The Orioles have started to stack intriguing middle infield prospects in their minor league system over the last few years. While many of them are Mike Elias picks from recent drafts, there is one Dan Duquette-era selection with loud tools that still have a chance to turn into a big-league contributor.
Adam Hall is a Bermuda-born infielder that the Orioles selected out of London, Ontario with the 60th overall pick back in the 2017 draft. Since then, he has made a steady climb up the organizational ladder, spending a full season in what was then short-season Aberdeen in 2018 and then an entire year in low-A Delmarva before ending up in high-A Aberdeen in 2021.
Where he lands on the various ďTop ProspectĒ charts has a decent amount of variance. The Athleticís Keith Law is highest on him, placing him as the organizationís sixth-best prospect prior to the season. MLB Pipeline places him 15th, but their list now includes 2021 draft picks, two of which are ahead of Hall. Finally, there is FanGraphs, another list with two members of the 2021 class ahead of Hall, which puts him 16th.
The assignment to Aberdeen was perhaps a bit conservative from the Oriolesí perspective at first blush. Hall had posted a 133 wRC+ over 122 games as a 20-year-old at low-A in 2019. It didnít seem unreasonable to think he could have progressed enough in the year without a minor league season to earn a spot in Double-A heading into 2021. But him being a Canadian citizen may have hurt him in that regard. Due to COVID restrictions, Hall could not enter the U.S. until the fall instructional league in 2020. That delayed his development, and is likely the reason for the cautious approach.
Whatever the reason, Hall did struggle statistically this past season. Over 81 games with the IronBirds, the middle infielder slashed .248/.335/.337 with three home runs and a strikeout rate of nearly 30%. Contributing to the struggles were a pair of stints on the IL with a quadricep strain.
Itís not all bad news. Hall did once again flash his ability to steal bases. He was successful on 26 of 27 attempts. Plus, this season represents the only real setback in his career to this point, and it came in a league where he was almost an entire year younger than the average player. It shouldnít cause the organization or close followers of the teamís minor leaguers to lose hope.
Something that will be worth following regarding Hall is his eligibility for the Rule 5 draft in December, provided that ongoing CBA negotiations do not drastically alter the process.
As things stand, Hall will be Rule 5 eligible for the first time this offseason. The odds of the Orioles protecting him from the major league portion would seem quite low. He is yet to play above High-A, and the club has a handful of other players that are closer to big-league ready that will need to be protected. Given where he is in his development, it also seems unlikely that another organization would be able to hang onto him for an entire season, but itís not impossible. Anthony Santander had only played as high as High-A prior to being picked by the Orioles back in 2016, and thatís worked out pretty well.
What may be more interesting is to see how the Oís attempt to protect him from the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft. He would need to be placed on the Triple-A roster for the time being to completely protect him, or they could give a slightly lesser promotion to increase the price tag for a team that is interested. That is a far riskier game.
Hallís season was a disappointment, but there remains enough there for the Orioles to do what they can tp keep him in the organization. His skillset is valuable, and it has a chance to work at the highest level. Plus, his struggles this year were accompanied by enough oddities (COVID year, injuries, body composition changes) that it could mean that 2022 provides a far more fair sample on which to judge than 2021 did.