Gunnar Henderson named Most Valuable Oriole in sensational rookie season: ‘That guy gives so much heart’

For the second straight yr, a rookie has been named the very best participant on the Orioles.

Gunnar Henderson, at simply 22 years previous, 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 relationship again to 1954. Now, Baltimore’s rebuild has paid off, as Henderson follows Adley Rutschman, who gained the award final yr, as rookie MVOs.

“The history of the O’s, being able to be up there with all those guys like Ripken, Robinson, the list goes on, it’s really special,” Henderson stated. “To do it in the first year is really awesome as well.”

The two former No. 1 general prospects profitable 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 very best group within the AL greater than 4 years after Baltimore used its first two draft picks in 2019 to pick out the school catcher and the highschool infielder.

“That was pretty awesome,” stated Dave Jennings, Henderson’s signing scout who additionally gained the Orioles’ Jim Russo Scout of the Year Award on Saturday. “Gunnar’s just been so exciting. Seeing him win that was just outstanding, no question.”

Earlier this season, it appeared the race for MVO could be a decent one, because the balanced Orioles emerged because of contributions from virtually each nook of their roster. Others to obtain a minimum of one top-three vote have been: Rutschman, nearer Félix Bautista, beginning pitcher Kyle Bradish, slugger Anthony Santander and first baseman Ryan O’Hearn.

“It’s a testament to our team and just how well we all play together and how well our lineup fits together,” Henderson stated in regards to the massive variety of viable candidates. “We go on the market, and it looks like it’s any person else each night time. To have the ability to have that, particularly going into the postseason, goes to be enormous for us.

However, as summer time started to offer technique to fall, it turned extra possible that Henderson was the 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 might 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 group. He’s tied with Santander for the group lead in homers with 28 and second to the switch-hitter in RBIs with 82.

He stated his capability to develop throughout his early struggles is why he was in a position to make it to the opposite aspect thriving.

“I had some success last year when I got called up, so I knew that I could do it,” he stated. “It was just a matter of when this year. It’s obviously not how you want to start the year like that, but everybody goes through it. … I was glad to be able to go through it and learn how to go through it.”

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 prime 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 instances turning singles into doubles and doubles into triples. He led the group 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 6.2 — the Orioles’ first six-win participant since Jonathan Schoop in 2017.

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

“I think Gunnar’s obviously a clear choice,” pitcher Tyler Wells stated. “I believe that there’s a variety of guys in right here which might be extraordinarily deserving. The motive I say ‘clear’ is due to the best way that he performs the sport. He is all out, and he by no means doesn’t play 100% each single day that he will get the chance. It doesn’t matter the state of affairs, doesn’t matter the circumstances of the sport, doesn’t matter how huge of a second or how small of a second — he’s all the time on the market to offer 110%. You see that within the discipline, you see that within the batter’s field, you see that working the bases.

“All around that guy gives so much heart to the team, and it’s a big reason why we’ve had our success this year.”

Henderson, who joins Gregg Olson (1989), Rodrigo López (2002) and Rutschman (2022) as rookies to win MVO, will possible 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 by May 12. He later re-established himself because the front-runner and is now a shoo-in to turn into the primary Oriole to win the award since Olson in 1989.

He might 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 a few of the largest 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 combination 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 accordance with Statcast monitoring knowledge, it was the farthest lengthy ball ever hit onto Eutaw Street.

June was nice, however the very best recreation of his profession (at the moment) got here in early July. Every week after turning 22, Henderson opened a recreation at Yankee Stadium 4-for-4 with two dwelling runs to steer the Orioles to a 14-1 win. With a success 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 very best recreation of his profession up to now — 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 in the course of the eighth inning in opposition to the Oakland Athletics on Aug. 18. After roping a double down the appropriate discipline line, he selected to dash to second for his fourth extra-base hit — two doubles, a triple and a house run — quite 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,” Brandon Hyde stated after that recreation. “And that’s the right way.”

Henderson stated it’s tough to wrap his head round his 2023 season of being the very best participant on a 100-win group. He additionally hopes this yr isn’t the final time that’s the case.

“I’m sure the day that we retire and we can look back at this season to see how rare it is will be really cool,” he stated. “Just kind of hard to put it into words because being our first year, this is what we’re going to expect for years to come.”