Orioles minor league report: Top prospect Gunnar Henderson reaches important benchmark for potential call-up

Adley Rutschman’s preseason tricep pressure prevented the Orioles from capitalizing on a side of Major League Baseball’s new collective bargaining agreement. They’ve given themselves the chance to not let that cross them by with a second No. 1 general prospect.

Including Tuesday, there are 44 days left within the common season, that means if Baltimore had been to advertise prime prospect Gunnar Henderson at any level from now, he would finish the season with fewer than 45 days of main league service time — and sure fewer than 130 at-bats — and thus maintain onto his rookie eligibility by means of the offseason. The Orioles would then retain the possibility at what the brand new CBA phrases “Prospect Promotion Incentive” draft picks, ought to Henderson be included on subsequent season’s opening day roster, whereas additionally including him to this 12 months’s playoff race.

Henderson, a 21-year-old infielder, has hit .298 with a .958 OPS this 12 months between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk, now enjoying all 4 infield spots after the Tides deployed him at first and second twice every final week. Over the previous two seasons, he’s taken just one at-bat towards a pitcher youthful than him. In it, he homered. His 263 Triple-A plate appearances, during which he’s hit .289/.388/.520 with 11 residence runs, are 25 greater than Rutschman had with the Tides throughout 2021 and 2022 earlier than the Orioles referred to as him up in May.

Henderson’s recreation is just not with out warts. His strikeout price jumped along with his transfer to Triple-A, although it’s nonetheless an enchancment on his efficiency throughout three ranges in 2021. He had his struggles towards left-handers in Bowie, however he’s improved as he’s skilled extra left-on-left matchups with Norfolk. He’s unquestionably a participant who may gain advantage the Orioles, who’ve gotten little manufacturing from second and third base specifically, as they combat for a playoff spot over the subsequent six weeks.

And now, he may accomplish that with out leveraging potential future advantages. Henderson will go into subsequent season as a rookie, and if he makes Baltimore’s opening day roster, his prime prospect standing means the Orioles may earn further draft picks in coming years relying on how he performs in main award voting. Executive vp and basic supervisor Mike Elias’ affinity for draft picks is nicely established.

His first three in Baltimore had been used on Rutschman, the catcher whose arrival seemingly jump-started the Orioles’ playoff run; Henderson, who shortly succeeded Rutschman as the sport’s prime prospect; and Kyle Stowers, the power-hitting outfielder who had his contract chosen final week. With utility man Terrin Vavra reinstated from the paternity checklist Monday, 4 of the group’s prime younger hitters may share a lineup within the close to future ought to the Orioles select to advertise Henderson.

With a benchmark cleared, all that’s stopping them is themselves.

Each week, The Baltimore Sun will break down 5 of the highest performers within the Orioles’ prospect ranks and hand out some superlatives for individuals who didn’t make that minimize.

1. Double-A Bowie infielder Joey Ortiz

The Orioles’ 2019 draft didn’t finish with Stowers. In the fourth spherical, they took Ortiz, a shortstop out of New Mexico State. Known extra for his glove, he used 2020′s misplaced minor league season so as to add power, and it appeared to repay in 2021 earlier than a torn labrum in his left shoulder ended his season. He began this 12 months slowly upon his return however has been a pressure since July, hitting .361 with 11 residence runs and an OPS of 1.088 in his previous 41 video games. That consists of one other three residence runs this week, considered one of them a grand slam as he slugged .739. It’s straightforward to ascertain a promotion for Henderson sending Ortiz to Triple-A to complete the 12 months.

2. Triple-A Norfolk left-hander Drew Rom

Between graduations and dropouts, solely 4 of Baseball America’s prime 30 Orioles prospects predate Elias. With Rom’s promotion final week, all of them are at Triple-A. In his Norfolk debut, Rom allowed a run in 4 2/3 innings, working round eight base runners by tying his profession excessive of 9 strikeouts. Baltimore’s No. 18 prospect has a 4.24 ERA in his age-22 season with 110 strikeouts in 87 innings.

