Milestones for Henderson: Hit for cycle, turn 21!

June 29th, 2022

Amazingly, wouldn't turn 21 until the clock struck midnight Wednesday morning. The Orioles’ ascendant No. 3 prospect chose to celebrate a night early, and by making some history.

Henderson became the first Norfolk Tides player since, well, before he was born, to hit for the cycle in Tuesday’s 8-2 win over Gwinnett. Henderson’s is the 9th cycle in Minor League Baseball this season and Triple-A Norfolk’s first in 22 years, since Timo Pérez accomplished the feat on June 9, 2000.

“This is pretty unreal,” Henderson said. “It really didn’t hit me in the moment. Just being able to sit down and take it all in, it’s pretty awesome. Just really special. I can’t thank God enough for that. It was a special night, especially this close to my birthday.”

Henderson needed only four at-bats to complete his cycle. He singled to right in the first, laced a two-run triple in the third, socked a solo homer in the fifth and doubled to the wall in right-center in the sixth.

Three of the left-handed-hitting-Henderson’s four hits came against left-handed pitching. He secured the single and triple against Braves No. 7 prospect Tucker Davidson, and tagged his sixth-inning double off lefty Thomas Burrows. This is notable success in a growth area for Henderson, who entered the year with only 151 career plate appearances against lefties in game action.

"In Double-A, it was kind of sporadic facing lefties, and we didn't really face them very consistently,” Henderson said. “Then last week, we faced six in a row. So I felt like that was a huge week for me to be able to find those cues. And towards the end of the week, I started hitting them a lot better. Even today, just going back to the cues that I figured out last week. I’d say I’m starting to swing it a lot better against lefties, starting to feel really comfortable from both sides.”

For the Orioles, it's just the latest challenge they’ve watched Henderson tackle head on and to quick success. The Orioles were higher on Henderson than most when they plucked him out of the Alabama prep ranks with the first pick of the second round in the 2019 Draft, then considered him one of their top performers at their alternate training site in 2020. He reached Double-A as a 20-year-old last summer and needed only 47 games at the level this year before earning a promotion to Triple-A in early June.

He’s found immediate success at Norfolk as one of the youngest players in Triple-A, hitting .329/.448/.629 with five homers, 15 RBI and 15-17 BB/SO ration in his first 19 games. All told, Henderson is hitting .317/.451./.590 with 13 homers, 50 RBIs in 65 games across Double- and Triple-A this season, with more walks (56) than strikeouts (55). He's the focal point of a star-studded lineup at Norfolk, thriving alongside Orioles No. 6 prospect Jordan Westburg (342 average, 1.051 OPS at Triple-A) and No. 8 Kyle Stowers (14 HR, .913 OPS) at a time when top prospect Adley Rutschman appears to be finding his footing in the Majors.

It's an exciting time in the Orioles' farm system, with so many top prospects either reaching or nearing the big leagues after years of development. Henderson is the baby of the bunch. And he might be the most talented.

“I feel like I expected and that I can do this,” Henderson said. “During alternate site training in 2020, I got to face these types of pitchers. Did that for a month and a half, two months, and I was able to have success there. So, I felt like all the work I put in this offseason really helped me prepare for this. I just felt like I was ready and put myself in the right positions.”

Have we mentioned he’s only 20?

Well, not anymore. But only barely.

“All around the dugout, people will kinda poke fun, just saying I'm 20 and not able to do some things with them,” he said. "I'm looking forward to spending my birthday with them at the field tomorrow."

Any other celebratory activities planned?

"Well, what other way then by playing baseball?" he said. "That's the beauty of it. Get to play tomorrow and see how it goes. So yeah, I'm looking forward to playing tomorrow as well."