CLEVELAND — With rosters expanding in just a few days as the calendar flips to September, the Orioles are making a move to potentially add two of their top prospects to the team.
Infielder Gunnar Henderson and left-hander DL Hall are flying to Cleveland to join the Orioles’ taxi squad on Wednesday, a source with direct knowledge of the situation told The Baltimore Sun. Henderson and Hall will be eligible to be added to the active roster Thursday, when it expands to 28 players to allow for an additional pitcher and position player.
If Henderson is officially called up, Baltimore will be adding baseball’s top prospect. Former No. 1 prospect Adley Rutschman was called up to the majors May 21 and has since become one of the top catchers in the game and an American League Rookie of the Year candidate. Now it appears Henderson’s turn will arrive shortly after replacing Rutschman as Baseball America’s top prospect.
Henderson and Rutschman were Baltimore’s first two draft picks under executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias, with Rutschman taken first overall in 2019 and Henderson going in the second round of the same draft. Baltimore’s third pick in 2019, outfielder Kyle Stowers, had his contract selected earlier this month.
Henderson, 21, has undergone a rapid rise through the minor leagues this season, representing the Orioles in the MLB All-Star Futures Game. Between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk this year, Henderson has posted a .297 batting average and .947 OPS with 19 home runs, 79 walks and 116 strikeouts. However, his strikeout rate with the Tides has risen to 26.9%.
“It’s kind of a tough thing to be too critical about with him because he’s doing so well at his age and being by far the youngest player in Triple-A and not starting the year in Triple-A, that I don’t want to nitpick aspects of his performance from that,” Elias said last week. “What he’s doing in Triple-A right now bodes very, very well for his future.”
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Henderson has primarily split his time between third base and shortstop, but the Selma, Alabama, native has also played second base and first base of late as a way to increase his versatility. His potential call-up comes at the right time for Baltimore, with a postseason push in September coinciding with a scuffling offense.
“He’s a guy that can play shortstop, and he’s a guy that can really play third base,” Elias said. “And obviously, I think his long-term career over the next 10 or 15 years, it’s going to be on the left side of the infield, but with the way that this team is presently composed, with us having a right-handed-hitting first baseman [in Ryan Mountcastle], there’s just a lot of things that in the very, very short term, I think would benefit him and us if he’s able to play a little bit on the right side of the infield, so we’re giving him that footage as quickly as possible.”
Hall, the No. 3 prospect in the Orioles’ pipeline, has already made his major league debut. He pitched 3 2/3 innings against the Tampa Bay Rays earlier this month, allowing five runs on five hits. He then returned to the minors to develop as a reliever to use in the stretch run of the campaign.
In three appearances coming out of the bullpen in the minors, Hall has struck out 10 of the 24 batters he’s faced but also walked four and allowed three runs in 5 1/3 innings. His second appearance was the most impressive, as he struck out four batters without allowing a base runner in two innings.
Entering Tuesday, the Orioles bullpen has pitched 496 innings, the eighth most in the majors. Adding Hall could give manager Brandon Hyde another arm to alleviate some of the strain on his back-end options, such as left-hander Cionel Pérez and right-hander Félix Bautista.
As Baltimore (67-61) prepares for a run toward the postseason sitting three games back of a wild-card spot, the potential additions of Hall and Henderson could offer a major boost.
Baltimore Sun reporter Nathan Ruiz contributed to this article.