“I’ve heard numerous stories about the long grind of the season,” Hall said Wednesday morning during an interview at Twin Lakes Park. “But I could not be more excited to get in my first full pro ball season. Want to pitch in a live game with fans and really good hitters and showcase my talent again.”
Hall is about a week or so behind some other pitchers. He had his tonsils removed in late January. But he’s thrown several bullpen sessions and will pitch live BP next week. He is expected to still break north for opening day and the 19-year-old Hall is expected to start the 2018 season in Single-A Delmarva’s rotation.
Hall’s pro experience thus far consists of five games last August in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. Thanks to his fifth and last outing - he gave up four runs in just two-thirds of an inning - he finished with an ERA of 6.97 over 10 1/3 innings. His ERA was 3.97 before that game.
It was a new experience for Hall to lug around such a high ERA.
“It was a great learning experience,” he said. “I think it happened for a reason. Some people see that and throw up a red flag. But really, I had the one bad outing and it kind of messed me up. But ultimately, it made me better. Especially going into instructs, where I was able to pitch like myself.
“It is always different than you expect. It was a learning experience. You go from signing and being a top guy in your class and then everybody is really good in pro ball. No slack in talent. Everyone around you is just as good.”
But Hall went to instructional league in the fall and impressed the O’s brass there with both his pitches and his attitude.
Now he is trying to get better every day and soak up knowledge and experience during camp at Twin Lakes Park.
“This is an awesome experience, my first spring training,” Hall said. “I’m glad to be here. Another year of ball. It is always a blessing when you get to play this game as your job.”
Taken No. 21 overall last June out of Valdosta (Ga.) High School, Hall throws four pitches, including a fastball that can touch 95 and 96 mph. He also throws a curveball, which is his best secondary, a slider and changeup.
MLBPipeline.com’s Jim Callis was bullish on the O’s selection of Hall.
“You are talking about a guy that has all the ingredients,” Callis told me of Hall during the Winter Meetings. “I guess if you were drawing up a blueprint, you’d rather he was 6-foot-3 then six feet tall. But you are talking a lefty who is 90 to 95 (mph) with one of the best curveballs in the draft and a track record of success on the biggest amateur stages.”
Hall knows he will need to develop all his pitches to one day have major league success. He said that process actually began during his final year at high school. He didn’t rely almost completely on his fastball.
“In high school, especially my senior year, I tried to work on pitching,” Hall said. “No matter who was in the box. I wanted to use all my pitches. I still tried to learn how to utilize every pitch I had to begin to prepare myself for pro ball. My senior year, even though some of the batters might not be able to hit my fastball, I was looking ahead to the future.”
He is very confident in his curveball.
“That was always my biggest strikeout pitch,” Hall said. “Of course, my fastball will always be my best pitch. But my curveball is definitely my best secondary. I struggled with it a little bit for the first time in my life in GCL. Maybe I had trouble adjusting to the seams on the ball. The seams are a lot higher on the ball in high school and the curves were easier to throw. I struggled a bit in GCL with the curveball grip.”
As Hall gets ready to embark on his first full season of pro ball, he will be a marked man. All first-round draft picks are. Pressure, hype and attention comes with the territory.
“I think that is something I try to block out,” he said. “I feel no different and don’t want to be treated differently from any other player. I’m just another player. There are later-round-drafted guys in there that have set the bar high for me. Being able to see those guys and how they develop, even though they were not a first rounder, makes me stay even keel. I don’t let the pressure bother me. After the draft, that first round goes away. It doesn’t matter anymore.”