With the regular season coming to a close and the playoffs now in the LCS round, fewer and fewer players and fans are left with something to celebrate. The Orioles had an incredible regular season that came to a disappointing close in the ALDS but will still have plenty of opportunities to celebrate. Awards season is officially underway. Two Orioles rookies can lay claim as the first Orioles to be awarded this offseason.
On Tuesday, the 2023 MLB Pipeline All-Rookie team was announced, and it featured Orioles stars Gunnar Henderson and Yennier Cano on the first team. Both players were major factors in the Birds success this season and are well deserving of the recognition but entered the season with drastically different expectations. Henderson was entering as the number one prospect in baseball and the overwhelming favorite to win AL Rookie of the Year, and Cano began the season in the minors after having no success in limited action during the 2022 season.
Gunnar Henderson and Yennier Cano named to MLB Pipeline all-rookie team
What is left to be said about the season Gunnar Henderson had? Expectations were through the roof for the youngster coming into his first full season in the majors. Henderson finished the 2022 season in Baltimore and looked as if he could live up to his hype but got off to an ice cold start this season.
By the end of April some fans were even calling for him to be sent back to the minors to regain his confidence, but probable Manager of the Year Brandon Hyde had other plans. Hyde brought Henderson along slowly and used him in a platoon role early in the season playing Henderson almost exclusively against right handed pitchers. Then, in mid-May, things clicked for Henderson and the Gunn Show was officially open for business.
Henderson became a mainstay atop the O's lineup alongside Adley Rutschman whenever they faced a righty but also made himself too valuable to the team to take out of the lineup against lefties. He finished tied for the team lead with 28 homers, second on the team with 82 RBI's, and led the team with 100 runs scored. He was also third in baseball with nine triples.
Gunnar appeared in 84 games and made 68 starts at third base but makes the MLB Pipeline All-Rookie first team as the shortstop where he made 83 appearances and 64 starts. He was robbed of a chance to win a Gold Glove at the utility position, but he remains the favorite to win the Rookie of the Year.
Cano on the hand entered the season with no expectations and just the hope to get another chance in the major leagues. After coming to the Orioles as a throw in players in the trade that sent Jorge Lopez to the Minnesota Twins, Cano looked to rebound from a terrible first trip to the majors. In 13 appearances in 2022, Cano allowed 23 earned runs in only 18.0 innings, but he did also have 21 strikeouts. Cano said that he stopped using two different arm slots while pitching, and that change paid off.
Cano began the season with the Norfolk Tides where he did not allow a run in three appearances and picked up a save. He was called up early in the season to steady a struggling Orioles bullpen and never looked back. Cano was the best reliever in baseball during a perfect month of April where he made nine appearances pitching 11.0 innings allowing no hits or walks and converting both save opportunities he got.
He came back to earth in May but continued to be a very good and trusted reliever for the O's, staking claim to the setup man for Felix Bautista. Cano had even greater importance later in the season when Bautista went down with an injury, forcing Cano into the closers role where he continued to shine. Cano was one of four Orioles named to this year's all-star team which will hopefully be the first of many. He earned the only reliever position on the All-Rookie first team.
Even though these two rookies were at opposite ends of the spectrum at the start of the season, they finished the season as two of the brightest stars on one of baseball best teams. Congratulations to these two Orioles stars.