Player: Toby Hall
Born: October 21st, 1975 (Currently 39 years old)
Positions: C, 1B, 3B, and DH
Drafted: On June 3rd, 1997 in the 9th round (Pick #294) of the 1997 MLB draft by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays out of the University of Nevada-Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada.
- Hall was also drafted on June 1st, 1995 in the 24th round (Pick #663) of the 1995 MLB draft by the San Francisco Giants out of American River College in Sacramento, California
Tenure: 1997 - 2006 (franchise record at catcher)
Start of Tenure: See Drafted Above
End of Tenure: On June 27th, 2006 was traded with Mark Hendrickson to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Dioner Navarro, Jae Weong Seo, and a PTBNL (Justin Ruggiano)
Teams: Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago White Sox, *Houston Astros, and the *Texas Rangers
* - Didn't appear in a MLB game
Retired: Retired on December 20th, 2011
Rays Stat Line: 5.8 WAR, .262 AVG, .298 OBP, .681 OPS, 44 HR, 251 RBI, and 2 SB
Drafted, Rise Through the System
Toby Hall was drafted in the 1997 draft by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the 9th round. He signed within a week of the draft, and spent the season with the D-Rays' short season Class-A- Hudson Valley Renegades. In 1998, Hall was assigned to the D-Rays' Single-A team, the Charleston Riverdogs. Hall spent the 1998 season in Charleston and hit very well, ending the season with a slash line of .321/.381/.827. He ranked 2nd in the organization in average, behind Alex Sanchez (who batted .330 for the Class A+, St. Petersburg Devil Rays). Hall also had 6 HR and 50 RBI in 105 games. At the end of the season, Hall was named South Atlantic League All-Star Team.
In 1999, Hall was given an invite to Tampa's Spring Training, but was among the first to be cut and reassigned to minor league camp. He opened the season in Class-A+, and was later promoted to Tampa's Double-A team, the Orlando Rays.
During the 1999 season, Hall improved his power at the plate while also being one of the hardest players to strikeout in the minor leagues. He finished the season with a combined 13 HR between the 2 levels, only striking out 19 times in 385 AB.
In 2000, Hall was again invited to Spring Training, but was reassigned to Orlando. In Orlando, Hall's bat took off. He had 9 HR in 271 AB, and batted .343, which was 2nd in the Southern League. On June 30th, Hall was promoted to Tampa Bay's Triple-A team, the Durham Bulls. Hall continued to hit there, he had 7 HR in 184 AB. He led the Bulls into the International League playoffs, where they lost in the semi-finals, but Hall went 11-22 with 2 HR and 8 RBI.
The Call up to Tampa and Futures Game MVP
Toby Hall was promoted to Tampa Bay on September 11th, 2000, and would appear in his 1st game on September 15th in St. Pete against the Oakland A's at the age of 24. In the top of the 7th, Tampa was being blown out 14-2. D-Rays' Manager, Larry Rothschild, decided to bring in his younger players and sit the regulars. Steve Cox took over 1st for Fred McGriff, Aubrey Huff took over 3rd for Vinny Castilla, Ozzie Timmons replaced Randy Winn in LF, and Toby Hall replaced John Flaherty behind the plate.
Hall's 1st AB would come in the bottom half of the 7th against T.J. Mathews. Hall swung through Mathews' 1st pitch, but on the next pitch, Hall lifted the ball into right field for an easy catch by Bo Porter. Hall would have 1 more AB, in the bottom of the 9th, with 2 outs against Jon Ratliff. Hall was able to work a full count against him, but flew out to Porter again, this time in Center Field. Hall finished the game 0-2 in his 2 MLB At-bats. The Athletics won the game 17-3.
