Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson have often been paired together.
They were the Orioles’ first two picks in the 2019 draft, the organization’s first under executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias, and subsequently roomed together in the Florida Complex League. They were consecutively ranked as Baseball America’s No. 1 overall prospect. In more than a third of Baltimore’s games this season, they occupied the top two spots in the lineup.
On Thursday, the Orioles’ phenoms were both named first-time recipients of Silver Slugger Awards, recognizing the top offensive performers at each position in each league. Rutschman was the American League’s top-hitting catcher, while Henderson, who split his standout rookie year between shortstop and third base, received the AL’s utility Silver Slugger. It’s Baltimore’s first season with multiple winners since 2013 and marks the sixth such case in franchise history.
Rutschman, 25, joins Mickey Tettleton in 1989 as the only Orioles catchers to win a Silver Slugger. The 2019 No. 1 overall pick hit .277/.374/.435 with 20 home runs, 80 RBIs and 92 walks against 101 strikeouts to follow up a 2022 season in which he was the runner-up for AL Rookie of the Year. A switch-hitter, he raised his OPS against left-handed pitchers from .552 in his rookie season to .895 this year, hitting six home runs from the right side after managing only one in 2022.
In 2023, Rutschman led all AL catchers in FanGraphs’ version of wins above replacement, weighted runs created plus, games played, plate appearances, batting average, on-base percentage, OPS, runs, walks and doubles. Only six qualified major league hitters at any position posted a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Rutschman, whose knowledge of the strike zone has benefited him and the Orioles on both sides of the ball.
Despite the defensive demands of his position, he consistently occupied one of the top two spots in Baltimore’s batting order; Rutschman’s 681 plate appearances in the upper third of the lineup tied for the 10th most in the majors, with Will Smith of the National League’s Los Angeles Dodgers being the only other primary catcher with at least 500.
Henderson, 22, was often alongside him. He struggled in the first two months of the season but stood out across the next four, filling the stat sheet to establish himself as the front-runner to be AL Rookie of the Year and become the 13th rookie to win a Silver Slugger since the awards were introduced in 1980.
In 150 games, Henderson slashed .255/.325/.489 with 29 doubles, nine triples, 28 home runs, 82 RBIs and 10 steals. Despite his slow start — Henderson was batting .199 on May 29 — Henderson ended the season ranked 14th among AL hitters in fWAR, trailing only Rutschman among Orioles. He was voted Most Valuable Oriole, the second straight year a rookie won the local honor after Rutschman did so in 2022.
Henderson has been named the AL’s top rookie by the Major League Baseball Players Association, Sporting News and Baseball Digest. He’s expected to be named the official AL Rookie of the Year on Monday; an Oriole hasn’t won the honor since Gregg Olson in 1989.
Baltimore’s Anthony Santander joined Rutschman and Henderson as Silver Slugger finalists but was not among the three winners in the outfield as voted by managers and coaches throughout the league. Regardless, the Orioles were one of three teams with multiple Silver Slugger recipients, along with the Atlanta Braves (Ronald Acuña Jr., Matt Olson, Austin Riley) and World Series champion Texas Rangers (Corey Seager, Marcus Semien).
Rutschman and Henderson join Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken Jr. (1983 and 1984); Ripken and Tettleton (1989); Melvin Mora and Miguel Tejada (2004); and Chris Davis, J.J. Hardy and Adam Jones (2013) as Orioles teammates to win Silver Slugger Awards in the same season.