RIGHT HANDED PITCHER
| Born: May 23, 1988
Height: 6′ 3″
Drafted: 1st Round, 49th Overall, 2009
How Acquired: Draft
College: Dallas Baptist University
WTM’S PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES
|The Pirates selected Black with the compensation pick they received for their failure to sign 2008 2nd round pick Tanner Scheppers. According to Baseball America, which ranked him the 50th best prospect available in the draft, Black threw a three-quarters angle fastball that sat at 92-94 and reached 96. He also threw a slider, and a change that needed work. He struggled with his control throughout his collegiate career, although it improved in 2009. He showed the ability to miss bats, an ability that the Pirates avoided like the plague under the previous regime. Most scouts regarded him more as a potential late-inning reliever than as a starter, although the Pirates originally intended develop him as the latter. Black signed surprisingly quickly after the draft.
The Pirates limited Black’s workload, but he generally pitched well, with a good K rate and a .213 opponents’ BA. The only negative was a lot of walks. He had a large platoon split, holding RH batters to a .159 average while lefties hit .283 against him.
Was injured at the start of the season and it turned into a year-long problem that limited him to two brief outings. He had shoulder problems that developed into biceps tendonitis.
During the 2010-11 off-season, the Pirates made the decision to move Black to the bullpen full-time, in obvious concern about his ability to stay healthy. He appeared to be healthy in training camp and was slated to open 2011 in Bradenton, but the team decided he wasn’t quite ready at the start of the season. He didn’t appear in a game until late May and then it was at West Virginia. He struggled with his command while with the Power, resulting in a lot of walks. The Pirates moved him up to Bradenton anyway in mid-August. He struggled a little more in four outings there. Black’s stuff was not as good as it had been previously, as his fastball sometimes hit the 92-94 range but others fell into the upper-80s.
A little surprisingly, the Pirates sent Black to Altoona to start the season. The move worked, as he stayed healthy all year, eventually taking over the closer role, and showed dominating stuff. His fastball sat in the mid-90s and topped out at 97, occasionally higher, and his slider produced a lot of swings and misses, leading to a very high K rate. His stuff improved over the course of the season, leading to a K/9 of 14.9 in the second half. Opponents hit just .189 against him, and both right- and left-handed batters were under .200. The negative was his control, which was shaky much of the time and still needs to improve. Considering how little he was able to pitch until 2012, it was a huge step forward.
Black was eligible for the Rule 5 draft and so was added to the 40-man roster. He’ll head to Indianapolis in 2013 and stands a decent chance of seeing Pittsburgh during the season.