OAKLAND, Calif. — The eye test is plenty good for stating the obvious: Gunnar Henderson is a great player, one who is putting together a historic season on the back of his power, speed and range.

The analytics, then, only reinforce the notion: Henderson is a great player on pace for a historic season, and he’s twice the player he was last year as a rookie. How? According to Baseball Reference, Henderson posted 6.2 wins above replacement last season. At the halfway mark of the 2024 campaign, Henderson has accumulated 6.4 wins above replacement.

Henderson is on pace for a season WAR of 11 or above — entering Sunday, he was projected to finish at 11.6 WAR — and few position players in history have accomplished such a feat. Twelve position players have managed it (including Cal Ripken Jr., another mainstay Baltimore shortstop), and none has done it since Barry Bonds in 2002.

Should Henderson maintain this level of play, he could enter his name among the greats.

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The 23-year-old has built on his Rookie of the Year campaign by sustaining more power while also holding down shortstop. Henderson’s 27 homers are the third most in baseball, yet he hasn’t sacrificed average or on-base percentage. Entering Monday, Henderson’s .988 on-base-plus-slugging percentage is third best in the majors, behind Aaron Judge and Shohei Ohtani.

“Offensive production was good last year,” outfielder Heston Kjerstad said. “But to produce at the rate he’s producing, I mean, him, Judge and Ohtani are the three sluggers in MLB right now producing at that rate, and that’s a pretty elite group to be in.”

Part of the rise in WAR from last year to this year is down to Henderson’s start to the season. As a rookie, he took a while to settle in — he hit .201 at the end of May 2023 — but he has been hitting from the start this season. His power, as well, has come in a hurry.

Kjerstad said it wouldn’t be a stretch to call Henderson’s power surge a surprise, because “some of that stuff you can’t even predict or hope for.” But it’s here anyway.

Henderson is hitting .293 with 61 RBIs and 14 stolen bases. His longest stretch without a hit occurred in May, when twice he went three games hitless. Beyond that, Henderson has been as consistent as anyone.

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“I’ve had some good stretches and some not-so-good stretches, and I think I’ve done a lot better job at limiting those,” Henderson said. “I know baseball, you’re going to go through tough stretches, but if you can learn from those past experiences to help you get through it and not just continue to let it go on, I feel like I’ve been doing a good job of that.”

And it’s reflected in his WAR, which should only rise as he continues one of the best all-around seasons from any position player.

Two major snubs

Closer Craig Kimbrel has a chance to reach 40 saves for the first time since 2018 with the Red Sox. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

The Orioles, who are on pace to win 102 games and lead the American League East, are left looking around the majors and wondering how they didn’t have more All-Star nominations. Baltimore landed three players: Henderson, catcher Adley Rutschman and right-hander Corbin Burnes.

Five other teams have four or more All-Stars, including seven for the Philadelphia Phillies and six for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Several Orioles players have worthy resumes, but there were two snubs in particular that stand out as especially galling. Right-hander Craig Kimbrel and infielder Jordan Westburg didn’t make the American League roster, yet right-hander Clay Holmes and infielder Marcus Semien are headed to the Midsummer Classic.

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There are few relievers as dominant as Kimbrel this season. He recorded his 23rd save Sunday and lowered his ERA to 2.10 with a 0.90 WHIP. Since a rough patch in late April and early May, Kimbrel has allowed one earned run in his last 21 innings.

Holmes, the Yankees’ closer, holds a 3.00 ERA with 19 saves and a 1.31 WHIP.

Westburg has an even better case. The 25-year-old is hitting .281 with an .834 OPS and 14 homers. Westburg also plays strong defense at third and second. Semien, meanwhile, is a standout defensive second baseman who has historically been a top player but has struggled this season. Semien is hitting .229 with a .673 OPS.

“When you have a team of this caliber and only three guys get to go, yeah, it definitely sucks,” said Ryan O’Hearn, who also missed out after finishing second in Phase 2 of fan voting. “It is what it is. Very happy for Corbin and Gunnar and Adley. They’re extremely deserving.”

On the horizon

The Orioles will have a decision to make on the mound this weekend.

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They’ve announced that Dean Kremer will pitch on Tuesday, Burnes on Wednesday and Albert Suárez on Thursday against the Chicago Cubs. With the Yankees headed to Camden Yards for the final series of the first half, Burnes will not be on the mound once again — the rotation hasn’t lined up for him to face New York this season.

So who pitches Friday?

Right now, the rotation is configured in a way that left-hander Cade Povich would take the series opener against the Yankees after he struggled mightily against the Oakland Athletics. On Saturday, Povich allowed eight runs and recorded three outs. Baltimore could turn to left-hander Cole Irvin, although his recent outings haven’t been much better: 23 earned runs in his last 16 1/3 innings. Or they could make a roster move, dipping into their limited minor league starting depth.

Any AL East matchup is pivotal, so it will be interesting to see which way the Orioles configure their rotation to begin the weekend.