made 43 starts at second base in two professional seasons since the Orioles chose him in the second round in 2017 out of A.B. Lucas Secondary School in Ontario. Paired with Hall at Single-A Delmarva, Grenier made 53 starts at shortstop and 26 at second base in 2019.
Vavra has started 81 games at shortstop and 56 at second base in two seasons after the Rockies chose him in the third round in 2018 out of the University of Minnesota.
Henderson started 21 games in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League as an 18-year-old in 2019. All of them at shortstop. But some talent evaluators believe he could shift to third base as he continues to fill out his 6-foot-3 frame and perhaps loses some range.
Examples are found over at BaseballSavant.com, which published scouting reports on Henderson from the past two years that included the following:
2019: “There’s still some debate as to where Henderson will wind up defensively. Those who think he can remain at shortstop believe he’s an underrated athlete with a quick first step and a plus arm. Others believe he’ll slow down as he fills out and necessitate a move to third base, where he’d still profile well offensively.”
2020: “The jury is still out on whether Henderson sticks at shortstop or will require a move to third base as his body continues to mature. He has a plus arm either way, and the glove and hands to play third base if necessary. Still, some believe he has the chops to remain at shortstop long-term, where his power would project even better.”
The Orioles are in no hurry to move him. They love his left-handed bat and his skills at short, including a 60 grade arm.
Henderson was able to work out and play in intrasquad games after the Orioles assigned him to the secondary site in Bowie on Aug. 7 and he’s gaining more experience and valuable reps at the Ed Smith Stadium complex.
“He’s an even better athlete than I thought,” director of player development Matt Blood said of Henderson, who slashed .259/.331/.370 with five doubles, two triples, a home run, 11 RBIs, 11 walks and 21 runs scored in 121 plate appearances in the GCL.
“He’s one of our better athletes in the system. He’s one of our fastest runners, he’s got more than enough arm strength. He’s going to stay at shortstop for a while. And unless somebody else moves him off ... we’re not going to move him off. At least not anytime soon.
“I mean, he’s been great at shortstop and he’s 19 years old, right? I don’t see any reason why he shouldn’t be left at shortstop for a while. But he can play everywhere. He can legitimately play six positions on the field if you wanted him to. Or he could play seven positions, really. He can play all the outfield spots and he can play all the infield spots if you wanted him to, but right now shortstop is the best spot.
“He’ll probably play between second, short and third. He’ll probably mix around those areas, but he’s such a good athlete, he could play just about anywhere.”