Among the Orioles’ top-end prospects, none had a more polarizing 2022 season than DL Hall. The former first-round pick from the 2017 draft showed plenty of moments that made you believe in the hype surrounding the Orioles’ second-best pitching prospect. The triple-digit fastballs, the preposterously sharp breaking balls, the ridiculous strikeout numbers—it was all there. What came with that, though, was worryingly-high walk rates, a propensity to let innings slip away from him and control concerns that couldn’t be ignored. Throw in long, flowing locks, a heavily tattooed right forearm and a big gold chain and you have the full 2022 DL Hall experience.
Perhaps the first positive takeaway from Hall’s 2022 season was that he ended the season healthy. After an elbow injury limited him to 31.2 innings for Bowie in 2021, there was a certain amount of cautious optimism that surrounded the flame-throwing lefty from Georgia heading into 2022. That caution saw Hall start his season down at Aberdeen, but after only 7.2 innings split between the IronBirds and Baysox, he arrived in Norfolk ready to show what a healthy DL could do.
Early on, the results were the often-electrifying—but somewhat erratic—mixed bag Birdland had come to expect from Hall. His first five starts for Norfolk saw him put up 26 Ks over 16.2 innings for a ridiculous strikeout rate of over 14 Ks per nine innings. However, much less impressive was the 1.44 WHIP and 4.86 ERA Hall put up in those starts. When he wasn’t missing bats, Hall struggled to keep runners from getting on base and coming around to score.
Those early inconsistencies continued into June, where his K rate continued to be high, but his WHIP and ERA got even higher (1.59 and 5.17 respectively through his first 10 Triple-A starts). In July it looked like Hall would finally turn a corner, as he began to dominate the way we expect elite pitching prospects to in the minors. Hall’s last four starts before the All-Star break saw him rack up 40 Ks over 20.2 innings, where he only gave up eight hits and one earned run.
Close the line on DL Hall tonight:— The Verge- An Orioles MiLB Podcast (@BSLOnTheVerge) July 13, 2022
5.2 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 4 BB, 8 K. 98/59.
Over his last three starts: 15.2 IP, 1 ER, 7 BB, 30 K. pic.twitter.com/k0FiBX5xkK
It was this type of pitching that had some Orioles fans (i.e. me) positively comparing Hall to a young Randy Johnson. Sure the walks would always be there, but how much could walks hurt you if every other batter you faced ended up with a big K on his scorecard?
It was after the All-Star break that Hall’s season entered its second, more topsy-turvy chapter. It began with his two worst starts of the year, where Hall combined to throw only 1.2 innings while allowing eight hits and seven runs. The changing of the calendar from July to August didn’t result in much of an uptick in form, as his August 2nd start against the Nashville Sounds saw him allow another six runs in four innings, including a season-high three home runs allowed.
And yet, despite his rocky post-All-Star-break form, the Orioles made the exciting (but still shocking) move to call Hall up for his major league debut on August 13. In his first—and to this point only—MLB start, Hall showed everything that made him major-league-ready and every aspect of his game that was still far too raw for the MLB.
He walked the very first batter he faced, and that runner later came around to score on an RBI ground out. He followed that up by striking out the side in the second. Then in the third, he walked the leadoff hitter again, gave up three more hits and allowed another three runs to cross. His final stat line—3.2 innings, 5 hits, 5 runs, 6 Ks, 3 BBs—offered fans a glimpse of everything DL is and isn’t at this point in his career.
In every appearance after August 13th, Hall was used in a new bullpen role, first back at Norfolk, before returning to Baltimore at the beginning of September. The results weren’t always outstanding—as his stat line from the Labor Day Letdown will show—but he seemed to grow in confidence throughout the final month of the season. His last four appearances in 2022 saw him work 4.1 scoreless innings while striking out eight. He still allowed his fair share of hits and walks, but Hall showed signs of learning how to consistently prevent those runners on base turn into marks in the run column.
All of that sets up for an enigmatic outlook for his official rookie season in 2023—and beyond. The Orioles’ clear need for starting pitching undoubtedly means that Hall would be most valuable if he could hold down a starting role. Given everything we’ve seen so far, though, that’s a very big “if.” The fact remains that Hall has never thrown more than 94.1 innings in a season—and that came back in 2018 for Low-A Delmarva.
In reviewing Keegan Akin’s ’22 season, I praised Akin for his ability to be a dependable, multi-inning weapon to bridge the gap to the Orioles’ more explosive relievers. The best-case scenario for Hall’s 2023—based on what we’ve already seen—would be a role that seems to straddle the line between Akin and someone like Cionel Perez. Someone able to contribute across multiple innings, but with the raw stuff to be tasked with dominating in high-leverage situations.
Hall’s future remains incredibly bright. Anyone who’s seen him dot the outside corner with triple-digit heat and then snap a breaking ball off perfectly at the batter’s back foot knows just how special DL’s stuff is. Now we’ve seen that stuff can play at the big league level. the key going forward for Hall will be continuing to grow. He needs to show he can continue to take steps forward like we saw to end ‘22 across a larger sample size in ‘23. If he does, then he can give the O’s 80-100 innings of his unique style of overpowering hitters next season. If he can do all that while maintaining a more Akin-like ERA, perhaps he can even build toward a spot in the rotation in the years that follow.
Previously: Fallen prospect roundup, Jean Pinto, Darell Hernaiz, Drew Rom, international prospect roundup, César Prieto, Mike Baumann, Hudson Haskin, John Rhodes and Reed Trimble, Cade Povich and Chayce McDermott, Joey Ortiz, Terrin Vavra, injured pitcher roundup, Coby Mayo, Kyle Stowers, Heston Kjerstad, Jordan Westburg, 2022 draftee roundup, Connor Norby
Monday: Colton Cowser