In 2005, the Orioles drafted a toolsy prep position player in the 4th round. He did little but struggle in his debut, but that didn't stop Orioles officials from buzzing about him in Fall Instructs and extended spring training. Of course, I'm referring to Kieron Pope- the same guy that demolished Appalachian League pitching in his second try at it and now ranks comfortably within the top ten of ITW's prospect list. Although Bobby Henson's ultimate value will be as a very different player than Pope, he has the potential to take a similar step forward in 2007. Also like Pope, Henson has a lot of work to do to reach his considerable ceiling, though he has plenty of time to try.
DOB: 2/12/80 Height: 6-1 Weight: 190 B/T: R/R
Bobby Henson age 18 season:
Henson's statistics tell a radically different story from his tools. In time, he could develop above average power for a middle infielder, but he did not hit a home run in his professional debut. Striking out in nearly a third of his plate appearances, the problem is clearly in his approach. While many shortstops are content to spray the ball around the field, Henson incorporates every bit of his mature 6-foot-1 frame into his long swing.
Opposing right-handers had an easy time with Henson just by getting their breaking balls over the plate. All too often, Henson either chased them in the dirt or was frozen by breaking balls in the zone. Left-handers found getting Henson out much more difficult; he was able to read the spin much easier when the ball was breaking towards him. Henson also showed an inclination to work deep into counts at times, although he had periods where he was a very free-swinger. Orioles officials are encouraged enough to believe that he'll be able to offset low batting averages at higher levels with some gap power and an above-average walk rate. They also believe that he will learn how to incorporate his plus speed into some base running skills.
Bobby Henson's athleticism is very apparent on defense. He led his Oklahoma high school football team to a state championship as a quarterback. He also led his high school's baseball team to a state championship, earning the win as a pitcher in the final game. As such, Henson's arm grades out as a major plus tool. He also has enough range and instincts for shortstop, though like many infielders his age, he'll have to gain consistency as he moves up the ladder. Henson's 26 errors in his first 46 games are excusable right now, but it should improve with more repetitions.
Much like Kieron Pope in his second professional season, Henson will stay in extended spring training until he can make a return engagement at Bluefield. Orioles' officials are optimistic that he can show marked improvement, but it might be expecting too much for him to match Pope's 2006 Appalachian League batting line of .341/.411/.585. Henson probably won't see action in a full season league until 2008, making it difficult to assess exactly how high his physical ceiling is. However, it is fair to say that Henson has a chance to be an above-average regular.
Michael Hollman is the Senior Writer for Inside The Warehouse and can be reached via email at Publisher@InsideTheWarehouse.com