Many players are selected in the draft or signed as amateurs with the assumption that they are “shortstops.” Adam Jones debuted in the pros as a shortstop, as did Mychal Givens. The O’s tried to leave Ryan Mountcastle as a shortstop in the minors, but his defensive struggles have forced him elsewhere on the diamond. There are high hopes that Adam Hall will be one of the few that actually stick at the position all the way up to the majors.
For years, there were no worries about who was playing shortstop for the Orioles. J.J. Hardy spent seven award-laden years in the black and orange. After he departed, Manny Machado was his obvious replacement. Since Machado’s trade to the Dodgers, the team has had some issues. Tim Beckham has been less than reliable as the starter, and there is no clear upgrade in the organization’s high minors. It is not an urgent concern since the team is unlikely to compete for a few seasons, but there remains a clear and present need for the next steady shortstop to emerge.
Hall was selected 60th overall out of A.B. Lucas Secondary School in Ontario, Canada during the 2017 MLB Draft, and turned down a commitment to Texas A&M in order to sign with the Orioles for $1.3 million. His story is an interesting one because he is originally from Bermuda, but moved to Canada, at his own urging, with his family at the age of 12 in order to pursue a future in baseball.
“They were pretty supportive of it,” Hall said of his parents...“The plan was to move [to Canada] for high school, play in the summer there and do what you can in the offseason in Bermuda. I persisted and forced it.”
I’m 25, and I only kind of know what I want to do for the rest of my career. Hall was 12 years old and already understood how good he was and what he needed to do in order to get better. Before you even get into baseball skill, that is an impressive amount of forethought and follow-through from anyone, let alone a pre-teen.
Hall’s standout skill is his speed, but he also grades out as an above-average fielder with a good arm. Per MLB Pipeline, he will struggle with plays to his backhand, but there is a general consensus that he has the ability to stick at shortstop long term. The bigger questions were regarding his bat and power potential. He is listed at 6-foot, 170 pounds, which is small-ish, but there is some room for growth there. It’s important to remember that Hall is still just 19 years old.
Pipeline ranked him as the Orioles 20th-best prospect prior to the season, but he is down to 27th after the team’s flurry of July moves. He didn’t garner even a mention by Keith Law or FanGraphs during the preseason, but his performance in 2018 could go a long way to improving his stock.
Hall spent the entire campaign with the short-season Aberdeen IronBirds, and things started slow. Over his first 14 games, Hall hit .214/.290/.255 with two doubles. As he adjusted to the league, the improvement was evident, culminating with a ridiculous month of August. The Orioles were impressed enough to name him their Minor League Player of the Month.
It was a like a video game. Hall hit .390/.462/.524 with four doubles, two triples, a home run, 12 RBI, nine walks, 20 strikeouts and 15 stolen bases on 16 attempts in August alone. Those power statistics aren’t eye-popping given how well everything else was going. However, power is quite often the last tool to develop. Hall is unlikely to be a 30-homer type of player anyway, so don’t worry yourself about the lack of dongs just yet.
How the Orioles handle their shortstops in the low minors will be a storyline worth following next season. According to MLB Pipeline, the club has three legitimate “prospects” at the shortstop position in their system. Along with Hall, there is also Jean Carmona and Cadyn Grenier. Carmona spent part of 2018 with Hall in Aberdeen. Grenier went straight from Oregon State to Delmarva after being selected in this summer’s draft. Hall is the only one of the three that could reasonably be considered to have had a “good” offensive season.
When the Orioles decide to promote and who they promote could greatly affect the others. Assigning Grenier to Delmarva out of the gate was aggressive, and it doesn’t seem to have panned out just yet. Despite his struggles, do the O’s promote him to Frederick anyway, allow his defense to carry him and hope his bat develops? If they don’t, they risk not allowing Hall to grow enough in 2019. He is ready for full-season ball, and Delmarva is the next logical step. It would make no sense for the team to skip that level for a 19-year-old. You want both Grenier and Hall getting loads of innings at shortstop, and that can’t happen if they are on the same roster. Carmona would seem to be the easiest decision. He is the youngest, and he struggled: Back to Aberdeen.
If the team wanted to be ultra-aggressive, we could expect to see Hall in Baltimore sometime in 2020 as a 21-year-old. That would require him to leap-frog Grenier in the system, and that may be tough to do. What’s more likely is that he plays a full season each at Delmarva, Frederick and Bowie with a chance at a September call-up in 2021 if all things go well.
It’s encouraging to see Hall do well with the bat in Aberdeen. It shows, at the very least, that he is ready for the next test. How he performs over an entire season will give us a better idea of his true abilities. Hall is trending up. He has the chance to be one of the Orioles top 15 prospects at the start of next season given his impressive final month in Aberdeen, but that depends upon whether or not you believe in his ability to turn raw tools into refined skill.