They are ranked as the Orioles’ top two pitching prospects and their inclusion in the 60-man player pool this summer was expected. They were not expected to pitch yet for the Orioles and they did not. But it was a big summer of developing - even without minor league games - for right-hander Grayson Rodriguez and left-hander DL Hall.
Rodriguez will turn 21 on Nov. 16. Hall turned 22 on Sept. 19. Both are ranked as top 100 prospects. Rodriguez is No. 31 for both Baseball America and MLBPipeline.com. Hall is rated No. 42 by Baseball America and No. 64 by MLBPipeline.com. Both outlets rank Rodriguez as the club’s No. 2 prospect, behind only Adley Rutschman. Hall is No. 3 on Baseball America and No. 4 via MLBPipeline.com.
Taken No. 11 overall in the 2018 draft, by the end of the 2019 season Rodriguez was named the O’s Minor League co-Pitcher of the Year, sharing the honor with Michael Baumann. During that season at Single-A Delmarva he went he went 10-4 with a 2.68 ERA. Held to 94 innings, Rodriguez gave up just 57 hits and only four homers with 36 walks and 129 strikeouts. He was a mid-season and postseason All-Star in the South Atlantic League.
His pitching coach at Delmarva was Justin Ramsey, who just completed his second year in the O’s organization by serving as one of two pitching coaches at the Bowie alternate site. He got to work with Rodriguez again. I asked him in a recent Zoom interview about the focus this summer for Rodriguez at the Bowie camp.
“Just continue to develop,” said Ramsey. “Not that he just out-stuffed guys every night, but he had the ability to do that at the lower level. Our philosophy is to develop weapons to get big leaguers out. He had a big year in Low-A and obviously well-deserved, but we want him to get big leaguers out at the end of the day. So that was the focus, to get work and development versus higher-level hitters with higher-level catchers that are working with advanced plans. And keeping it in a range that he can understand and digest and not get overwhelmed with. And so it was more focused on that. There are always going to be subtle delivery things, not any overhauls, just get better feel and get our best weapons to the best locations. That is what his goals were and he did a really good job with that.”
There were some differences, but not many, Ramsey said, in how Keegan Akin, who could and did get to Baltimore, and Rodriguez got their work in at Bowie. The more advanced pitchers who might get to Baltimore could work on more advanced attack plans, he said. Plans that might prepare them to face specific big league teams and hitters.
“I want to say Mounty made it up before Grayson got on the mound for the first time. But, he and Adley have just a beautiful, friendly rivalry. They go back and forth and it’s definitely competitive. I know Adley may have gotten him once or twice, but Grayson got him a few times too. It’s going to be a fun rivalry as they go, but the hope is they ascend together and start getting it done for the big Birds. Grayson held his own against some advanced guys. It was fun to watch. He took his lumps and learned from them and made adjustments when he needed to. For what the season was, I think he got as much as he could out of it.”
For more on Rodriguez, I wrote this in May during the baseball shutdown and included a video interview with the young pitcher.
The 21st overall pick in the 2017 draft, Hall pitched at Single-A Frederick in 2019. He went 4-5 with a 3.46 ERA in 19 games. Over 80 2/3 innings, Hall allowed 53 hits with 54 walks and 116 strikeouts. He allowed a .189 average against and had a 1.33 WHIP. And just like when he was with Single-A Delmarva in 2018, he got better as the year went on with the Keys. In July and August of 2019 he was 2-2 with a 2.25 ERA and 43 strikeouts to 16 walks in 32 innings.
“That is obviously a special arm,” Ramsey said of Hall. “He’s working on, you know, cleaning up the repeatability of his delivery to get on plate more. And he did a good job of focusing on that. There were times he went out and maybe wasn’t as effective as he might have wanted to be, but he stuck with the process of working the delivery to get more strikes on plate. And he did that. It will be interesting to see what happens in a full season against other teams. Does he get on a roll? Obviously, that’s in there. Real excited for his future.”
Hall, much like Akin in 2019 at Triple-A, spent his Frederick season working hard on pitch development and throwing secondary pitches in counts and at times he was not previously used to. His walk rate went up from 4.00 with Delmarva to 6.02 per nine innings in Frederick.
“That (improving command) was part of the delivery work,” said Ramsey. “Just getting something a little more repeatable with rhythm and timing to the delivery. And hopefully that allows him to have a better feel out of the hand, which will get him on the plate more. One thing about the walks, I think you will notice throughout the organization like with Keegan, he was working on things and the walks went up. Things that help at the highest level. DL has some of that going on, working on things and throwing pitches he might not normally. The walks were a little higher but there is growth going on while that’s happening. It’s all part of the process.”
Ramsey said the coaches made minor adjustments, tweaks really, with his delivery.
“Yeah, just tweaks. More just rhythm and timing,” Ramsey said. “You won’t look at him next year and say, ‘Whoa, that is different.’ No, it’s more of a consistent rhythm throughout and keeping things on line.”
Here is my Zoom video interview with Ramsey, with more on the Bowie camp this summer.