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Baltimore Orioles

Orioles observations on DL Hall hitting 100 mph, a big prospect day and Dean Kremer’s arsenal | ANALYSIS

CLEARWATER, Fla. — One of the routes from the Orioles’ spring training home in Sarasota up to Clearwater goes past the Tampa Bay Rays’ Tropicana Field, offering a reminder for how close Baltimore’s April 8 season opener is.

The game the Orioles actually played Monday, an exhibition at the Philadelphia Phillies, also showed off the near future. Although it resulted in a 7-1 loss, the contest featured Orioles No. 3 prospect DL Hall hitting 100 mph in his spring debut, another two scoreless innings from No. 9 prospect Kyle Bradish and several of Baltimore’s recent high draft picks in the game at the same time.

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Hall and Bradish were optioned to the minors after the game, along with outfielder Yusniel Diaz and left-hander Alexander Wells, but that did little to spoil the thrill of a day the Orioles’ farm system was on display.

Baltimore’s travel roster featured seven of the organization’s top 10 prospects, based on Baseball America’s rankings, including the club’s top three minor league infielders and two of its top three pitchers.

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“We have players starting to get at the upper levels, guys that we believe in and have done a great job of developing the last few years,” manager Brandon Hyde said before the game. “It’s nice to see guys getting close.”

Outfielder Kyle Stowers, ranked Baltimore’s seventh-best prospect, started the game in right field, but it wasn’t long before others joined him. Bradish took the mound for the fourth inning, and against a lineup filled with the Phillies’ top hitters and prospects, Bradish reached four shutout frames this spring, with both of his two-inning outings featuring matchups opposite major league regulars.

After Bradish finished, Colton Cowser, selected with the fifth overall pick in the 2021 draft, entered in center field, with Joey Ortiz, a 2019 fourth-rounder making his way up prospect rankings, came on at second.

An inning later, Hall made his Grapefruit League debut, with infielders Coby Mayo and Jordan Westburg taking the field behind him. Baltimore’s first-round pick in 2017, Hall has perhaps the best stuff of any left-handed pitcher in the minors, but he’s had trouble staying on the mound to deploy it. A stress reaction in his left elbow cut his 2021 season short, one in which he felt like he finally “showed the real me.”

Hyde wondered pregame how much adrenaline Hall would have, and the answer was a lot. His first pitch sailed to the backstop, nearly taking Phillies prospect Mickey Moniak’s head along with it. Another high fastball followed, but then Hall settled in. Moniak, the first overall pick in the 2016 draft, took a 98.7 mph fastball for a strike, fouled off another at 99.6 mph, then swung through Hall’s elevated 100 mph offering.

Hall followed up by striking out Adam Hasely at 99.9 mph and threw another pitch that hard for a ball to Nick Maton, who lined out to center to close Hall’s perfect frame.

“After those first two that I didn’t even feel like I felt it come out of my hand, it was just like an unbelievable thing, but it definitely felt great after that,” Hall said. “Once I settled down, I took a deep breath and like I said, I reminded myself that I’ve been doing this since I was a kid and kind of took a deep breath and settled in and everything just felt great coming out.

“I’ve been itching for ever since June of last year to get back out there. It was an unbelievable experience to scratch that itch.”

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The Orioles’ offense slumped through the loss, with only hit through seven innings until Tyler Nevin’s opposite-field home run. That meant regulars didn’t get their needed three at-bats until late in the game, limiting the prospects’ time on the field. But in the eighth, after 2019 second-rounder Gunnar Henderson and 2021 third-rounder John Rhodes took the field, the Orioles had six players selected in the top four rounds of the previous three drafts, plus former No. 1 prospect Diaz, on the field at once.

“That,” Hyde said, “was a lot of fun.”

Kremer mixes good and bad

The top half of the Phillies’ lineup was formidable: Kyle Schwarber, J.T. Realmuto, Bryce Harper, Nick Castellanos and Rhys Hoskins. Orioles right-hander Dean Kremer, vying for a rotation spot, had all-or-nothing outcomes against them.

That quintet went 4-for-10 against Kremer with two home runs, but five of the six outs came on strikeouts. In total, Kremer issued no walks and got nine whiffs among his 60 pitches, including three among four swings against his changeup. He said the pitch was his third priority this offseason, given that he felt he ended last season with good feel for it in Triple-A. Instead, his focuses were on his curveball, a pitch vital to him leading the minors in strikeouts in 2018, and bringing life back to his fastball.

“I’m pretty content with the way it went,” Kremer said. “I threw a lot of good pitches. Even the mistakes weren’t hit crazy hard. They might have left the yard, but I didn’t feel like they got all of it. I’m pretty happy with the way it went. I didn’t walk anybody. A lot of strikes with everything.”

Kremer’s most-used pitch was his cutter, a pitch he has gone to too frequently at times in the past. He got four swing-and-misses with it, but also left two in the middle of the plate that Castellanos and Schwarber turned into home runs.

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“Dean just made a couple mistakes, and they hurt him with homers but besides that, I really liked his stuff,” Hyde said. “Mid-90s fastball. I liked the way he landed breaking balls. I thought he threw some good changeups. Just a couple cutters that just got too much to the plate against two great major league hitters.”


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