Written By: Matt Heckman
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Gunnar Henderson SS/3B | Norfolk Tides | 21-Years-Old | Bats: L | Throws: R | 6’2″ | 210 lbs | ETA:
Gunnar Henderson has taken the minor leagues by storm this year. At just 21-years-old, Baltimore has promoted Henderson to AAA. He has shown drastic improvements with his swing decisions and plate discipline that has vaulted him up prospect rankings. Henderson looks like he is on a fast track to the majors and should debut no later than 2023.
During the 2021 season, Gunnar Henderson struggled to make consistent contact after being promoted from Low-A. He was striking out well over 30% of the time. Henderson changed his approach at the plate in 2022. He started believing in his natural talent compared to trying to force things. In 47 games at AA, he walked more than he struck out and has continued his success in AAA. Henderson is unlikely to ever hit .300 in the big leagues, but he projects to be an above average hitter for a long time. I expect Henderson to settle in around a .260 hitter with excellent walk rates.
Henderson is built like a power hitting infielder. He stands at 6’2” weighing over 200 pounds. Scouts throughout the industry have never questioned the pop in his bat, it was just a matter of putting it all together. Early in his career, Henderson appeared to sell out for his power. This season, Henderson looks much more relaxed at the plate and the results are showing. Henderson is slugging .543 this season between AA and AAA. He has shown strong abilities to pull the ball and get it in the air which should translate well once he reaches the majors. Henderson has the talent to hit 30 home runs in the bigs and I expect him to do just that.
Henderson has sneaky speed for a player of his size. Stolen bases are up across AA because of the pitch clock, but Henderson has continued to steal in AAA. He is up to a total of 14 stolen bases on the year. As Henderson continues to fill into his size, I expect him to lose some of his speed. However, I think he will stay close to league average. Henderson could steal five to ten bases a season once he reaches the majors which is helpful in fantasy leagues.
Field: 50 | Arm:70
So far this season, Henderson has been splitting time evenly between third base and shortstop. I project that Henderson will end up as a third baseman long term. He does not have the range or build to stick at shortstop and the Orioles have holes at both positions. In a small sample size this season, Henderson has performed better at short than at third. One trait that Henderson possesses that will allow him to be a league average defender is his arm. He has a cannon at third base that rivals the best defenders in the big leagues now.
An important factor to keep in mind when assessing Henderson’s dynasty value is his defense. While this is usually irrelevant for fantasy purposes, his value as a shortstop is drastically different than his value as a third baseman. Henderson will likely retain shortstop eligibility through the 2024 season, but I am not sure how much longer he will have it after that. Even though the eventual transition to 3B only will hurt his fantasy value some, he still has the potential to be an elite contributor. His value is especially high in OBP leagues. Henderson has shown an elite ability to work walks and get on base even if his average struggles. There are not many prospects flying up my board faster than Henderson is, and he should be an elite fantasy asset for years to come!