Reno, Nevada —— The Arizona Diamondbacks signed seven-year minor league free agent Brooks Hall this winter, and it marked a new beginning for the right-handed pitcher past his first 140 career appearances in the Milwaukee Brewers‘ organization after they drafted him in 2009. The Diamondbacks sent him to Double-A Jackson to begin the season, and things didn’t really work out there: Hall was 2-4 with a 5.60 ERA over 15 games (eight starts) for the Generals with 67 hits and 16 walks allowed against 54.2 innings pitched.
Two weeks ago, he was transferred up to Triple-A Reno for two relief appearances in late June, but after throwing five innings of one-run ball in the Pacific Coast League, Arizona released him on June 26. Now a free agent again at 27 years old, and having never reached the big leagues despite a nearly decade-long minor league career, this may prove the end of the road for Brooks Hall. That’d be a shame if true; based on my look in his June 20 outing for the Aces (three innings pitched, no runs, one walk, three strikeouts; video below), Hall has an interesting look that could benefit an organization in middle relief depth in the upper minors.
Brooks Hall — June 20 video
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Brooks Hall — notes + projection
A three-quarters arm slot that hides the ball—especially from righties—Brooks Hall gives a decent look in middle relief out of the bullpen. The 27-year-old eight-year minor league veteran sits surprisingly hard with his fastball considering his arm angle and Brian Lawrence-esque mechanics; Hall will work 92-95 mph and I saw him top out as high as 97 mph with his two-seam fastball, though it flattened out a good bit in the upper velocity band. When his fastball is low- to mid-90s, there’s good arm-side run and sink when it’s down in the zone, and he can be brutal on right-handed hitters with that hard, boring fastball forever running in on their hands when it’s well-commanded. It wasn’t well-enough commanded in Double-A Jackson this year, though; righties hit Hall at a .336 clip (43 hits in 30.2 innings pitched), which shouldn’t be happening with his arm slot.
Hall couples the fastball with a decent changeup at 83-84 mph, and a hard, late-breaking slider at 84-88 mph. The changeup has definite vertical tumble, though it’s more or less straight down with little by way of arm-side run—and thus, it may not be as valuable against lefties as Hall needs considering the rest of his repertoire. The slider is a hard, late breaker with good vertical depth but not much by way of lateral movement. It spins tight and Hall throws it hard, so there’s some deception in the pitch, but it’s not much of a wipeout pitch. Frankly, the slider does more to draw weak contact than it does to miss bats, and obviously, that’s not the best trait for a middle reliever typically working with lots of base running traffic.
Downsides acknowledged, though, Hall has the raw stuff to be a ground ball machine much in the same way as another sinkerballer I observed this week in a different organization. Hall turns his back to hitters at times during his delivery, giving a different wrinkle to them in timing and tracking, though also causing some mechanical inconsistencies for himself. He’s got a good, quick pickoff move to first base and varies tempos well in holding runners, too, but he was slow (1.5, 1.6) to the plate in my look. Natural movement in his repertoire has gotten Brooks Hall this far in pro ball; less is more with sinker/slider guys like that, and when they shoot low middle and let their stuff work 6-3 and 4-3 putouts start flowing. That didn’t happen enough for Hall this summer (71 hits in 59.2 innings across both Double-A and Triple-A), and now he’s out of a job.
Brooks Hall — moving forward
Brooks Hall has now burned through two organizations and is an eight-year minor leaguer at 27 years old with no big league experience, so whether now or at the end of the season, it was likely about time to move on. His release was abrupt, though, and came after two solid pitching performances for the Arizona Diamondbacks in Triple-A Reno spanning five innings with four hits, one run, one walk, and five strikeouts. Maybe he’s off pursuing an opportunity overseas that’ll net him a larger salary, and if that’s the case, hey, good on him. But if the Arizona Diamondbacks simply decided they didn’t have a spot for him or a viable path forward to Phoenix—which they’re certainly entitled to do—it wouldn’t shock me if Brooks Hall resurfaces somewhere either later this year or on a minor league spring training deal in 2018.
He’s certainly on the outside looking in to any hope of a significant future for his baseball career from here, but let’s be real: he’s a middle reliever sinkerballer throwing 95 mph and infrequently touching 97 mph with an 88 mph slider. In part, that’s an indictment of how far baseball has gone towards developing power pitchers at every level and role, but it’s also a testament to the fact that Hall really does have some decent raw stuff if he can keep it down in the zone. Maybe it’s worth a shot with another organization; perhaps he’s looking overseas for bigger money; certainly, he’ll find an independent league job if he wants one. Whatever the case, that video we shared above is, as of right now, the second-to-last outing of Brooks Hall’s 20-something-year baseball career.
Weird to think about that.