Bob Costas: Only 3 MLB Players Better Than Orioles SS Gunnar Henderson

Gunnar Henderson

Getty Gunnar Henderson throwing to first base in a May 21 game against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Few players are having a better 2024 than Baltimore Orioles‘ shortstop Gunnar Henderson. And even fewer players are better than the 22-year-old, according to sportscaster Bob Costas.

He offered his list of top-5 players in MLB on a May 23 episode of “MLB Now” on MLB Network. He listed Henderson fourth, behind Shoehei Ohtani, Mookie Betts, and Juan Soto.

“Ordinarily, I would be reluctant to go with a guy who has fewer than 1,000 major-league at-bats,” Costas said. “But Gunnar Henderson is on another level right now. There’s a lot of good young shortstops in the game, Henderson is above all of them at the moment.”

Henderson, with only 965 plate appearances under his MLB belt, is slashing .266/.351/.592 with a .943 OPS in 2024.

The Orioles’ shortstop is in a back and forth race with Kyle Tucker of the Houston Astros for the league lead in home runs.

Henderson is up to 16 with 35 RBIs to match, putting him on pace to hit 55 at a 162-game pace. That would break Baltimore’s single-season home run record of 53, set by Chris Davis in 2013.

Hyde: ‘I’m Running Out of Adjectives’

Arguably no one other than Henderson himself could have predicted the shortstop being so good, so fast.

According to Stathead, he’s one of 27 players in MLB history to hit 45 or more home runs in 1,000 or less plate appearances over their first three seasons.

Henderson has 48 career home runs in his first 965.

Ahead of the game where he hit his 16th of 2024, even team skipper Brandon Hyde had to admit he’s speechless at times.

“I’m running out of adjectives honestly,” Hyde told MASN on May 20. “I need to start bringing a Thesaurus for any interview about Gunnar. It’s unbelievable what he’s doing and how good he is. In every single way. There is not one thing he is not good at and he’s 22 years old. Incredible season so far.”

It’s not an adjective, but Henderson being top-5 on any list is high praise for the 22-year-old.

But even behind the season he’s having, an All-Star nod may not be guaranteed.

Rosenthal: AL Shortstop Will be Henderson or Witt Jr.

While it may seem to fans, and Costas for that matter, that Henderson is the best shortstop in the American League, Ken Rosenthal thinks his place as starting shortstop in the All-Star game is an uncertain one.

Bobby Witt Jr. of the Kansas City Royals could be selected over him, according to Rosenthal, who broke down the debate in a recent article for The Athletic.

Witt’s case centers on his defense, and furthermore his experience.

“Witt rates higher in defense and baserunning,” Rosenthal wrote on May 21. “His 15 stolen bases in 20 attempts rank second in the AL. A year ago, he became the first player to hit 20 homers and steal 30 bases in each of his first two seasons. He also has more experience than Henderson, who in his first full campaign was voted 2023 AL Rookie of the Year.”

Witt was drafted by the Royals in 2019, and has 583 more career plate appearances than Henderson.

But there’s little debate about who brings more power hitting to the table.

“His (Henderson’s) 16 homers lead the major leagues,” Rosenthal continued. “And put him on pace to break the Orioles’ franchise record — 53 by Chris Davis. He strikes out at a higher rate than Witt (23.8 percent to 16.9) but has 11 more homers and an OPS nearly 100 points higher.”

Henderson’s performance in 2024 makes a strong case for a number of MLB accolades.

Which ones he’ll walk away with when all is said and done is uncertain, but the changing of the times in Baltimore is cemented.

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