Hall's next game was on September 22nd in Toronto against the Blue Jays, where Hall was the starting catcher, batting 8th against Toronto's Frank Castillo. Hall's 1st AB of the game came in top of the 2nd. Castillo had walked McGriff to start the inning, he followed that up by getting Huff to fly out to Dave Martinez in Right Field. Timmons singled to left and Bobby Smith struck out to bring up Hall with runners on 1st and 2nd and 2 outs. With a 1-0 count, Hall hit a soft line drive over Castillo's head. Alex Gonzalez, the Blue Jays' SS, was able to keep McGriff from scoring by knocking the ball down before it reached the outfield, but wasn't able to get Hall at 1st. Hall had recorded his 1st MLB hit and loaded the bases for Felix Martinez, who would the inning with a groundout. In the top of the 5th, with the game tied at 0, Hall took his 2nd AB. On Castillo's 2nd pitch, Hall deposited the ball over the LF wall for his 1st career HR and also to give Tampa a 1-0 lead. Hall would groundout and lineout in his next 2 AB, than be replaced by Flaherty in the bottom of the 9th. Tampa would win the game 3-2. Hall played in 2 more games that season, but didn't record a hit in either of them.
In 2001, Hall was again in Spring Training, but was cut, along with Jesus Colome on March 22nd and assigned to Durham. Hall went on a tear for the Bulls, hitting 19 HR in 373 AB, and only striking out 22 times. He was named to the International Leagues' Allstar team, as well as U.S. team in the Futures Game. Toby Hall went 2-3 in the Futures Games, including hitting back to back HR's with Chase Utley.
On July 25th, Tampa Bay traded Mike Difelice and Albie Lopez to the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for Jason Conti and Nick Bierbrodt. The trade opened up a spot behind the plate that Hall could fill, so he was called up and Conti was assigned to Durham. Hall started his 1st game back on July 27th in Texas against the Rangers. Hall led off the bottom of 4th, already 0-1 having already grounded into a double play in the 2nd. He was facing Rangers' starter, Rob Bell, with the score 7-5, Rangers. With a 1-1 count, Hall made it a 1 run ball game lifting a Solo-HR to left, giving his place in the lineup some credence (though Tampa would go on to lose 13-7).
Hall continued to hit well for the rest of the year. He finished the year with a .298 AVG hitting safely in 39 of his 46 starts, which was 3rd for AL Rookies behind Shawn Wooten (.312) of the Angels and the 2001 MVP & ROY, Ichiro Suzuki of the Mariners (.350). He also had 4 HR and 30 RBI.
In 2002, Hall was the starting Catcher job out of Spring Training and was in Hal McRae's Opening Day Lineup against the Detroit Tigers batting 5th, in between Greg Vaughn and Ben Grieve. Hall went 1-4 with an RBI single in the bottom of the 5th against Jeff Weaver. Hall would being the season on a good note, hitting safely in 14 of 15 games. In the 15th game though, he went 1-7 in a 14 inning game against the Baltimore Orioles.
Hall would fall into a slump, as would the rest of the Devil Rays for they were about to start a franchise record, 15 game losing streak. Hall went 0 for his next 25, finally getting a hit on May 2nd against the Minnesota Twins. Hall continued to struggle in May, struggling to bat over the mendoza line.
Finally after a 0-4 effort against the Athletics on May 26th, the Devil Rays optioned Hall and Tyner to Durham and called up Huff and Paul Hoover to replace them. Tyner and Hall had become something of fan favorites, and after they were optioned to Durham, Tampa cancelled bobble head promotions they had for each of the players.
In Durham, Hall regained his bat and hit close to .350 for the Bulls before being called back up to Tampa on June 25th. In his 1st game back, he went 3-5 with 2 doubles, but Tampa still lost 11-20 dropping the team record to 24-50. Hall was able to improve his performance at the plate, raising his average from .187 on June 25th to .258 by the season's end. Hall finished the season with 6 HR and 42 RBI, and only struck out 27 times in 330 AB.
The year would unfortunately conclude as worst season in franchise history, with Tampa Bay finishing with 55 wins and 106 loses.
Devil Rays Regular
In 2003, Hall was again Tampa Bay's Opening Day Catcher. 2003 would be Hall's 1st full season at the MLB level and he set career highs in HR and RBI. He also led MLB catchers and set a franchise record in caught stealing percentage, nabbing 41.3% of them. He ended the season with 6 HR and 48 RBI, batting .253 with a slash line of .295/.380/.675 in 130 games.
In 2004, Hall and the Devil Rays opened the season in Japan against the New York Yankees, and Tampa won the 1st game, thanks in part to Hall's 3-4 performance.
