The following is the third in a weekly series of posts where I take a look at a prospect in the Brewers’ minor league system.
- Is a starting pitcher
- Is 6’5″, 200 pounds
- Pitches right-handed, bats right-handed
- Was born on 6/26/90 in Anderson, SC
- Was drafted in the 4th round of the 2009 draft out of T.L. Hanna H.S. in Anderson, SC; signed late, did not debut until 2010
- Minor league career: 6.6 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, 4.09 ERA in 140.2 IP
- True fact: pitched a perfect game in high school on March 25, 2009
I’ve had the pleasure of being able to watch Wisconsin Timber Rattlers righty Brooks Hall pitch a number of times this year. Despite the lack of gaudy numbers, the big South Carolinian impresses me each time out. It’s possible that I’ve just seen him at his best, but I get the sense that he has an advanced feel for pitching, even if his stuff still needs a little work.
What kind of stuff does Hall have to work with? When he was drafted in 2009, most scouting reports had his two-seam fastball sitting in the 89-92 MPH range, with the velocity occasionally peaking at 95. At the time, scouts also said that he should be able to add some velocity as his body matured.
Two years later, Hall is still sitting in the 88-92 MPH zone, and to the best of my knowledge, he hasn’t hit 95 with Wisconsin yet this year. That’s not really concerning to me – he turned 21 just two months ago and still has a way to go before he fills out his 6’5 frame. He still could add a bit to his fastball velocity.
I’m also not bothered about the non-uptick in velocity because power pitching isn’t his game. His fastball can generate heavy sink, and Hall is becoming adept at pounding the bottom of the strike zone. He doesn’t have a big ground ball rate to show for it thus far, but as he becomes more consistent with his delivery, the ground balls will come.
Speaking of his delivery, it’s hard not to notice the simplicity of Hall’s pitching motion. Instead of using a big wind-up to generate arm speed, Hall relies on his lengthy lower half to add power. He has a moderately slow leg kick followed by a quick push-off and minimal extra arm movement out of a high-3/4 arm slot that he repeats well. He also maintains a fairly consistent release point. His delivery is clean and low-maintenance.
The pitch that could make Hall into a mid-rotation workhorse in the big leagues is a slider that is, at times, a dominant pitch. It has a good, hard break across the plate that right-handed batters have a tough time laying off of. That’s due in part because his release point and arm speed on the slider are identical to his fastball, and both come out high from his delivery and sink, so it can be very difficult for a batter to differentiate between the two pitches until it is too late.
Hall also throws a change-up and a curveball. He’s thrown the change since high school, so he’s not one of the many pitchers the Brewers’ minor league staff has had to introduce the pitch to. It has the potential to be a solid pitch, and is a necessary piece to the puzzle if he wants to get more advanced left-handed hitters out and remain a starting pitcher. Hall’s curveball is still a work in progress. I’ve seen it be loopy and ineffective, as well as well shaped and well located. It’s an intriguing fourth pitch that has some potential, and I’ll be interested to see if the Brewers have him stick with it or not.
The main things Hall needs to work on right now are control of his fastball and the feel for his change-up. Hall can get hit hard when he leaves his fastball (or slider) up in the zone. When he gets the ball down, you rarely see an opposing hitter make solid contact. And as I mentioned before, he needs to be able to throw his change-up inside to left-handed batters and become more consistent with his arm speed on the pitch.
Consistency with fastball control will help out his slider, and lead to an increased strikeout rate. Hall’s K/9 rate is pedestrian right now, but it will improve as he learns to work down and on the corners, as opposed to just trying to throw strikes. He already has a good feel for throwing in the zone, and that’s definitely something to build on.
Hall will never be a huge strikeout guy, and probably never a top of the rotation pitcher, but he offers an enticing package of tools that stand a good chance of turning him into a solid Major League starter. He has a workhorse-type frame and Hall truly seems to “get” some of the facets of pitching that often lead to success: throwing strikes, being economical with his pitch count, and keeping his motion simple and repeatable. With a plus slider, a fastball that could be above average down the line and workable third and fourth pitches, I look forward to seeing what Hall offers the Brewers in the coming years.