A Conversation With Orioles Pitching Prospect DL Hall

DL Hall isn’t No. 83 on our 2021 Top 100 Prospects list because of his command. Then again, he sort of is. With a better grasp of the strike zone than he’s shown, the 22-year-old left-hander would be ranked much higher. Since being drafted 21st overall by the Baltimore Orioles in 2017, Hall has walked just over five batters per nine innings.

But then there’s the power arsenal. These words, written by Eric Longenhagen, help explain why the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Hall has a chance to one day dominate hitters at the highest level:

“Ultra-competitive, athletic southpaws with this kind of stuff are very rare. Here’s the list of lefty big league starters who throw harder than Hall, who averaged 94.9 mph on his fastball in 2019: Jesús Luzardo, Blake Snell. That’s it.”


David Laurila: Lets start with something Eric Longenhagen wrote in your prospect profile. Is “ultra-competitive” a good way to describe you?

DL Hall: “I do think that I’m a super-competitive guy. Everybody that steps in the box, I try to own. I like winning, and I hate losing.”

Laurila: Do you hate losing to the extent that it actually bothers you?

Hall: “That’s a tough question. It definitely bothers me, but I’ve also learned how to learn from it, if that makes sense. I learn from losses now, versus dwelling on them.”

Laurila: Are you an adrenaline-junkie on the mound, or are you calm, cool and collected?

Hall: “I’ve been asked that question a few times, and I like to view myself as being a little bit of both. I like to get after it — I’m a high-energy guy — but I also like to calm myself down, and slow things down, in certain moments. I guess it kind of depends on the situation.”

Laurila: One reason I asked is because you have plus velocity, and guys who throw hard like to throw hard. Being super-competitive, do find yourself needing to dial things down and not try to throw the ball 150 mph?

Hall: “In the younger stages of my baseball career, that was definitely a big thing for me — having to settle down, dial back, and just get back in the zone. I would overthrow, because I was so competitive and high energy. But I feel that I’ve come to a point where I can control myself a little bit better, and not make those mistakes as often.”

Laurila: Your FanGraphs writeup also said that your “release is inconsistent.” Do you feel that’s accurate, and if so, does it come from sometimes overthrowing?

Hall: “You know, I think articles like that are kind of… they’re not truly deep enough when it comes to pitching. I feel like anybody can say your release point isn’t right, or that it is right. But there are a lot of things that go into it. Your release point is just the end result. There are things I’ve worked on with my body to stay in the zone better.”

Laurila: Can you elaborate?

Hall: “One big thing I’ve been working on is my back-leg load, keeping it inside of my toe and not getting too quad-dominant. Getting too quad-dominant, the landing spot of my front foot was causing me to throw across my body, causing me to miss arm side at times. Then I’d overcorrect and yank balls to the glove side. So that was a big thing for me, just my overall direction. That’s the main thing I’ve been working on as far as delivery goes, kind of staying over my whole foot instead of my toe.”

Laurila: Was that work primarily done last summer at the alternate site?

Hall: “Yes. We kind of had an idea about it already, but it’s something I really hammered down at [the alt site] with Chris Holt, our pitching coordinator, and Justin Ramsey, our Double-A pitching coach. I feel my command got a lot better. While I’ve definitely still got room to grow, I definitely feel I made strides.”

Laurila: Where was your velocity?

Hall: “Sitting velocity, I was anywhere from 95 to 98 [mph], and I hit triple digits a couple times.”

Laurila: The organization is more invested in analytics than they were in your first professional seasons. What have you learned about your fastball in the past year?

Hall: “I’ve seen how the numbers work out with the vertical hop on a fastball. It helps a lot to have good vertical numbers. Also, true spin, not rifle spinning or getting that tail. I’m not really big on the analytics, but there are things I’m learning that are going to help me.”

Laurila: Do you know what the spin rate and spin efficiency are on your fastball?

Hall: “I’m not sure about spin efficiency, but the spin rate on my fastball in my last live was anywhere from 2,400-2,500 [rpm]. I think I’ve gotten close to 2,600, but yeah, I’m usually around 2,400-2,500.”

