Checking in on some top minor league arms with Chris Holt

Today we continue a look at Orioles minor league pitching in 2019 through the eyes of director of pitching Chris Holt. We’ve published a couple of entries recently with Holt, and in this one, he’ll take a closer at four of the club’s top pitching prospects.

DL HALL

Hall was the Orioles No. 1 pick, taken No. 21 overall out of a Georgia high school in 2017. While his overall stats were not as strong in 2019, he pitched all year in the Single-A Carolina League at 20 and turned 21 on Sept. 19.

After pitching to a 2.10 ERA for Single-A Delmarva in 2018, the lefty went 4-5 with a 3.46 ERA for the Keys. He ended the year missing his last few starts due to an oblique injury. Over 80 2/3 innings, he allowed only 53 hits and just three home runs. He walked 54, fanned 116, had a .189 average against and WHIP of 1.33.

Hall’s walk rate increased from 2018 to 2019 from 4.01 to 6.02 per nine, but so did his strikeout rate from 9.54 to 12.94. Hall, who is ranked as the club’s No. 3 prospect by both Baseball America and MLBPipeline.com, pitched a 1-2-3 inning on 12 pitches in the Futures Game.

For two years in a row, Hall was rated by Baseball America as the top prospect in his league. He got that honor for 2018 in the South Atlantic League and for 2019 in the Carolina League. He is ranked No. 35 in the Baseball America top 100 and No. 60 by MLB.Pipeline.com

DL-Hall-Delivers-Futures-Game-Sidebar.jpgHolt on Hall: “DL had a really solid year in terms of similar to (Keegan) Akin. Starting to use more of his pitch mix and using it a little less predictably or being more unpredictable, which was great to see. You know, he was throwing his breaking ball and his changeups in fastball counts and attacking the zone. He has the ability to create swing and miss, but he also needs to continue to hone command and eliminate the unnecessary walks. Continue to be able to learn the game and control the game and the pace and tempo of the game. With everything he brings to the table talent-wise, continuing to hone skills at this point is really the main focus.”

How can Hall improve his command?

“You know he still was in just his second full season,” said Holt. “Sometimes it takes guys time to learn their body and their repeatability for timing and body control. He falls into the category for me where he’s still going to continue to learn his body and learn how to move as an athlete.

“He throws mid-to-upper 90s and so guys that throw that hard tend to exert a lot of effort. He’s going to have to learn how to control his body in doing that and be able to attack through the zone as consistently as he’s capable.”

MICHAEL BAUMANN

The guy they call “Big Mike” had a big year. He went 7-6 with a 2.98 ERA, .194 average against and 1.05 WHIP between Single-A Frederick and Double-A Bowie. He elevated his game when he got to Bowie, going 6-2 with a 2.31 ERA over 13 games. In 70 innings, he gave up only 45 hits and just two homers. He pitched a nine-inning no-hitter on July 16 versus Harrisburg.

The 24-year-old Baumann shared the Jim Palmer O’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year Award with right-hander Grayson Rodriguez. Taken in round three of 2017 out of Jacksonville University, Baumann is ranked as the club’s No. 9 prospect by MLBPipeline.com and No. 10 by Baseball America.

Holt on Baumann: “Mike is a very physical, toolsy pitcher who has an impeccable fastball. The slider is very good and he’s still working on developing the curve and changeup to be plus offerings. He is another example of a guy who, especially as he got to Double-A, really began to put his game together. And he was using his mix and using the attack plan information to his advantage. But basically continuing to pitch off his strengths.

“Right now developmentally, he’s still working on some delivery improvements to get more consistent with his best. But even in terms of his delivery he made strides on the year.”

Baumann’s fastball and slider are his top two pitches and if his curveball and changeup improve, it could mean the difference for him at the major league level.

“Yeah, and honestly, that’s with everybody. I’m encouraged by what we’ve seen him do with these two pitches,” said Holt. “He’s making very solid headway. If he has a four-pitch mix, he’s going to be able to devastate a lot of different types of hitters, both righties and lefties, at the big league level.”

