FREDERICK—Two years ago, the Orioles made left-handed pitcher DL Hall their first pick in the draft. Although he hasn’t dominated in his first two months in High-A Frederick, the opinions of many in baseball haven’t changed.
One scout labeled the 20-year-old the most impressive pitcher he saw this spring in Florida.
“I think that’s one of those things that we try to block out,” Hall said.
“It’s always good if you hear about it,” Hall said. “A good thing on the inside, to be able to have some confidence about what you’re doing, especially if you’re struggling a little bit. I think it helps.
“It’s one of those things where you don’t want to get too high and you don’t want to get too low. You try to block those things out and try to continue to get better, no matter the circumstances, no matter what anybody else thinks.”
In 2018, Hall’s first full season in professional baseball, he was on an innings’ restriction, and went 2-7 with a 2.10 ERA, but threw just 94 innings for Low-A Delmarva.
His pitching coach for the Shorebirds last year and the Keys this season is Justin Lord. Hall is one of several Keys who was with Lord a year ago.
“You see them a year older,” Lord said. “Physically, they develop a little bit more over the offseason. They come into this year, matured a little bit more. They’re being challenged a little bit more at this level because everybody’s a little bit better. They don’t get away with quite as many mistakes as they did.”
That seems to be the case with Hall. He’s matured physically, growing about an inch-and-a-half as well as filling out. However, his performance with Frederick isn’t close to what it was in Delmarva.
Hall is 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA in eight games. He’s averaged less than a hit per inning, but has walked nearly six batters per nine innings.
On the other hand, Hall has struck out 53 batters in 30 innings and allowed just one home run.
“I’ve definitely had better starts to seasons,” Hall said. “…You have to find something positive to look at. It is a good thing that my strikeouts are there. I think the biggest thing for me is that I have to limit walks, be more consistent … consistency, and just being that same guy every time.”
Nymeo Field is a difficult place to pitch and home runs are plentiful.
“It’s definitely going to happen here at Frederick,” Hall said. “The ball flies out of here. That’s definitely a plus. I don’t really worry. If they’re solo shots, so be it. It’s better than giving up two or three runs. Home runs isn’t something I focus on, but it’s certainly good to limit those.”
Hall said he hasn’t seen much change from Delmarva to Frederick.
“From Low-A to here, I don’t think it’s a huge difference, but I think you can definitely see the hitters get a little bit better,” he said. “It’s not a crazy jump, but here you’ve got to be a little bit more consistent, so I think that something that myself and some of our other pitchers, we all have to learn to do at this level is just be consistent.”
Lord wants to see how his pitchers make the adjustment as they rise in the organization.
“Every time you go up a level, you tend to get away with fewer mistakes,” Lord said. “It’s good to see these guys answer the challenge and realize that sometimes hitters expose an area that needs to get a little better, and they evaluate what happened in the previous outing, and they formulate a plan in the next few days to get them ready for the next outing. That’s encouraging to see.”
While there have been changes in Orioles minor league personnel, Hall has the same pitching coach and his manager, Ryan Minor, has long been in the Orioles’ organization. Still, he notices a difference.
“There definitely are a lot of new things going on, pitching, development, hitting, everything,” Hall said. “Everything is taking a step towards the better. I think that’s huge to have that.”
The numbers haven’t changed Lord’s confidence in Hall.
“He’s being tested in certain areas, probably being tested more mentally than anything right now,” Lord said. “Once again, it’s the same story. It’s giving him the opportunity to push through this.
“It’s not coming as easy as maybe he thought, I thought, you thought or anybody thought, but you still really like what you see. You see a young, athletic kid with four-plus pitches and once again, he works hard every day as all these guys do … I think they’ve been very diligent at the work that they put in every day, and DL is no different. He’s doing a great job at staying focused at the next day, the next opportunity. He’ll be OK.”