Baltimore Orioles Player of the Month: Gunnar Henderson earns honors

Gunnar Henderson is showing why he's one of the best players in baseball
Apr 29, 2024; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; Baltimore Orioles shortstop Gunnar Henderson (2) runs the
Apr 29, 2024; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; Baltimore Orioles shortstop Gunnar Henderson (2) runs the / Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

In 1978, the Baltimore Orioles used their second-round pick to draft a big shortstop directly out of high school. He seemed too big to play shortstop at the time, so they tried to transition this particular kid to third base. He had a big enough arm to handle the hot corner, but he was just too good at shortstop to have him play anywhere else. In 1981, the O's gave this kid his first taste of major league baseball, and in 1982, he made the Opening Day roster. That season, he went on to win the American League Rookie of the Year, splitting his time in the field between shortstop and third base. The following season, that same kid played every game at shortstop, as he would for 12 straight years, won the AL MVP and led the Orioles to the World Series championship. I'm sure you've figured out by now that the previously mentioned "kid" was Cal Ripken Jr., who went on to become arguably the greatest shortstop of all time.

Fast forward 41 years to when the Birds used their second-round pick again to draft a big shortstop directly out of high school. Again, the O's saw the size and arm strength of this kid and gave him an opportunity at third base through the minors, but this particular kid was just too good at shortstop. In 2022, this kid got his first taste of Major League Baseball, and in 2023, he made the Opening Day roster. That season, he too went on to win the Rookie of the Year award. He is now the everyday starting shortstop, having played in every game so far this season, and is looking to continue the Ripken path by winning the MVP and leading the Orioles to a World Series championship.

Obviously, I am now talking about Gunnar Henderson who, through the first month of the season, has arguably been better than Ripken's start to his 1983 MVP season. Ripken didn't play his 29th game until mid-May but when you weigh the stats of both players through their first 29 games of the season, you can see just how well Henderson is performing compared to the MVP. 

Gunnar Henderson vs. Cal Ripken Jr. sophomore seasons for Orioles

Through the first 29 games in 1983, Ripken had 122 at-bats and accumulated 20 runs, 36 hits, nine doubles, five home runs, 19 RBI, and 12 walks while slashing .295/.356/.492. In Henderson's first 29 games of 2024, he posted 117 at-bats and compiled 25 runs, 34 hits, three doubles, three triples, 10 home runs, 24 RBI, eight walks and six steals while slashing .291/.356/.624. Hopefully, Henderson's numbers will continue to meet and exceed those that Ripken put up in that fateful season.

Henderson has helped lead the Orioles to a 19-10 record at the end of April, which is tied for the best record in the American League, and puts them only a half-game behind the Atlanta Braves for the best record in baseball.  He had an incredible first month to the season (March and April combined). Henderson leads the Orioles in seven offensive categories and is among the leaders in all of baseball in home runs (T-1st), RBI (T-6th), runs (T-7th), SLG (T-2nd), OPS (9th) and triples (T-3). 

And just a reminder that this kid is only 22 years old.

Henderson is immensely talented and has taken control of the shortstop position for an Orioles team that has had an unbelievable amount of competition at that position. He continues to compare to Ripken with his work ethic and hustle and has the ability to become the next face of baseball.