Henderson named '23 Most Valuable Oriole

22-year-old infielder becomes 4th rookie to win award and 2nd in a row, following Rutschman

September 30th, 2023

BALTIMORE -- For the second straight year, a Baltimore player has gone from MLB Pipeline’s No. 1 overall prospect to standout rookie to Most Valuable Oriole over the course of a season.

On Saturday, Gunnar Henderson was named the winner of the 2023 Louis M. Hatter Most Valuable Oriole Award, which is voted on by members of the local media who cover the team on a regular basis. The 22-year-old infielder followed in the footsteps of catcher Adley Rutschman, who received the honor as a rookie in ‘22.

Henderson is the fourth rookie to win the award, joining Rutschman and pitchers Gregg Olson (1989) and Rodrigo López (2002).

"The history of the O's, being able to be up there with all those guys like [Cal] Ripken, [Brooks] Robinson and the list goes on, it's really special," Henderson said. "To do it in the first year is really awesome as well."

Balloting for the award -- named after Hatter, a former Baltimore Sun writer who covered the team for 27 years -- was conducted earlier this week, with votes counted on a 5-3-1 point system. Also receiving votes were closer Félix Bautista, starter Kyle Bradish, first baseman/outfielder Ryan O’Hearn, Rutschman and outfielder Anthony Santander.

There were more deserving Most Valuable Oriole candidates this season than any year in recent memory, largely due to the team’s overall success. Baltimore, which clinched the American League East title on Thursday, has won 100 games for only the sixth time in team history (and the first since going 100-62 in 1980).

"This is what we're going to expect for years to come," Henderson said.

Henderson emerged as the clear MVO favorite in the second half, thanks to his offensive success and his above-average defense at two premier positions (shortstop and third base).

Although Henderson entered the year as baseball’s No. 1 prospect and the overwhelming AL Rookie of the Year favorite, his first full big league season didn’t get off to the best start. On May 12, he was slashing .170/.341/.310 with three homers and seven RBIs through 33 games.

The Orioles remained confident Henderson’s bat would get going, and their patience was rewarded. He heated up in June (a .320/.354/.640 slash line in 20 games) and has been a steady presence near the top of the order throughout the second half, during which he has slashed .267/.309/.526 with 17 doubles, six triples, 15 homers and 45 RBIs in 69 games.

Henderson’s 28 home runs this season are tied for Baltimore’s team lead (with Santander) and tied for the second most by a rookie in franchise history with Ripken (1982). Henderson also has a team-high .818 OPS and nine triples, the second most in the AL behind only Kansas City’s Bobby Witt Jr. (10).

Defensively, Henderson has routinely made impressive plays. Per FanGraphs, he has 13 defensive runs saved (nine at shortstop and four at third base), which ranks first on the Orioles.

“He loves to play, plays as hard as anybody,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “Power. Hit tool. Speed. Arm. He’s a good player.”

Henderson, a second-round pick of Baltimore in the 2019 MLB Draft, will likely receive another award after the season, as he’s the consensus AL Rookie of the Year front-runner. In future years, he could continue to get even better as he gains big league experience.

Hyde first realized that Henderson could develop into this type of special player during Spring Training in 2021, when his skill set caught the skipper’s eye.

“I thought at the time, ‘He’s got a chance to be really good,’” Hyde said. “I didn’t know it was going to happen this fast.”

Orioles announce organizational Minor League honors
Baltimore also revealed its 2023 award winners for player development and scouting on Saturday:

Brooks Robinson Minor League Player of the Year Award: INF Jackson Holliday
Jim Palmer Minor League Pitcher of the Year Award: RHP Chayce McDermott
Cal Ripken Sr. Player Development Award: Triple-A Norfolk manager Buck Britton
Jim Russo Scout of the Year Award: Dave Jennings

Holliday, MLB Pipeline's No. 1 overall prospect, played at four levels this year, going from Single-A Delmarva to High-A Aberdeen to Double-A Bowie to Triple-A Norfolk. Overall, the 19-year-old shortstop -- who was selected No. 1 overall in the 2022 MLB Draft -- slashed .323/.442/.499 with 30 doubles, nine triples, 12 homers and 75 RBIs in 125 total games in his first full professional season.

McDermott, the Orioles' No. 10 prospect, reached Triple-A for the first time this year. Over 26 games (22 starts) between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk, the 25-year-old right-hander had a 3.10 ERA and 152 strikeouts in 119 innings. McDermott was a fourth-round pick of the Astros in the 2021 MLB Draft and was dealt to Baltimore in the Trey Mancini trade on Aug. 1, 2022.

Jennings was the scout who signed Henderson and fellow rookie infielder Jordan Westburg.