Gunnar Henderson could prove supremacy to Elly De Le Cruz in Orioles vs. Reds

Gunnar Henderson and Elly De La Cruz are two of the most exciting players in baseball.
Cincinnati Reds v Baltimore Orioles
Cincinnati Reds v Baltimore Orioles / Rob Carr/GettyImages

Baseball is America’s pastime, with roots dating all the way back to the 1840s. We are currently going through a youth movement that has brought in a large cast of exciting young players, threatening to create a new and distinct era in the game's illustrious history. Two of the game's fastest rising stars are about to go head to head in Cincinnati. 

The Baltimore Orioles will take on the Cincinnati Reds in a three-game series starting Friday. The Orioles are tied with the Cleveland Guardians for the best record in the American League at 20-11, while the Reds are currently 16-15 and sit third in the NL Central. Both of these teams have been developing future stars in their farm systems in recent years, and now those players will take center stage. 

The biggest name to explode onto the scene in Cincinnati is Elly De La Cruz. De La Cruz has gotten constant attention from baseball media, deservedly so, for the amazing things he’s done on a baseball field. The colossal home runs he hits with incredible exit velocity, his blazing speed on the bases, and cannon-like arm have all been on display this season. 

As exciting as De La Cruz was last year as a rookie, he’s been even better so far this season. De La Cruz is seeing the ball much better this year. His strikeout rate has gone down, his walk rate has significantly improved, and his barrel percentage has more than doubled from last season. De La Cruz’s improved hitting has led to him being on base more, which has helped the versatile infielder steal an MLB-leading 18 bases already this season. 

Can Orioles' Gunnar Henderson steal spotlight from Elly De La Cruz vs. Reds?

The only deficiency in De La Cruz’s games has been his inability to consistently hit left-handed pitching. The lefty-hitting Cruz is slashing .300/.395/.686 with seven of his eight home runs and a 1.081 OPS against righties, but only .243/.378/.378 with a .756 OPS against lefties. This has led the Reds to drop De La Cruz to the bottom of the lineup when facing southpaws. 

When De La Cruz made his MLB debut in 2023, he was baseball’s No. 1 overall prospect, a spot he claimed when the previous top prospect lost his prospect status. That, of course, was Gunnar Henderson. Henderson has gotten off to a torrid start to the season, and was recently named the AL Player of the Month for March/April

Henderson has been the offensive leader of a team that also had two different players win AL Player of the Week honors in April. His power and speed combination have been on full display this season. Henderson is tied for the major league lead with 10 homers, while also hitting three triples and going 6-6 in stolen bases. He’s a smart base runner who is as aggressive as any, and has a 100 rating from Baseball Savant in base running value.

For all the offensive firepower Henderson has put up this season, he’s been just as exciting to watch on defense. After being inexcusably left out of the Gold Glove voting last season, Henderson has flashed both the glove work and arm strength of an elite defender. He even turned a 6-3 double play while making a jump throw to first that can only be described as Ripken-esque

Henderson has been the shortstop and leadoff hitter for the Orioles in every game this season. He has certainly gotten attention from the media, but not to the level that De La Cruz has. With these teams meeting for a weekend series, Henderson will get his chance to show everyone watching to see what De La Cruz does next that he deserves just as much attention as the Reds' standout youngster -- if not more.

This is the second-ever series where these budding stars will face off against each other, with the Reds winning two of the three games last season. Since both Henderson and De La Cruz are just 22 years old, it is just the beginning of what could be one of the most exciting rivalries in baseball history, in line with Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams or Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays.