Orioles approaching Zero Hour with Gunnar Henderson
By Josh Linn
Orioles fans may only have to wait another 24 hours to find out if uber-prospect Gunnar Henderson will be accompanying the big league club for the remainder of the season. It is almost Zero Hour.
The calls requesting Henderson’s presence in Baltimore have consistently amplified as the consensus top-five prospect has feasted upon AAA pitching despite being nearly five and a half years younger than the average player at that level. Despite the age gap, Henderson’s .908 OPS is 20th highest of all hitters in the International League and his 11 home runs are 29th most among IL batters despite not joining Norfolk until June 8th. He’s even got a flair for the dramatic to boot.
It’d be a mistake not to show some love to Henderson’s glove as well, as he splits time between third base and shortstop for the Tides and has a combined .961 fielding percentage and 7 errors (5 at SS, 2 at 3B) to show for his efforts.
You may be asking yourself, “why is tomorrow Zero Hour?”…“why did Josh give his article a title that sounds like an upcoming Call of Duty expansion pack?”. To no surprise, it has quite a bit to do with Collective Bargaining Agreement jargon.
Promoting Gunnar Henderson on or after August 23rd would ensure that he retains rookie status into the 2023 season. This is crucial not just for service time purposes, but because of a new incentive for MLB organizations to get their top prospects to the big leagues dubbed the Prospect Promotion Incentive (PPI).
Players regarded as top-100 prospects by prominent scouting services with fewer than 60 days of service time who finish high enough in awards voting will net their team a draft pick that would fall after the first round. The club gets the benefit of that player’s production and the club are rewarded with a draft pick for their proactivity – a win/win! Henderson could still get called up between August 24-31 and be eligible for the postseason and a potential PPI pick but if Mike Elias and the front office deem Henderson ready, there’s very little rationale to wait past the 23rd.
Frantic refreshing will consume Orioles Twitter on Tuesday morning, and for good reason. Henderson could potentially provide a jolt to an offense that hasn’t been able to find constant stability over the past month outside of Adley Rutschman and Jorge Mateo. The introduction of his glove to the infield could spark a metamorphosis the way Manny Machado did when he replaced Mark Reynolds at the hot corner in 2012.
Henderson would almost assuredly play third base, which would move Ramon Urías back to second base and Rougned Odor to a bench role. Urías has been an above average defender at third this year but can also hold his own at second and would be a massive defensive upgrade over Odor, who ranks 35th out of 38 qualified second basemen in Outs Above Average. Odor’s bat would be better suited for a bench role and he would still be able to perform his duties as Orioles Minister of Vibes.
Gunnar Henderson could be just a day away from becoming a Baltimore Oriole. Get your Twitter fingers ready, Birdland, because Tuesday’s gonna be an emotional roller coaster. Zero Hour is upon us.