Stone Cold Gunnar
Gunnar Henderson (BAL): 4-7, 2 HR, 3 R, 5 RBI.
I’m sure the Orioles are feeling very good about their 14-1 victory over the Yankees in Yankees stadium Thursday night. For years, they’ve been playing the role of little brother in the heavy-hitting AL East with the Yankees playing the role of oldest brother Buzz from Home Alone. Well, now Kevin is all grown up, has a BB gun, is and seemingly better than Buzz. The Yankees can still hold their own, and if some health breaks their way they are still in contention for a wildcard spot. But with how the Orioles look, with more talent on the way, the Chesapeake kids (just made that up, tag me when you use it) look like a team to beat in the American league. Now they just have to get past the Rays, who, if we are sticking with the Home Alone references, are that uncle that hates Kevin. Uncle Frank. Or maybe the Rays are Kevin’s parents because they forgot about him TWICE. Negligent.
One of those aforementioned Chesapeake kids is Gunnar Henderson. Thursday he was in the middle of the onslaught hitting 2 home runs, 2 singles, scoring 3 runs, and knocking in 5.
Heading into 2023 as the number 1 prospect in baseball in the eyes of mlb.com, Henderson started off pretty slow. He looked like he was still getting comfortable in April and May but since June, he has lived up to the hype hitting for more power (6 June home runs) and hitting for a high average (.320 in June). The slash line now sits at .246/.339/.465 good for an OPS of .804. Not bad for a 22-year-old in his first season of the bigs.
It feels like Gunnar is only going to get better. I expect to see the stolen base totals start to rise a bit as he gets more and more comfortable at the highest level. If he goes on a tear it’s not crazy to think he ends his rookie campaign with close to 30 home runs. We are witnessing a special talent begin to blossom. But wait there’s more! The Orioles just called up Colton Cowser and still have more talent on the way (put some respect on Coby Mayo’s name). The O’s appear to be playoff bound, and Gunnar will be a big piece as to why they get there.
Let’s see how the other hitters did Thursday
Francisco Lindor (NYM): 5-5, 2 3B, HR, 3 R, RBI.
Lindor was close to being the featured hitter going 5-5 with 2 triples, 3 runs, and an RBI. He was a double shy of the cycle for goodness sake! Gunnar eked it out because he put all of that production up before the 4th inning had ended. Which is fun. Also, this is just a stud doing stud stuff; this is Lindor. He’s on a Hall of Fame track already, and he doesn’t seem to be slowing down. The Mets must be happy that June is over cause June was, how should I put it? Mean to them. Lindor is the heartbeat of the Queens offense, if they can keep things rolling maybe they can pull themselves out of this weird season. Big Pete Alonso also had a solid game as well, 2-4 with a home run, 3 RBI, and 2 runs scored. The Mets have the talent to turn this around, and I don’t know why, but I’ve always liked Buck Showalter. Even though he went to Ubaldo instead of Zack Britton. If you know you know.
Eugenio Suárez (SEA): 3-4, 2B, 2 HR, 3 R, 3 RBI.
Many wrote off Suarez, including me, when he was moved to the Mariners. He had those two monster seasons in 2018 and 2019 but then sort of fell off. He’s actually been solid since the trade and has provided a great source of power in the middle of the Mariners lineup. He, like Gunnar, hit 2 home runs Thursday in a much-needed win over the Astros. Suarez is going to put up solid numbers on any fantasy team. He may not wow, and I don’t think we ever see 2018/2019 Suarez, but he is still more than productive.
Andrés Giménez (CLE): 2-3, HR, 3 R, RBI, BB, 3 SB.
Gimenez put up an insane season last year and going into the 2023 season many, including myself, were skeptical. He’s still putting up a solid season (2 bWAR), but fantasy-wise, he has been a bit of a disappointment. Thursday was a massive sign of light for fantasy owners with 3 steals, and a home run. More of this, please.
Cody Bellinger (CHC): 4-4, 2B, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.
Bellinger has looked better in 2023 and Thursday he put up a big game. He has one of the strangest stories in MLB history honestly, going from what looked like a top player in the league for years to come, to a player that could barely hit above the Mendoza line. Those early years were insane. I just looked at his 2017 and 2019 again and man, baseball was more fun when he was elite. There is clearly still life in the bat, and he always remained a great fielder. Let’s see if he can keep some offensive production going.
Freddie Freeman (LAD): 3-4, 2B, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, SB.
Once teammates in Los Angeles, Freddie Freeman has done the complete opposite of Bellinger with his career. Freeman seems to be getting better as his career goes on, and this year he is probably going to steal 20 bases. Who saw that coming? Raise your hand. If your hand is up I don’t believe you. Firmly in the “there isn’t much to say” category, Freeman is having one of his best years at the plate. I think he gets to 30 home runs for the fourth time in his career.
Christian Yelich (MIL): 1-3, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, BB, SB.
I’m sorry is it 2019? Bellinger, Freeman, and Yelich in a row, feels good. Feels right. Fun fact, the dynasty league I am in was drafted in 2013. Yelich is the only player remaining on my roster who I drafted. 2023 has been kind to Yelich, and it’s so great to see. One of the easiest stars to root for, it hurt watching him deal with lingering back issues the last few years. The back looks like it’s feeling good and he’s having the best season since his outrageous 2019 season.
Whit Merrifield (TOR): 2-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
Merrifield also falls in the “is this 2019?” category. It was really odd when the Blue Jays traded for Merrifield last year and then didn’t play him. It was easy to tell that it messed with his head cause he wasn’t the same. So far this year he has shown glimmers of prime Merrifield. He’s not the fantasy monster he once was, but he is getting on base at a good clip (.341) and the stolen bases are still there. Second base has become quite sparse, so Merrifield has value.
Ryan O’Hearn (BAL): 3-4, 2B, R, 4 RBI, BB.
O’Hearn has assimilated nicely into the Orioles lineup with Ryan Mountcastle landing on the IL. Everyone got in on the party Thursday night in Yankees stadium, except the Yankees, but the main mashers were Henderson and O’Hearn. Mountcastle just started his rehab assignment so I’m not sure how long O’Hearn stays with the team. He’s shown enough to at least maintain a bench spot.
Francisco Alvarez (NYM): 2-3, HR, R, 3 RBI.
Bookending the other hitters with Mets players, they are back baby. Alvarez, like Henderson, was viewed very highly by mlb.com to start the year in their prospect rankings (3rd overall). He too is living up to the hype and hit a no-doubter on Thursday. He’s already up to 16 home runs, and there have been several reports that he is good enough to stick behind the plate. With the catcher position being what it is, he has shown to have great value.