Drafted: 2017 1st Round Pick – 21st Overall
Current Organization: Baltimore Orioles/Frederick Keys (Carolina League)
Coming off a strong 2018 season with Delmarva of the South Atlantic League, DL Hall has had mixed results with High-A Frederick this spring. While the strikeout numbers (13.4 K/9) have been phenomenal, he has issued 43 walks in just 53.2 innings and carries a WHIP of 1.509.
I recently saw Hall pitch against a Lynchburg team with a lineup that included Tyler Freeman, Nolan Jones, Will Benson, and Oscar Gonzalez. The results mirrored his 2019 season in that there were glimpses of an ace in the making but there were also some major command issues and lack of a plan. Here is an inning-by-inning recap of his outing along with some notes:
1st Inning: 21 Pitches/12 Strikes/2 Hits/2 Strikeouts/1 Run (Unearned)
Facing the meat of the Lynchburg order, Hall fell behind Tyler Freeman 2-0 to leadoff the game and the result was a hard line drive single up the middle. He managed to sandwich swinging strikeouts of Jones and Benson around an error by the second baseman, which put runners on 1st and 3rd. He was the benefactor of some terrible base running by Oscar Gonzalez who was caught between 2nd and 3rd to end the inning and Hall escaped with just the lone run. Here is the Benson strikeout:
2nd Inning: 31 Pitches/16 Strikes/2 Walks/1 Strikeout/0 Runs
This inning is a good example of the frustrating part about Hall and what, in my opinion, makes him hard to project. The stuff is plus as he touched 96 and was sitting 93-95 with the fastball and he was mixing in a curveball early in the count that was 79-81 but the control issues plagued him. After getting the leadoff man out, he went to a 1-2 count to the second hitter of the inning and looked like he was starting to settle in and get a feel for two pitches. Then he ran the count full and ended up getting into a situation where he wasted pitches and the result was a one out walk.
He came back with a strikeout but then followed that with a 2-out walk putting runners on 1st and 2nd before getting out of it by sawing off Tyler Freeman:
3rd Inning: 13 Pitches/8 Strikes/0 Walks/2 Strikeouts/0 Runs
Hall went to a 3-0 count against Nolan Jones to start the inning and then struck him out on three pitches. He followed that up with a strikeout of Oscar Gonzalez and then he got Will Benson to pop-up to the third baseman on a nasty breaking pitch. In general this was a terrific inning outside of going to a 3-0 count to the leadoff hitter Jones. I felt like he turned a corner and was excited because I knew he would likely be able to throw two more.
4th Inning: 21 Pitches/8 Strikes/2 Walks/0 Strikeouts/0 Runs
Hall lost his command this inning, especially after a leadoff walk. Through three hitters in the 4th he had thrown 17 pitches with just six strikes, getting just one out on a weak fly ball to right field. Then he got ahead 0-2 on Luke Wakamatsu and ended up getting a double play on a ball that was tapped in front of the plate to end the inning.
It’s like he can flip a switch and look like a completely different pitcher when he senses trouble, something that will likely betray him as he moves up. Still, he limited the damage and up to this point had only given up the lone unearned run.
5th Inning: 8 Pitches/7 Strikes/0 Walks/2 Strikeouts/0 Runs
The best inning of the night in terms of stuff and efficiency. He got the leadoff man on a fly ball to centerfield to start the inning and then he struck out Freeman and Jones on a total of seven pitches. Velocity was down to 90-92 but this was his most dominant inning. He made Freeman look really bad on this strikeout:
Pitch sequencing was significantly improved this inning as he worked to both sides of the plate with authority. He finished the night at 94 pitches in just five innings, striking out seven while walking four. Those numbers tell the same story as much of his season thus far.
While he isn’t as tall as I would prefer, he has good size and he could add 10-15 pounds without much trouble. One red flag for me mechanically is that Hall pitches “uphill” out of the stretch:
He rushes his front side through and collapses his back leg more than I am comfortable with, giving him a little crouch before he separates his hands. I would prefer that he stays a little taller at the balance point, especially since he is only 6’2” as it might help him to generate more downhill plane. He does get good leg drive despite that, which is why I believe he has untapped velocity and could eventually sit 95-97 and touch 99.
Despite that and the command issues, I came away impressed with a lot of what Hall brings as a pitcher. Throughout the night he was really tough on lefties, specifically Jones and Benson, two highly regarded prospects in Cleveland’s system (Jones was just promoted to Double-A). He pitched to both sides of the plate and while he worked the outer half for most of the first two innings, he wasn’t afraid to come inside as the game progressed. Unsurprisingly, he found more success in doing so and when he came inside on righties, he had good run on the fastball.
It is important to keep in mind that Hall is just 20 years old and pitching in High-A so there is a developmental curve taking place right now. I don’t want to give some sort of hot take here but he might have the most electric stuff of any left-handed prospect in baseball, including MacKenzie Gore (Editor’s Note: Damn Jason, that’s a hot take). I would still rank Hall comfortably behind Grayson Rodriguez in the Orioles’ system based on overall makeup, but Baltimore has the potential for some high end starting pitching to emerge by 2022.