The Orioles brass can look back at the minor league season and find several individual success stories and see players that improved during the year that they must be excited about seeing again in 2019.
One of the pitchers that must be near the top of that list is the 2017 top draft pick, left-hander DL Hall. Coming off his high school senior year and 10 1/3 innings last summer in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, the Orioles were careful to monitor and limit Hall’s innings and pitch counts in 2018.
In the final stats, we can see he went 2-7 with an ERA of 2.10. Over 94 1/3 innings, Hall allowed 68 hits with 42 walks and 100 strikeouts in 22 games, 20 of them starts.
“I think I’ve matured a lot as a pitcher this year,” Hall said in a recent interview. “One of the biggest things where I have improved on this year is command of the fastball. I think that has been one of the most helpful things this season. I’ve learned to really pitch instead of just throw.”
That became more evident as the year went on. In fact, from June 10 until the end of the year, Hall threw 13 consecutive starts where he allowed one earned run or less. He had an ERA of 0.89 in that span with 71 strikeouts and 38 hits allowed in 60 2/3 innings.
Hall began the year with his curveball considered his best secondary pitch. But said some inconsistencies with that pitch and improvement on his changeup led to the change becoming his best secondary as the season ended.
“It has just been getting the feel for it and you have to keep throwing it until you get that feel,” Hall said of his changeup. “I’ve reached the point now to use it a lot in certain situations. Just been trusting it and have kept throwing it. I haven’t really changed how I’ve thrown it over the years.”
But he really did trust that pitch this year, both to throw it early in counts to try and get a quick strike or two and later in counts as putaway pitch.
“I’ve used it in both situations this year,” he said. “I’ve thrown it early in counts and it depends on the situation.”
The changeup was one reason why right-handed batters hit just .180 off Hall. Lefties hit .246. Hall finished 14 innings short of qualiying for the South Atlantic League leaders or he would been third in the league in ERA and his ERA would have ranked first among O’s minor league pitchers.
But Hall accomplished a lot during his first full professional season. He made all of his starts, stayed healthy, and learned more about pitching in a rotation and the mental side of the game. He should be a pitcher on the move into most (maybe all) of the top 100 prospects lists this winter.
“I have really matured this year in learning to be a pitcher and learning the mental part,” he said. “I think I’ve made some nice leaps in this category and I need to continue to get better and better at that. It’s a huge part of pitching.”
Click here to see an earlier story with more on Hall’s strong 2018 season.
The road trip finally ends with another thud: The Orioles ended a 1-8 road trip yesterday and looked terrible over the weekend against Tampa Bay. There were numerous physical and mental mistakes and frankly, while it certainly would be unlikely to be true, the Orioles looked disinterested at times.
We know by now that manager Buck Showalter seldom publicly scolds his teams. But if there were ever a time, yesterday was it. He didn’t bash anyone, but catcher Caleb Joseph stated what everyone could see over the weekend. In this case the words probably needed to be said and he said them.
“It’s one thing if you’re playing clean games that you can see everybody kind of improving, and you can see guys moving in the right direction and kind of taking advantage of opportunities, but that’s just not what we’re seeing, so it’s extremely disheartening when you kind of play this sloppy game,” he said
It certainly was a disheartening road trip. One that began with a sweep in Kansas City that included Orioles losses by seven and eight runs. And it ended at the Trop with losses by 12, five and five.
Even a bad Orioles team needs to put up more of a fight than that.