Laurila: What about on your curveball?

Hall: “My curveball is high-spin, but I don’t want to tell you a number, because I’m not 100% sure. The only reason I know what my fastball is because I just got that report today and didn’t throw any breaking balls.”

Laurila: How would you describe your curveball? Is it short and sharp, or more of a big bender?

Hall: “It’s kind of in the middle. It’s not super hard, but I also don’t throw it super slow anymore. My curveball was getting a little bit loopy and slow, but now I’ve gotten it up to 80-81. That’s helped out a lot with the sharpness, and not having it popping out of my hand.

“I’d also been mixing my curveball and my slider together a little bit. They were kind of overlapping on the charts and the numbers, to where they were looking alike with a tiny speed difference. What I’ve done is get my slider up to 86-87, and like I said, my curveball up to 80-81.”

Laurila: Have you been throwing both a curveball and slider throughout pro ball?

Hall: “Yes, although I kind of took the curveball away from myself a little bit. It was my best pitch when I was an amateur, but then I kind of lost it in pro ball, so I let off a little bit and started learning my changeup, which developed into one of my best off-speed pitches. Over the past year my curveball has really started to come back around.”

Laurila: Why did you lose your curveball?

Hall: “If I had to guess, the only thing that changed when I got to pro ball was the seams. High school balls have the bigger seams, and when I got back to throwing after being drafted and having a little break, I kind of got it in my head about the seams being smaller. Then I started messing around with a bunch of different grips, and trying all these different things instead of just sticking with my curveball, until I felt it. Finally, I just said, ‘Enough of that.’”

Laurila: Is there anything unique about the grips on your breaking pitches?

Hall: “No. They’re pretty basic. I throw a spiked curveball, and the slider is just a normal slider grip.”

Laurila: What do you consider to be your best secondary pitch?

Hall: “I’d say my changeup, which is your basic two-seam circle.”

Laurila: What makes it effective? It is more velocity-differential, or more about movement?

Hall: “I’d say it’s velo difference. In 2019, in High-A, I had a 98 mph fastball followed up by a 79 mph changeup. There was like a 19 mph difference. I’ve never had a problem with having to try to slow it down. Now that I’ve gotten stronger, it’s more like 83-85, versus the 79-81.”

Laurila: Let’s close with your draft experience. You went 21st-overall to the Orioles, in 2017. Where did you expect to go?

Hall: “I thoughts of going a little bit earlier. Before my senior year, I had a lot of talk of being a top-10 pick, but then I didn’t have a top-10-pick senior year. I feel that I had a good senior year, but… I think it was mainly because of the walks, and things like that. I was really raw. That backed me up in the draft a little bit.

“I had a lot of talks with Kansas City, who picked 14th. I really thought that’s where I was going land, but they passed up on me at the last second. That’s what I was told.”

Laurila: Did you hear from the Royals on draft day?

Hall: “Yeah. They were in heavy contact with my agent. My agent had actually given me teams to look out for in the draft, because I told him I didn’t want to know. So he gave me five teams, and it was crazy, because the Orioles weren’t one of those teams.”

Laurila: What do you mean by not wanting to know?

Hall: “He knew the number [I’d sign for], but I wanted to wait until the pick came. I wanted to find out on TV.”

Laurila: If you were expecting the Royals at 14, that means you were on the edge of your seat for seven more picks.

Hall: “It was actually a little longer than that, because of the teams I was told to watch out for. It was all the way from the Angels, at 10. Then it was Miami at 13, Kansas City at 14, Seattle at 17, and the Mets at 20. I guess the Red Sox were interested as well, so once the Mets passed, I thought to myself, ‘I guess I’m going to the Red Sox at 24.’ But then the Orioles called my name at 21. I’m definitely happy to be where I am.”

David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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3 years ago

Another banger Q&A David. Loved your interview with Grayson, but I feel like this one was even better. Great questions.