BRUCE ZIMMERMANN

The Baltimorean was acquired by the Orioles in the July 2018 trade that sent Kevin Gausman and Darren O’Day to Atlanta. Zimmermann, 24, played for Loyola High School and spent his first two college seasons at Towson University. Can the local product get to Baltimore in 2020?

He made it to Triple-A last year. Between Bowie and Norfolk, he went 7-6 with a 3.21 ERA over 140 innings, allowing a .245 average against and 1.31 WHIP. He pitched to an ERA of 2.58 in 101 2/3 innings with Bowie and a 4.89 ERA in 38 2/3 innings with Norfolk. He was drafted in round five by Atlanta in 2017 out of Mt. Olive (N.C.) College.

The lefty was ranked No. 17 by Baseball America in a midseason ranking and is unranked currently by MLBPipeline.com

Holt on Zimmermann: “Man, where do I start? No. 1, his fastball got better. No. 2, his curveball got better. No. 3, his changeup got better. Four, his command and approach to attack hitters got better. He overall took everything that we would throw at him and put it to use to make it actionable on field. Just really proud of that guy for the work ethic and willingness to go out and work to improve all facets of his game. Certainly a guy who does fly below the radar. But certainly a guy who is capable of being an impact guy at the big league level at some point.”

After hearing Holt’s very positive comments on Zimmermann, I asked him if maybe this was the pitcher that came the farthest on the farm this year.

“He came over from the Braves, so largely what we had looked at prior to his arrival, he was throwing a lot of two-seam fastballs and changeups down and away,” Holt said. “Kind of indicative of a little more of a Braves/National League style. He basically was able to take more advantage of a four-seam fastball and his changeup, so it allowed him to use more on plate and use more of the plate up and down in the zone.

“As I said, his curveball got much better and his slider was very, very solid and so overall, yes, he made as much improvement as anyone in the organization. It was a testament to his willingness to go and do work and take accurate information and formulate a plan and put it to use.”

GRAYSON RODRIGUEZ

The co-Minor League Pitcher of the Year on the O’s farm had quite a season for a Delmarva team that won 90 games and led the South Atlantic League in team ERA, WHIP and strikeouts. He went 10-4 with a 2.68 ERA. Over 94 innings, he allowed 57 hits and just four homers with 36 walks, 129 strikeouts, a .171 average against and a 0.99 WHIP.

The club’s first-round pick in 2018 (No. 11 overall), Rodriguez turns 20 on Saturday. He was named the South Atlantic League Most Outstanding Prospect and pitched a scoreless inning in the Futures Game on 11 pitches.

Rodriguez is rated as the Orioles’ No. 2 prospect by Baseball America and MLBPipeline.com. He is rated No. 44 in the MLBPipeline.com top 100 and No. 45 by Baseball America.

Holt on Rodriguez: “His focus level, his work ethic and maturity at his age - those are all really strong attributes that contribute to his quality of work, his preparation, his performances. We saw him consistently go out and be the same guy. When it comes to the stuff, it’s very good and we know that, and his command is quite good and we know that and continuing to improve.

“All the things that go into what we like about him - he just brings so many things to the table that give him the chance to be an impact guy at the big league level. I always say this: Nolan Ryan never stopped learning or trying to get better. Same with (Roger) Clemens and (Justin) Verlander now are the same way. It takes that mindset to approach your work no matter how good you are and never be satisfied with being good. (Rodriguez) works to be excellent with everything he does.”

So after such a great 2019 season, what can Rodriguez do to keep that going or get even better going forward?

“The normal things that we talk about with development. Such as continuing to hone command of every pitch in his repertoire and being able to throw those pitches whether he is even, ahead or behind in the count,” Holt said. “So, you know, just continuing the normal stages of development where he is able to use his stuff to his advantage any situation, any batter, any time in the game.”

Here are links to earlier posts here with Holt. In this entry, he talked about the solid year overall of pitching on the O’s farm. In this one, he discussed the season for pitchers Akin, Alex Wells and Leonardo Rodriguez.

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