Gunnar Henderson named Most Valuable Oriole in sensational rookie season

For the second straight 12 months, a rookie has been named the perfect participant on the Orioles.

Gunnar Henderson, at simply 22 years outdated, was introduced because the Most Valuable Oriole on Saturday, as native media acknowledged the younger star who helped propel Baltimore atop the American League.

Before 2022, solely two rookies had been named MVO in Orioles historical past courting again to 1954. Now, Baltimore’s rebuild has paid off, as Henderson follows Adley Rutschman, who received the award final 12 months, as rookie MVOs.

The two former No. 1 general prospects successful the award is additional proof — if any was wanted — that the Orioles’ youth motion has arrived and is prospering. Rutschman and Henderson are the 2 greatest place gamers on the perfect workforce within the AL greater than 4 years after Baltimore used its first two draft picks to pick out the faculty catcher and the highschool infielder.

Earlier this season, it appeared the race for MVO can be a good one, because the balanced Orioles emerged because of contributions from nearly each nook of their roster. Others to obtain no less than one top-three vote had been: Rutschman, nearer Félix Bautista, beginning pitcher Kyle Bradish, slugger Anthony Santander and first baseman Ryan O’Hearn.

But as summer time gave technique to fall, it turned clear that Henderson was the probably selection.

Henderson, who debuted in August 2022 however maintained his rookie eligibility for 2023, overcame a sluggish first six weeks of the season and blossomed into the kind of participant the Orioles’ entrance workplace and training employees believed he may very well be. With two video games remaining within the common season, Henderson is slashing .257/.326/.492 — good for an .818 OPS that ranks second on the workforce. He’s tied with Santander for the workforce lead in homers with 28 and second to the switch-hitter in RBIs.

But Henderson’s worth goes far past the batter’s field.

He’s been a plus defender at each third base and shortstop, splitting his first full huge league season evenly between the 2 positions. He ranks within the high 25% of Statcast’s Outs Above Average metric, and his 9 defensive runs saved on the shortstop place ranks third within the AL.

He’s additionally been maybe the Orioles’ most aggressive base runner, at occasions turning singles into doubles and doubles into triples. He led the workforce with 9 triples (solely two MLB gamers have extra) and likewise stole 10 bases.

Put the entire package deal collectively, and Henderson’s wins above alternative on Baseball-Reference is 6.1 — the Orioles’ first six-win participant since Jonathan Schoop in 2017.

No different Oriole on the 2023 workforce has greater than 4.8 WAR.

Henderson, who joins Gregg Olson (1989), Rodrigo López (2002) and Rutschman (2022) as rookies to win MVO, will probably obtain extra {hardware} this fall. He opened the season as the favourite to win the AL Rookie of the Year Award, however his odds from Vegas sportsbooks dipped after he hit .170 via May 12. He later re-established himself because the front-runner and is now a shoo-in to develop into the primary Oriole to win the award since Olson in 1989.

He may additionally obtain AL Most Valuable Player votes.

Only eight gamers within the majors, 4 of whom play within the AL, have the next WAR than Henderson. That listing, one that features among the greatest stars within the sport, is: Los Angeles Angels two-way marvel Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Dodgers star Mookie Betts, Atlanta Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr., New York Yankees pitcher Gerrit Cole, Braves first baseman Matt Olson, Texas Rangers infielder Marcus Semien and Rangers shortstop Corey Seager.

While his worth within the mixture is spectacular, it’s the person moments that made Henderson the MVO.

In June, the month he broke out because the AL Player of the Month, he walloped his first dwelling run onto Eutaw Street. With a projected distance of 462 ft, in line with Statcast monitoring information, it was the farthest lengthy ball ever hit onto Eutaw Street.

June was nice, however the perfect recreation of his profession (at the moment) got here in early July. Per week after turning 22, Henderson opened a recreation at Yankee Stadium 4-for-4 with two dwelling runs to guide the Orioles to a 14-1 win. With successful in every of the sport’s first 4 frames and two homers, he turned simply the second main leaguer to take action since 1984.

He stored it rolling into August with the perfect recreation of his profession so far — one which sparked a pleasant debate amongst teammates and followers.

Henderson was a single away from recording the eighth cycle in Orioles historical past when he stepped to the plate through the eighth inning in opposition to the Oakland Athletics on Aug. 18. After roping a double down the proper subject line, he selected to dash to second for his fourth extra-base hit — two doubles, a triple and a house run — reasonably than stay at first for the cycle. He obtained playful jeers from teammates however reward from his supervisor.

“Gunnar plays the game at one speed, and that’s hard,” Hyde mentioned. “And that’s the right way.”

This story will likely be up to date.