Prior to the 2007 season, Nall appeared in just two games in St. Lucie, making his rather rapid ascension that much more noteworthy. His goal heading into last March's spring training was to break camp on the B-Mets roster, but early in the season he was shaky. His command was extremely spotty in his 11 appearances (12 innings), as he was roughed up for 15 earned runs and 23 hits. The early struggles taught Nall a valuable lesson in goal setting and expectations.
"I had a goal of breaking camp with the Double-A team and I did that," he said. "Goals are all well and good, but it's not about focusing on a lot of goals, but to focus on one goal. I think I got weighed down into my numbers and it had a negative effect. Once I realized that, I wasn't focusing on individual things as much as one big goal, which for me was going out and just competing."
Due to the poor start, Nall was sent down to St. Lucie. He made 11 appearances for the Single-A Mets, going 3-2 with a 2.21 ERA in 20.1 innings pitched, but most importantly, he regained command of both his fastball and slider. Nall is a natural groundball specialist, and in St. Lucie he got back to his ways of getting hitters to pound the ball into the dirt.
He now has the assurance that no matter the pitch count, he can attack hitters with any one of his pitches-something he previously lacked. As he typically pitches just one inning, he often used just his fastball and slider to get through innings, but to make him more effective, he began to diversify his approach.
"When I come into the game, I'm only facing a couple of batters and I'm usually thinking about getting the batters out with my fastball and slider, but there are times where I'll need to add in that extra wrinkle and that's where the changeup or throwing pitches in off-counts comes in," he said.
"In years before, I would always go after guys with my fastball to start off at-bats, and I realized that I couldn't keep doing that in Binghamton, and that it got me into trouble," he said. "So, when I went down to St. Lucie we worked on mixing up my first pitch and it really changed the tempo of at-bats and that got me ahead more and got hitters to get themselves out more."
Nall returned to the B-Mets with his new approach and a renewed confidence. He instantly made an impact and there was a clear difference in his game. In his first ten appearances back, he posted a 1.59 ERA in 11.1 innings pitched, walking just one. He acknowledged how the trip to St. Lucie and the support of Binghamton pitching coach Ricky Bones and manager Mako Oliveras played significant roles in his turn around.
"Going down to St. Lucie was really what I needed. The coaches in Binghamton told me they believed in me and my stuff, but that I just needed to go down there, take some pressure off and get my game back to where they knew it could be. Knowing that they weren't ready to give up on me was really encouraging and helped me believe in myself," he explained.
The work never slows down for Nall as he can usually be found in the bullpen between outings making sure his pitches are always on point. The pitcher coaches saw after the All-Star Break, the one that was 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA in 24 innings, is more like the pitcher that should play an intricate part of any bullpen-wherever he ends up. Yet Nall knows at this stage of his career he must keep working so he does regress again.
"My game depends so much on me believing in what I can do. I can't give in. I've looked at what I've done and what I need to do and I think this next year will be about getting consistent and to get consistent, I've got to keep pushing myself," he detailed.
Repertoire: Fastball, Slider, Changeup
Fastball: Nall throws both a two-seam fastball and a four-seamer, but it is the two-seamer which he relies on more. He can dial it up to 90-91 if he chooses, but the pitch is most effective when he slows it down to 87-88 MPH so it can have more movement. He can use the sinking fastball as a strikeout pitch, but relies on it to set up his other pitches or when he needs a groundball. His four-seam fastball is not nearly as reliable. Though he can throw it with a similar velocity, he has more trouble spotting it consistently and thus uses it infrequently. He throws the four-seam more as a get-over pitch.
Other Pitches: His slider his is most dynamic pitch. He flips it in between 77-81 MPH with a lot sweeping movement as it breaks hard and away to right-handers. It is a feel pitch for Nall, and he executes it best when is he throwing it often. When he lacks the touch on his slider, he can get hit hard, but when it is on, it can be extremely difficult to hit. He continues to work on a changeup, but he did not throw it much in 2007 so its development is still a long ways away. He will mix the changeup in when he feels pressured to throw something other than his two-seam fastball or slider.
Pitching: Nall's delivery and tough top two pitches make him a good candidate to be called upon when games are tight and outs are necessary. Though he was inconsistent early on in 2007, the way he rebounded demonstrated that he has the ability to perform at a high level when he has his mechanics and pitches working. He does not throw his changeup much, but is able to get groundballs at a high rate and rely on his defense due to his big slider. He likes to pitch more to contact but his still able to get his share of strikeouts due to the movement on his pitches.
Projection: Nall has the tools to be a solid middle reliever at the big league level, but he needs to shake his history of falling into inconsistencies. In the majors, he would best fit in as a six or seventh inning pitcher, but does not throw hard enough to be a setup man. He can rely on his two best pitches in the minors, but to survive at the Major League level, he needs to progress his changeup.
ETA: 2009. Nall was strong in his second-half return to Binghamton last summer, and that should be where he picks up next season. However, if he can avoid another slow start and show command of all his pitches, there is a good chance he can get to New Orleans in 2008 which should set him up for a trip to Shea at some point during the 2009 season.
Until the beginning of the season, each week Scout.com will preview a Mets prospect that will have a good chance to play with the Zephyrs in 2008.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.