The Orioles once again have baseball’s No. 1 prospect.
Gunnar Henderson is atop Baseball America’s latest list of the game’s top 100 prospects, with the Triple-A Norfolk infielder occupying that spot not long after Orioles catcher Adley Rutschman, who has since graduated from prospect status. Five other Orioles minor leaguers made the rankings, with right-hander Grayson Rodriguez the best pitcher on the list at No. 4.
Henderson, 21, was Baltimore’s second-round draft pick in 2019, the same year the Orioles took Rutschman with the draft’s first overall pick. This season, he’s dominated in the upper minors, batting .304 with a .985 OPS between Double-A Bowie and Norfolk, hitting 17 home runs and stealing 16 bases. The performance has allowed him to sprint to the peak of the list, having begun the year ranked 57th. In the span of about a week, Henderson hit for the cycle, celebrated his 21st birthday and represented Baltimore in the All-Star Futures Game.
Now, he represents the organization as its and baseball’s top prospect. Rodriguez, nursing a Grade 2 right lat muscle strain that could delay his major league debut until next season, is not far behind. The 22-year-old earned his status as the game’s top pitching prospect by posting a 2.09 ERA and striking out 80 batters over 56 innings with Norfolk before his injury. He was Baltimore’s first-round pick in 2018.
Jackson Holliday, the 2022 first overall pick, ranked third both among Orioles’ prospects and this year’s draftees at No. 41; Druw Jones, Arizona’s second overall selection, is ranked 21st, with Holliday one spot behind Brooks Lee, who Minnesota took with the eighth pick. The 18-year-old has yet to make his professional debut in the Florida Complex League.
DL Hall is listed at No. 61, the fourth-best left-handed pitching prospect. On Sunday, Hall, 23, bounced back from recent tough outings by striking out eight in 5 1/3 innings. In his first four starts of July, the 2017 first-rounder allowed only one earned run in 20 2/3 innings while striking out half of the batters he faced before he allowed more than twice as many runs as innings he pitched over his next three starts. Hall’s electric stuff and mercurial command has resulted in an up-and-down season and a 4.76 ERA for the Tides.
Narrowly making the cut at No. 97 and No. 98, respectively, are Bowie outfielder Colton Cowser and Norfolk infielder Jordan Westburg. Cowser, last year’s fifth overall draftee, got off to a relatively slow start at High-A Aberdeen but has dominated since a move to Double-A, as the 22-year-old is hitting .355 with a 1.122 OPS for the Baysox. Westburg, 23, was taken 30th overall in 2020. He slugged .702 for Norfolk in June after a promotion but cooled significantly in July.
These six prospects account for the top of a farm system considered one of the sport’s best, one that has prompted executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias — who drafted four of the six — to declare “it’s liftoff from here” for the Orioles’ rebuild.