We didn’t really need a reminder this week but we got one. The Orioles' Grayson Rodriguez and DL Hall are two of the best pitching prospects in baseball. And during the 2023 season there could be times they pitch in the same Orioles rotation for the first time.
Rodriguez, the club’s top draft pick in 2018, is ranked as the club’s No. 2 prospect behind Gunnar Henderson, and No. 4 nationally in top 100s by both Baseball America and MLBPipeline.com. Hall, the club’s top pick in 2017, is ranked as the O’s No. 5 prospect by Baseball America and No. 55 in their latest top 100. Via MLBPipeline.com he is No. 6 on the team's top 30 and was No. 87 in the site's last top 100. Both outlets should be releasing new top 100 lists soon.
The reminder this week that Hall and Rodriguez are among the best pitching prospects in the sport came when MLBPipeline.com released its listing of the current 10 best right-handed and left-handed pitching prospects in the sport. Rodriguez got knocked off the top perch by the Phillies' Andrew Painter and is now the No. 2 right-hander. Hall came in at No. 4 among the lefties.
The drafting of Hall as their top pick in 2017 and Rodriguez as their top selection a year later represents the only time the Orioles have ever taken high school pitchers in back-to-back years with their highest pick. Some over the years question taking high school pitchers so high in the draft, so if the O’s get both in the same rotation, and if they have any success, they will be beating some odds in one sense.
Both Hall and Rodriguez reached 100 mph with their fastballs during the 2022 season. But beyond the sheer velocity, both also show plus offerings with sliders and changeups, and Rodriguez added a cutter last year. Right now they both have plus stuff in abundance and their potential is high.
The difference between the two is rather obvious - control and command. While Baseball America gave Rodriguez a very solid 65 grade for control, Hall got a below-average grade of 40. Rodriguez seems destined to be a starter, and the Orioles hope he could be the No. 1 pitcher they have been missing. Hall has had numerous days on the farm when he looks like a No. 1 as well, but the spotty command has always been an issue.
But while Baseball America gives Rodriguez impressive 70 grades for his fastball and slider, Hall gets an 80 grade (top of scale) for his heater and 70 for the slider. The stuff is there, no doubt.
It has to be so exciting for the organization and the fans to have two pitching prospects rated in the top 100. Now comes the hardest part: taking a minor league resume and a background of dominance on the farm and replicating them at the highest level.
If one of these pitchers reaches full potential, the Orioles will probably be delighted. If both do, whatever is way beyond delighted is what they will be. Producing one homegrown ace has proven challenging for almost all teams. Producing two would be phenomenal.
Even though he missed time last season due to injury - he was out between June 1 and Sept. 1 with a Grade 2 right lat strain - Rodriguez, now 23, went 6-2 with a 2.62 ERA in 17 starts. Over a combined 75 2/3 innings he walked 28, fanned 109, posted a 0.99 WHIP and allowed a .176 batting average against. In 14 starts at Triple-A only, he went 6-1 with a 2.20 ERA and 0.93 WHIP. With Norfolk he had a 35.8 strikeout percentage.
Rodriguez shared the organization’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year award in 2019 with Mike Baumann, and Rodriguez was the sole winner of the Jim Palmer Award in 2021.
In a six-start stretch from May 7 through June 1, counting the night he injured his lat, Rodriguez produced a 0.79 ERA, allowing three earned runs over 34 1/3 innings. He threw scoreless ball in four of the six games and looked very, very ready for the majors.
Hall made his big league debut late in 2022 and threw 13 2/3 innings in 11 games. He went 1-1 with a 5.93 ERA with six walks and 19 strikeouts. He gave up five earned runs his first three games. But pitched to a 1.04 ERA over his last eight appearances, allowing one run in 8 2/3 innings with two walks, 11 strikeouts and a .543 OPS against.
He got a save Sept. 30 at Yankee Stadium in a 2-1 win, pitching a 1-2-3 last of the ninth and touching 97.5 mph. He got Giancarlo Stanton to pop up and then fanned both Marwin Gonzalez and Oswaldo Cabrera.
It was a strong finish, and soon we will find out if Hall can break north with the Orioles for opening day or if he goes back to the farm for more seasoning. Whether we see him in 2022 as a starter, reliever or both is yet to be determined.
But what is known is that the O's have two young stud pitchers about ready to help the big league team. Now comes the fun part of finding out how good they can be and how far they can take this team.