His stats have fallen off, but O’s remain bullish on Gunnar Henderson

When the Orioles made a host of minor league roster moves on Monday, one player that was staying put - and was expected to - is high Single-A Aberdeen infielder Gunnar Henderson.

Rated as the club’s No. 4 prospect by Baseball America and No. 84 in their top 100, he is No. 5 and No. 87 in the top 100 by MLBPipeline.com. He began this year at low Single-A Delmarva, where he tore it up as a 19-year-old posting a line of .312/.369/.574/.944.

But since moving to Aberdeen, where he turned 20 on June 29, he has not hit as well. But keep in mind that at Aberdeen, Henderson is about 3.5 years under the league average age. And he is not that far under the league average OPS.

So while he has gone 3-for-34 since Aug. 5, the Orioles are not concerned at all about Henderson, the No. 42 overall pick in round two of the 2019 draft. In fact they remain bullish on his talents and very excited about his future.

In 45 games with the IronBirds, Henderson is batting .200/.309/.358/.667 with nine doubles, a triple, five homers and 17 RBIs. It is a league where the average team OPS is in the low 700s and where just four qualifying batters are currently hitting .300 or better. As of Monday, if a player in that league with the number of at-bats to qualify for league leaders was hitting .262 or better, he would be the league top 20 for average.

The O’s brass surely puts much more stock in OPS than batting average. And again, they have no concerns about Henderson.

Henderson-Swings-White-Shorebirds-Sidebar.jpg“He is where he needs to be,” O’s director of player development Matt Blood told me. “He is being challenged appropriately where he is for a 20-year-old kid. He is not getting blown away. I was there recently. He is having good at-bats, but challenging at-bats, and he is going through normal struggles for a minor leaguer. And the fact he is in High-A doing it is wonderful.

“So I watched him recently and I’m excited when I watch him. He is learning pitches not to swing at, pitches to swing at. He’s getting in pressure situations and having to deal with those anxious feelings of late in the game, full count, there are runners on base (and) how do I control my emotions and make sure I swing at the right pitch?

“He’s going to mess that up some as a 20-year-old. But how much that is going to help him at 21, 22, 23 and just all those experiences compounding on themselves is fantastic.”

About that No. 2 ranking: The news Monday that the Orioles had moved up from No. 7 to No. 2 in the newest Baseball America organizational rankings was good news for Birdland. It came as the big league team was mired in an 11-game losing streak that got extended last night.

Winning on the farm and/or having a highly ranked farm doesn’t guarantee future success and wins in the majors. But sometimes, one does eventually lead to two, as Jonathan Mayo of MLBPipeline.com told me in an interview before the 2021 season when his outlet moved the Orioles up to No. 5 on their list.

“There is a very strong correlation between having a highly thought of farm system and eventually winning,” Mayo said then. “Not necessarily winning the whole thing - that’s a whole different conversation. But getting to the point where you’re competing and making the playoffs. Teams that have been in the upper part of rankings tend to do well.

“Houston, where Mike Elias came from. The Atlanta Braves recently. The Kansas City Royals several years ago turned the best farm system from around 2011 into a World Series team that won it all.”

Click here for more about the No. 2 ranking and more quotes yesterday from Blood on the minors.

But in the bigs, it has been rough: The Orioles’ losing streak reach a dozen games last night as they lost 9-2 at Tropicana Field. The Rays (72-47) took the opener of the four-game series by hitting five homers.

The O’s have been outscored 113-35 during their losing streak and they have been outscored 103-51 by Tampa Bay this year, as they’ve lost 12 of 13 in the season series.

Right-hander Matt Harvey threw scoreless ball for 18 1/3 innings in his first three starts out of the All-Star break. Now he’s allowed 10 runs in 13 2/3 over his past three games. He threw three scoreless innings on 41 pitches to begin his night Monday, but allowed five runs over 4 2/3 innings for the night.

“It’s obviously tough,” Harvey said. “No one wants to go out there and continue to lose. It’s tough. I’ve been on losing teams, but nothing like this, so it’s hard. We realize we have games left to play and it’s important how we finish, it’s important how we keep playing and do everything we can to try to win as many as you can.”

While the O’s team ERA is 9.62 during the losing streak, they have scored just seven runs in the four games on this road trip and just 17 runs over their past seven games.

Behind John Means (5-4, 3.21 ERA) tonight, they’ll try again to stop this latest losing streak.

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