2023 Fantasy Baseball Third Base Player Spotlight: Gunnar Henderson Looking to Take Leap to Fantasy Stardom
Published: Feb 28, 2023
Updated: Feb 28, 2023
The 2023 fantasy baseball season is finally here! It is time to start drafting those season-long lineups and there is no better way to get ready than with the FREE Fantasy Alarm Fantasy Baseball Draft guide. Now is the time to begin fantasy baseball mock drafts as well as diving into fantasy baseball player rankings and MLB Projections to set up your draft plan. Tuesday will be “Third Base Day” and this week, we begin the positional spotlight series where we will have individual player profiles, rookie breakdowns and more. One third baseman that is drawing major interest on draft day is Baltimore Orioles rookie third baseman Gunnar Henderson. The young phenom has been a top-100 pick with a current NFBC ADP of 90.62 and is the eighth third baseman off the board in most drafts. Third base is top heavy again this season and the position thins out quickly after the top few names, so fantasy managers will need to take a stance on Henderson right away on draft day.
2023 MLB Fantasy Baseball Player Spotlight
Gunnar Henderson, Baltimore Orioles
Gunnar Henderson, the 2019 Gatorade Baseball Player of the Year in the state of Alabama and a finalist for Alabama's “Mr. Baseball Award” was taken with the first pick of the second round at 42nd overall of the 2019 MLB draft. His MLB.com profile at the draft called him one of the better hitters in the high school class and that he produced a lot of hard contact from gap to gap. He has proven those profiles to be right and started his professional career off with a bang.
In his first full season of professional baseball, Henderson moved through three minor league levels and immediately showed why he was one of Baltimore’s anticipated prospects. He then ripped right on through the two highest levels of the Orioles farm system in 2022. In 47 games, he crushed Double-A with eight home runs, 10 steals, and an OPS over 900 and then after being promoted to Triple-A, he continued to smash with 11 home runs, 10 steals, and a .894 OPS over 65 games. Henderson’s 89.8 MPH Average Exit Velocity and 11-degree Average Launch Angle in the minors were similar to numbers from players like Ty France, Ian Happ and Brandon Marsh at the major league level. He was three to five years younger than most players, yet slashed an overall combined .297/.416/.531 with a .947 OPS across AA and AA. Henderson then capped off a spectacular rise to the top of the prospect board with his September stint in the major leagues where he slashed .259/.348/.440 with a .788 OPS. His 126 wRC+ over 34 games was sixth-best among third baseman during that span.
Gunnar Henderson, 2019-2022 Minor League Stats (Per Baseball Reference)
Henderson has exhibited all the tools that make him a top MLB prospect. He can play shortstop or third base at a high level and he has an arm that has average throwing speed within the top-26% of all qualified fielders. He can run, as he stole 23 bases between MLB and the minor leagues and more importantly, Henderson has displayed a keen batting eye as he has clipped his strikeout rate by almost five percent since 2021.
One big plus is Henderson’s plate discipline which gives him a solid OBP-league draft boost. In his September MLB stint, he posted a strong 12.1% BB rate and kept his strikeout rate down to a controllable 25.8%. With this plate maturity, he hit the ball hard (53.7%) with an above-average 9.8%-barrel rate but did have one knock against him as Henderson hit the ball on the ground too much (57.3%). If we expect a 30-home run year out of the rookie, then the ground ball rate needs to drop and all signs point to a regression since this wasn’t an issue during his two years in the minor leagues.
Gunnar Henderson 2022 MLB Statcast Percentile rankings
Henderson is an irrefutable talent that may never come cheaper. He is already a mature major league hitter and will likely be a fantasy stalwart for years to come. His batting profile is elite for a player his age and if he can put the ball in the air more with a few slight adjustments, we'll have a young superstar on our hands. On draft day, my strategy is to still snatch up one of the elite names at third base in the first two rounds, like José Ramírez, Rafael Devers, Austin Riley, Manny Machado, or Nolan Arenado. If I miss out on one of those studs, I will have no problem picking Henderson in the #70-90 draft area as there will be a very steep drop off after those elite top-tier third basemen. With a high average profile, 25+ home run power, 70+ runs and RBIs and double-digit stolen base potential, Henderson could easily be a top-10 option at third base when September rolls around.
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Related Fantasy Baseball Links:
- 2023 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide
- 2023 Fantasy Baseball MLB Preseason Projections
- 2023 MLB Fantasy Baseball Rankings