Sep 13, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Braves starting pitcher David Hale (62) pitches against the San Diego Padres during the first inning at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

David Hale Impresses Brian McCann


It would have been great for the Atlanta Braves to have capped off David Hale’s impressive MLB debut with a win last night, but the blown lead and loss in no way is what fans should remember. What I will remember is a young rookie and Marietta, GA native having an amazing first outing on the bump, and that in front of supportive fans, and more than 100 friends and family.

When David Hale got 2 strikeouts, then 4, then 6, there was a storm of support and amazement on Twitter.  When Hale reached 9 Ks, the excitement and comments grew  - everything from funny Cy Young comments to serious comments about what this kid could do for Atlanta now and in the future.

The Atlanta Braves’ organization has this uncanny ability to find young pitchers that other clubs wouldn’t take a glance at, develop them into good MLB talent, and bring them up to baffle seasoned hitters. Hale is a prime example. Take a second to look at some of his performance from his MLB debut last night, video courtesy of MLB.com.

Six strikeouts is the most that the young rookie ever put up playing at AAA Gwinnett, but in his major league debut for the Atlanta Braves last night, Hale struck out an impressive nine batters, breaking the debut record for a pitcher.  The former shared record of 8 was held by Bob Dresser in 1902  and Kenshin Kawakami in 2009.

Hale, from nearby Marietta, GA, is a Princeton University graduate, and was ranked by Baseball America as the Braves number 16 prospects after last season.  At Tomahawk Take, we ranked him as our #16 prospect this year, and he is clearly showing that we may need to tweak our rankings at some point.  Hale went 6-9 in 20 starts for Gwinnett, posting a nice 3.22 ERA and a 1.387 WHIP.

In our recent prospect rundown, Alan Carpenter wrote of Hale that ….

He’s not an overpowering strikeout guy (6 per nine) and he has okay control (walks 3 per 9), but he is getting out of innings (78% stranded runners).  But of the starters that Gwinnett has rolled out this year (a bunch of them), Hale has the best ERA.

I agree with Alan’s report on the young pitcher, and even with his 9 Ks last night, I still wouldn’t refer to him as an overpowering strikeout guy.  Afterall, he was facing a team not well known for their hitting this year.  That said, his outing was better on the major league level than anything he’s shown at Gwinnett, so perhaps the young rookie has developed some tools in a short period of time we hadn’t noticed earlier.

He will probably not get too many more starts, and despite the excitement and enthusiasm of fans, will not likely replace Paul Maholm.  Experience goes a long way, so talk of Hale suddenly being inserted into the lineup through the rest of September is probably just that… talk.   That said, I wouldn’t be upset if Hale got a few more outings than expected.  The rookie clearly showed he’s got some poise on the bump.

David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that manager Fredi Gonzalez touched on how much they might use the young rookie, but was a bit vague on how much that might be.

You can’t ask for anything more than that, really.  Now you can’t wait to run him back out there, whether it’s, I hope, later on this year sometime. Or maybe even next year. But the young man was terrific.

O’Brien also reported on Hale’s take on his outing.

I think it went pretty well.  Got all my nerves out. Didn’t throw up or trip running out there, so … got to be happy with that.

It could be interesting to see what kind of pitcher David Hale develops into.  I think he has the mental strength, intelligence, and drive to be one of the best if he continues to develop his pitches.  He has had a very direct path from his draft right up through Triple-A Gwinnett, making a move up every year since drafted.  That shows an important progression, and shows that scouts like what they see.

Brian McCann was still on the DL recovering from shoulder surgery in the spring, so he didn’t get a chance then to catch Hale at all, but made a special trip to get acquainted with some of the minor talent.   Like the scouts, McCann liked what he saw as well.

I didn’t even get a chance to catch him in the spring.  But I went down there early and caught the whole bullpen, talked to him before the game, talked to him about executing and dictating the count, and he did that to a T tonight. He pounded the zone early, got ahead, then made them hit his pitch. His sinker darts all over the place.  What a debut that was.  I tip my hat to him. He came out and battled, pitched about as well as you could pitch.

That’s high praise from a veteran catcher about a rookie pitcher!  What more of an endorsement of David Hale could the Braves organization or Braves fans need?

 

 

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