Could 19-year-old Gunnar Henderson be ready to move up already and take that spot? Would his low Single-A Delmarva Shorebirds teammate Jordan Westburg join him, or does the 22-year-old drafted out of Mississippi State move up first?
Good questions, and while just one of this pair could soon be moving up to Aberdeen for the beginning of the next series of games on Tuesday, both could go. That would not be a big surprise, in that the Orioles love how this pair have played together and pushed each other with Delmarva. The organization may just move them up together to join Adam Hall and others in a talented infield for the IronBirds.
On Friday, on the 105.7 FM The Fan morning show, O’s executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias talked about Henderson’s strong start. He was the No. 42 overall pick in the 2019 out of an Alabama high school.
“He has a lot of power,” Elias said. “You know, it’s hard to get too excited about when a player is only in A ball. But when they are 19 years old and they were a high pick and we’ve gotten to know him as much as we have since drafting him in 2019, he really has a very high potential. And to see him come out this season after last season being lost, go into full-season A ball and start off the month of May here as one of the best players in the entire league and do what he’s doing as a shortstop/third baseman, it’s great.
“It’s exactly what we need. Some players like this with some star potential moving up through the system. Especially infielders. And it gives us a lot of hope, especially right now when we are going through a rough patch up top, to see our players in the minors do well.”
Henderson’s first five home runs for Delmarva were to the opposite field, left and left-center for this left-handed batter. He hit No. 6 as a pull homer. Scouts have said for years that a player that can hit homers to the opposite field has legit power throughout the ballpark. At an early age, Henderson has been showing that.
In a recent conversation, Delmarva batting coach Patrick Jones discussed Henderson’s extra-base and homer power to left and left-center.
“I think over time he will gradually start to pull the ball more,” said Jones. “In spring training he hit a couple of pull-side home runs. That definitely will come over time. I think it’s important to celebrate the success he’s had and who he is and not try to change him right now. We don’t want him to get pull-happy. I just think gradually over time he will just naturally start to pull the ball more in the game. He does do it in batting practice, so it will eventually come around in the game. I just don’t think it’s something that should be forced upon him.
“He has a very good approach at the plate. He really understands who he is as a hitter. I think if he went up and told himself to go up there and try to pull the ball in the game, he would get into some bad habits mechanically. So right now he is sticking to his approach that has gotten him to where he is. Man, it’s very impressive and fun to watch.
“He definitely has legit power. Just watching him every single day, in batting practice, the games and spring training, the power is real. I’m excited about him because, yeah, he has power, but I think he’s going to hit (for average too). I think he’s going to walk, because he’s a complete hitter. He’s moreso a hitter first, with the power coming over time. He’s a hitter first, which is what you want.”
Westburg is batting .358/.483/.582/1.065 with four doubles, a triple, three homers and 20 RBIs. He ranks third in the league in OPS and tied for fourth in RBIs.
One of these infielders could be headed for Aberdeen, but there also seems to be a chance that the Orioles send both up to high Single-A ball.
Right-hander Grayson Rodriguez, recently promoted to Double-A Bowie, is likely to make his first start for Bowie next Wednesday at Hartford. Rodriguez went 3-0 with a 1.54 ERA in five starts for Aberdeen.
Hyde’s postgame comments: After his team’s losing streak reached 12 games with two losses in Chicago Saturday, Orioles manager Brandon Hyde had a few interesting takes, which sounded brutally honest, about his club.
“This is hard, there’s no doubt about it,” said Hyde. “This is very, very challenging, this is very difficult, it’s frustrating, embarrassing at times. We want to be able to compete in the big leagues. And we’re finding out about our guys. That’s the bottom line. We have some guys that we wanted to look at this year and we’re finding out about them from an evaluation standpoint. That’s good. But you want to put a competitive product on the field, and when we’re facing good clubs that are built to win with starting pitching that is good, we have a tough time scoring runs.”
Hyde went on to say, “We look overmatched at times. For me, we have a really tough time with good starting pitching, and we’ve got to get better offensively. We’ve got to get better up here and this is going to take a little while.”
After going 25-35 in the shortened 2020 season, the Orioles went 15-16 this year through the first 31 games. That is a record of 40-51 over 91 games, a win percentage of .440, which would add up to 71-91 over a 162-game season.
But since that 15-16 start this year, the Orioles are now 2-19 the last 21 games. That is a win percentage of .095. That would equate to 15-147 over 162 games.