During an interview Thursday on 105.7 FM the Fan in Baltimore, Orioles second-round draft pick Gunnar Henderson covered a lot of ground. He included his love for the sport, a belief he can stay at shortstop, his power swing and his current Auburn commitment.
With the No. 42 overall pick Monday night, the O’s selected the 17-year-old lefty batting prep shortstop from John T. Morgan Academy in Selma, Ala. Henderson was rated the No. 30 prospect in this draft class by Baseball America and No. 27 by MLBPipeline.com.
A two-sport standout, Henderson was named the Alabama Independent School Association boys basketball Player of the Year for 2018-19 after averaging 17 points and 11 rebounds per game for Morgan. On the diamond, he hit .559/.641/1.225 with 17 doubles, nine triples, 11 home runs, 69 runs, 75 RBIs, and 28 stolen bases in 32 games. He was the Alabama Player of the Year.
Expecting to be selected pretty high in the draft with such pre-draft rankings, Henderson had family and friends over his house on Monday night. Then they finally got the call they were hoping to get.
“My dad got the call that the Orioles were going to select me and I was just in shock and excited at the same time. I was just really blessed to be picked by a great organization,” said Henderson, who has a strong love for the game.
“Ever since I was growing up, baseball was my first love. I played basketball and football growing up, but baseball is my first sport and the one I’ve stuck with. My older brother played all sports growing up and we would practice together. My dad actually built a baseball field behind my house so we would go out there and practice,” he said.
Reminded that some scouting reports use Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager as a player he can be compared to, Henderson said he really likes that comp. He feels he can stay at short and not have to move to third base, and it must be flattering to be compared to the 2016 NL Rookie of the Year.
“That is kind of who I model my game after, Corey Seager. He was my favorite player growing up. It’s kind of a good comparison,” said Henderson.
Henderson added that his bat gained some pop this year.
“Kind of felt it this past summer. I’ve been in the weight room and I finally stopped growing. So I could grow into my body a bit more. During the season I felt like I could drive the ball farther into the gaps,” he said.
Baseball America said of Henderson: High upside both offensively and defensively. At the plate, Henderson has the potential for an average hit tool with current above-average power that could turn into plus power down the line. His body has improved this spring, as he’s grown into his 6-foot-3 frame with even more room to continue to add strength. Defensively, teams are still mixed in regards to Henderson’s future.
Henderson became an official high school graduate a few weeks ago. And now comes the business side of the draft and we find out if the Orioles can sign him. He might command a signing bonus over the slot amount of $1,771,100 for pick No. 42.
“I was deciding between Auburn and LSU, but Auburn was my one love for a college. It just felt the right decision to go there. I feel like God will work his way with my decision and he’ll provide a clear path for me and it will work it’s way out, which way he decides. I’ll work out and still go hit before whichever way I decide to go,” he said of choosing the Orioles or heading off to play in college.
Houston bound: For the third series in a row, the Orioles won the series-opening game but then lost the next two games. They beat Detroit to start a series, then scored two runs total in losing the next two. They scored nine runs in a series-opening win over the Giants but scoring a combined three runs in the final two games of that series. They scored 12 runs Tuesday at Texas before producing four runs the last two nights.
At 19-43 they are losing games and also players to injury. DJ Stewart went on the injured list before Thursday’s game and Dwight Smith Jr. could join him today after a collision with the outfield wall last night.
The Orioles play in Houston over the weekend. The O’s are now 0-11-1 in the past 12 series and still searching for their first series win since April 22-24.
Almost for Delmarva: The Single-A Delmarva Shorebirds beat Hagerstown 3-2 in 10 innings last night to improve to 45-14. With its fifth walk-off win, victory No. 45 assures the Shorebirds of their best-ever half-season in 23 years as a Baltimore Orioles affiliate. Delmarva’s magic number to clinch the first-half division title is down to five.
Ben Breazeale’s walk-off single ended the game as Delmarva improved to 16-4 in one-run games. Robbie Thorburn went 3-for-4 with a double and triple and Will Robertson hit a 422-foot solo home run. Starter Nick Vespi allowed one run over 6 2/3. His ERA is 1.85 over his past 24 1/3 innings with 29 strikeouts. Winning pitcher Tim Naughton threw two scoreless and has allowed one earned run over 17 innings since May 1.
The fantastic season for the Shorebirds continued last night. And now they appear days away from clinching their first playoff berth since 2005.