Hall closed out the month of April with an average of .333. His average would steadily creep down, eventually finishing the season with an average of .255 and a slash of .300/.366/.666 with 8 HR and 60 RBI. He continued to make good contact, striking out only 41 times in 404 AB (10%), which was the 4th best mark in the AL, but 2005 would be Hall's best full year in the majors.
He was again the Opening Day starter for Tampa. Hall hit above .300 until mid-June. Heading into the Allstar Break, Hall was hitting .269, he was able to raise it to .287 by season's end. Hall was able to raise his average by hitting .307 after the All-Star Break, the most among MLB catchers, with the exception of the Indians' Victor Martinez, who hit .380 after the Break but played a utility role, not always behind the dish.
He continued to throw base runners out, ranking 3rd in the league in caught stealing percentage with 37.8%. Hall finished the season slashing .315/.368/.683 with 8 HR and 31 RBI. He also improved upon his strikeout numbers, striking out 39 times in 432 AB.
Parting Words / End of the Line
In 2006, Toby Hall started his 5th consecutive Opening Day, which set a Tampa Bay Devil Ray record.
Hall started the season on a high note, ending the month of April with a .357 average. That .357 average was the 2nd most in team history, behind Rocco Baldelli's .368 mark in 2003 Unfortunately, Hall suffered from some pretty tough luck, having a BABIP of .216 during his time with Tampa Bay in 2006 and his production plummeted.
By the end of June, he was down to .231. Hall was set to be a free agent after the 2006 season and with his production slipping, Tampa decided to trade him while he had some value. On June 27th, Hall was sent along with starting pitcher, Mark Hendrickson to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for Dioner Navarro, Jae-Weong Seo, and a Player to be Named Later, which turned out to be Justin Ruggiano. It was an early move in the Friedman Era, but so characteristic of his ability to take dying stars and make multiple new ones.
Hall mainly served as a backup catcher to Russell Martin for the Dodgers, where he was able to regain his bat and hit .368 the rest of the season with the Dodgers, though he finished the season with a combined slash of .286/.406/.692 with 8 HR and 31 RBI.
At the end of the season, Hall became a free agent. On December 17th, 2006 the Chicago White Sox signed Hall to be their backup catcher to A.J. Pierzynski. When Spring Training was coming to a close, it was looking like Hall would make the Opening Day roster, but on March 25th, he dislocated his right shoulder diving to attempt a catch.
Hall opened the season on the DL, after rehab, made his 1st appearance in a White Sox uniform on May 18th. Hall was able to stay on the MLB roster for the rest of the season, despite not putting up good offensive numbers. He finished the season with a .207 AVG and a slashed .225/.241/.466 with 0 HR and 3 RBI. Those 3 RBI remains the least in the AL for a player with at least 100 AB since Trent Durrington had 2 for the Angels in 1999.
In 2008, Hall was able to stay healthy enough to be on the White Sox roster for the entirety of the season, while Dioner Navarro blossomed under the re-branded Rays.
Hall's offensive numbers improved from the year before and finished the season with a .260 AVG and slashed .304/.331/.634 with 2 HR and 7 RBI. He appeared in his final MLB game on September 21st, 2008 against the Kansas City Royals. He caught the entire game and went 1-3.
The 2008 White Sox had won the AL Central and perhaps poetic justice against Hall, went against the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALDS. Hall made the Playoff roster, but would not make an appearance during the series, which the White Sox eventually lost in 4 games.
Hall became a free agent after 2008 and on January 14th, 2009 he signed a minor league deal with the Houston Astros, but in Spring Training it was revealed that Hall would require season ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder, thus voiding the deal with Houston.
In January of 2010, Hall signed another minor league deal with the Texas Rangers and manged to get through Spring Training, but was again injured and released in May of 2010. Hall tried rehabbing and attempted to make a comeback, but couldn't find any opportunities and decided to retired on December 20th, 2011
After Hall's time in Tampa, he has been quoted numerous times taking jabs at his former team, most of which are mentioned in this Draysbay article I found. Currently, Hall holds numerous records for Rays' catchers, including games played, hits, runs, doubles, homeruns, average, and many others.
Highlights from Toby Hall's Career
Last Career HR on September 7th, 2008 against the Angels
Career Stat Line: 4.8 WAR, .262, AVG, .297 OBP, .671 OPS, 46 HR, 269 RBI, and 2 SB