SARASOTA, Fla. - If you look at the first two full seasons for young left-handed pitching prospect DL Hall, you can see better stats in 2018 at Single-A Delmarva than in 2019 at Single-A Frederick.
But in Frederick, as he faced better hitters he also was challenged to do things he had not before, and he might have gained a lot to benefit his future even as his ERA and walk rate spiked up.
Hall had a 2.10 ERA with Delmarva and a walk rate of 4.00. With Frederick his ERA was 3.46 and the walk rate 6.02 per every nine innings.
But the Orioles asked Hall to work on all his pitches and throw his secondary pitches in counts he previously would not. Pitch backward sometimes. Leave his comfort zone. Improve his future outlook through pitch development. Begin to take a thrower and morph into a complete pitcher.
“It was huge,” Hall told me in a recent interview at the Buck O’Neil Baseball Complex at Twin Lakes Park. “I think it was really big for development. Getting used to working on the things that you’re not comfortable with. Just to try and really build up your confidence with them and build up your pitch arsenal. I think that’s huge. Stepping out of your comfort zone, trying new things and learning what you can and can’t do.”
And along the way in making overall gains, he really honed in one pitch for use in one instance that made real progress.
“I think one thing that sticks out to me is the left-on-left changeup,” he said. “It was something I had never really done, throwing changeups to lefties. Was never really comfortable with it. Never really thought of it as an amazing pitch. But we talked about it and I started using it, got used to it and now it’s one of my favorite things to do. Still trying to get it where it needs to be. But I’ve seen a lot of success with it, so hopefully I can continue to grow with that.”
Hall can use that left-on-left changeup inside to lefties to backfoot them, as they say, or on the outside corner to backdoor the hitter.
“It was just kind of something to increase my pitch arsenal,” Hall said. “And Chris Holt (director of pitching) showed me the success rate you can have with it if you can command it.”
Even though Hall’s stats in most categories did not match his Delmarva season (his average against did improve, .203 to .189), he remains a top 100 prospect with big upside.
Baseball America rates him as the No. 47 prospect, while MLBPipeline.com has him at No. 69. The last two years he was Baseball America’s No. 1 propect in the South Atlantic League and the Carolina League.
But just as the O’s challenged lefty Keegan Akin at Triple-A last summer, they challenged Hall to improve his pitches by going out of his comfort zone. Some of the stats might suffer, but the long-term gain would benefit.
“Delmarva was kind of my first year,” Hall said. “I kind of went out there and was, I guess you could say, focusing on my numbers. Trying to pitch well with what I had. Frederick was more of I was trying to get outs while learning something and growing as a pitcher.
“You’re going to have some bad days and walk people while learning something new. But it’s better to do that and learn something than just be out there just throwing what you already have and striking everyone out. Last year was definitely big for development.”
And just like when he was with Delmarva, he got better as the year went on. Last July and August he was 2-2 with a 2.25 ERA and 43 strikeouts to 16 walks in 32 innings. In July he represented the Orioles and pitched a 1-2-3 inning on 12 pitches in the All-Star Futures Game.
He was the 21st overall pick in the 2017 draft and he’ll pitch all this year at age 21. He could begin the year in the Double-A Bowie Baysox rotation.
He’ll surely begin the new season with more confidence in all of his pitches after a summer of learning and growing with the Keys.
“I think you have to throw every pitch with conviction,” said Hall. “No matter what you are throwing, you have to believe that pitch will work. Or it’s not going to. So, even if you don’t feel comfortable you have to tell yourself, ‘This is going to work. I’m about to go at it with this pitch here and I’m about to get him out.’ Let yourself be confident. Instead of being scared of it, you have to attack it.”
Hall pitched for different front offices over his two full minor league seasons. He gained from both. But he is quick to point out he’s clicked well with the current group.
“I think our whole atmosphere is a lot different,” he said. “There are lot of new faces on the coaching staff. I think we are headed in the right direction. A big difference. A lot more energy and I love it.”
Orioles.com coverage today: Join me today for live coverage on Orioles.com at 1 p.m. as the Orioles head to Dunedin, Fla., to face the Toronto Blue Jays. After last night’s 6-3 win over Atlanta, the O’s are 9-6-3. Since they started the Grapefruit League going 1-4, they are 8-2-3 the last 13 games.
The Baltimore bullpen put up six scoreless innings with six strikeouts last night. Cody Carroll produced another zero and Dillon Tate got the win with two scoreless. The club got one shutout inning each from Branden Kline, Travis Lakins Sr. and Rob Zastryzny.
Right-hander Thomas Eshelman (1-0, 2.25 ERA) will make his fourth spring appearance today. Coming off a solid three-inning outing Friday versus the Yankees, he has allowed two runs over eight spring innings.