3. Low-A Delmarva outfielder Jud Fabian

When the Orioles traded relievers Cole Sulser and Tanner Scott to the Miami Marlins late in spring coaching, Elias referred to as the 67th general draft choose essentially the most “salient” a part of the return. In his first week with an Orioles full-season affiliate, Fabian, taken with that choice final month, had 9 hits in 21 at-bats for a .429 common, together with six doubles and a house run. The former Florida star additionally labored 5 walks whereas placing out solely twice, ending the week with a 1.396 OPS. Fellow 2022 draftees Dylan Beavers, the thirty third general choose, and 14th-round choice Adam Retzbach additionally posted an OPS of at the least .976 for the Shorebirds.

4. High-A Aberdeen right-hander Jean Pinto

Acquired earlier than the 2021 season from the Los Angeles Angels as half of the return for shortstop José Iglesias, Pinto was a breakout pitcher on the decrease ranges of the Orioles’ system a 12 months in the past. Although he hasn’t essentially matched that efficiency this season, there have been indicators that make him worthy of his backend prime 30 standing. The newest got here Thursday as he struck out 11 of the 18 batters he confronted over 5 innings of one-run ball. Some tough outings have spoiled his general numbers, however he’s allowed one earned run or fewer in all however three of his 17 appearances because the begin of May.

5. High-A Aberdeen right-hander Ignacio Feliz

The strikeout dominance Feliz flashed early within the season returned final week as he struck out 10 over 5 2/3 innings in a begin Tuesday, then added two extra punchouts in a two-inning save Sunday. Feliz trails solely Grayson Rodriguez, DL Hall (the group’s prime two pitching prospects) and Noah Denoyer in strikeout price amongst Orioles minor league pitchers with at the least 50 innings, whereas Hall is the one pitcher within the system with extra strikeouts.

The prime prospect not featured up to now

As hypothesis continues to encompass Henderson, it’s as soon as once more starting to construct for Rodriguez, the sport’s prime pitching prospect. In essentially the most important signal of progress as he works his method again from the Grade 2 right lat muscle strain that disrupted his dominant season at Norfolk, Rodriguez is scheduled to throw a bullpen session, stay batting observe and a simulated recreation over the course of this week whereas in Sarasota, Florida. Each step ahead looks like one other one nearer to the majors, although the Orioles will understandably be cautious with Rodriguez and his prized proper arm.

International acquisition of the week

After dominating at Delmarva by means of the primary two months of the season, outfielder Isaac Bellony has struggled to have the identical success at Aberdeen. But maybe this week was an indication that he’s starting to seek out his footing. He recorded 4 hits in 4 video games, matching his whole from his earlier 15 video games. Thursday, he tripled and homered in the identical recreation, flashing the ability set that allowed him to hit for the cycle in May whereas nonetheless with the Shorebirds.

The greatest former top-30 prospect of the week

Henderson has moved round Norfolk’s infield of late, however Cadyn Grenier has been doing all of it 12 months. When Henderson began a second straight recreation at second base Sunday, Grenier was his double-play associate, getting his first begin at shortstop since June 3. Since Henderson and Jordan Westburg had been promoted to Bowie in early June, the 25-year-old Grenier, drafted thirty seventh general in 2018, has performed the opposite three infield spots and a few left area. Last week, he made an influence along with his bat, too, slugging .786 due to a pair of residence runs that doubled his whole for the season.

Time to provide some shine to …

Taken with the Orioles’ ultimate choose of final 12 months’s draft, outfielder Trendon Craig was an intriguing sufficient prospect who signed for a bonus of $250,000, the second-most of any Twentieth-round choose in that draft and Baltimore’s largest bonus in its class amongst gamers taken after the eighth spherical. After a sluggish begin to his first professional season, Craig has confirmed worthy of that curiosity. With a .368/.429/.474 slash line final week for Aberdeen, the 22-year-old is hitting .300 with a .394 on-base proportion because the begin of June between Delmarva and Aberdeen.

Short-season snippets

First general draft choose Jackson Holliday hit his first skilled residence run and drew eight walks whereas placing out as soon as to put up a batting line of .385/.591/.692 within the Florida Complex League. … Second baseman Aron Estrada’s breakout season within the Dominican Summer League continued as he doubled thrice amongst 4 hits in 9 at-bats, strolling 4 occasions to 2 strikeouts. The 17-year-old product of Venezuela is hitting .368 with a 1.053 OPS.

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