O's atop rankings with No. 1 prospect, 8 in Top 100

January 27th, 2023

Over the past two years, Gunnar Henderson quickly climbed each full-season level of the Orioles’ Minor League system. That culminated with the 2019 second-round Draft pick getting his first taste of the Majors during an impressive 34-game stint with the Orioles at the end of the ’22 season.

Now, Henderson is the clear front-runner for the American League Rookie of the Year Award in 2023. However, with the season still about two months away, the 21-year-old infielder has already earned a different prestigious honor.

Henderson is now the No. 1 overall prospect in baseball per MLB Pipeline, which released its updated Top 100 Prospects list during an MLB Network broadcast on Thursday night. He’s the second Baltimore player to hold that spot within the past year, as catcher Adley Rutschman was ranked No. 1 at the time of his arrival in the big leagues last May 21.

The Orioles have eight players on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospects list entering the 2023 season, the most of any team. The Dodgers and Guardians are tied for second with seven each.

Here are the O’s prospects ranked among the Top 100:

Henderson, Rodriguez, Holliday, Cowser, Westburg and Hall all remained on the list, holding spots from the end of the 2022 season. Kjerstad and Ortiz both had impressive years that pushed them into the Top 100.

Although some of these Baltimore prospects will still be in the Minors to open 2023, Henderson is considered a lock to make the Opening Day roster (assuming he stays healthy through Spring Training). He has the ability to play all around the infield, but it’s likely he’ll be the starting third baseman.

“A guy that can play both spots on the left side of the infield and do them extremely well,” manager Brandon Hyde said at the Winter Meetings last month. “Loved the way he played third base.”

Henderson can do pretty much everything well, though. He leads all third-base prospects in the power (65), running (55), arm (70) and fielding (55) tools, graded on the 20-80 scouting scale.

Last year, Henderson posted a .946 OPS in 112 games between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk, which led to him getting his first callup to the Majors on Aug. 31. He went on to slash .259/.348/.440 with four homers, seven doubles and 18 RBIs in his time with the O’s.

With that valuable experience under his belt, Henderson is preparing for the first Spring Training in which he’ll know he should be breaking camp with the big league team.

“Just working a little smarter, because I usually work really hard during the offseason. Sometimes I’ll spend way too long in the cage,” Henderson said in a recent appearance on MLB Network’s Hot Stove. “Just being a little bit smarter, because I know there’s a few more games in the Major League season and it’s a little bit more taxing from traveling every third or fourth day, rather than every sixth, seventh day in the Minor Leagues.”

Rodriguez and Hall should join Henderson on Baltimore’s 26-man roster in 2023, potentially even for Opening Day. Rodriguez, baseball’s No. 2 right-handed pitching prospect, likely would have made his Major League debut last year had he not missed three months due to a right lat strain.

Hall, the No. 4 left-handed pitching prospect, had a 5.93 ERA in 11 games (one start) for the O’s last season in his first taste of the big leagues.

During Spring Training, Rodriguez and Hall will both be in the rotation mix, with the former more likely to earn a spot among the Orioles’ starting five. Hall might end up in Baltimore’s bullpen, or he could return to Triple-A to work as a starter and wait for an opportunity.

The O’s strong representation on the Top 100 Prospects list earned them 398 Prospect Points (100 goes to the team with the No. 1 overall prospect, 99 to No. 2, etc.). It’s the most they’ve had since MLB Pipeline began ranking prospects in 2004, and the most any team has had since the Padres earned 408 in the ’21 midseason update.

Baltimore’s eight prospects on the Top 100 list are the most for a team in a preseason ranking since Tampa Bay also had eight representatives at the start of 2021.