To cap off the end of the 2009 season, I’m going to be counting down my list of the top 50 prospects in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ system. I’ll be counting down one prospect per day, with an extensive recap on each player, until I reach number one. Check out the previous installments:
18. Victor Black, RHP
2009 Season: The Pirates drafted Black with the 49th overall pick in the 2009 draft, using the compensation pick they received for not signing Tanner Scheppers in 2008. Black was rated the 50th best prospect in the draft, according to Baseball America, coming off his junior season with Dallas Baptist University. In his final year with Dallas Baptist, Black posted a 4.16 ERA in 88.2 innings pitched, with a 99:40 K/BB ratio, and a .276 BAA.
Black signed immediately for $717,000, which was just $600 over slot. He made his debut in State College, pitching 31.1 innings pitched. In that time he posted a 3.45 ERA, with a 33:15 K/BB ratio and no homers allowed. Black started seven games, but was held to a strict pitch count, and limited to no more than three innings per outing. Black really looked good in August and September, with a 1.80 ERA in 20 innings pitched, with a 20:9 K/BB ratio.
Information: Black is largely viewed as a relief pitching prospect, despite starting in college, and getting several starts with State College this year. He’s 6′ 4″, 185 pounds and throws a 92-94 MPH fastball that tops out at 96 MPH. His fastball comes in straight, being thrown from a high three-quarters slot. He does have control issues at time, as shown with his 4.3 BB/9 ratio with State College this year.
Black had a good curveball as a freshman, but lost the pitch his sophomore year. He switched to a slider, which can be sharp at times, ranging from 82-84 MPH, but is also inconsistent. He was effective with his changeup in 2009, although the pitch will need work in order to be effective in pro ball. That’s not to say Black is a one pitch guy, just that he needs to improve his secondary pitches.
Black’s big frame is built for durability, able to withstand his mid-90s fastball. He worked on improving his mechanics coming in to the 2009 season, and the change must have helped, as his numbers at Dallas Baptist improved drastically. Black doesn’t have a lot of stamina, which means he could likely be relegated to the type of work we saw in State College, being limited to three inning outings each appearance.
The big thing Black needs to improve is his control. He only started pitching his senior year of high school, and walked 103 batters in 158 innings as a freshman with Dallas Baptist. He’s improved those numbers, but his control issues aren’t behind him just yet.
Black’s skills and performance were good enough for him to be rated the number six prospect in the 2009 New York-Penn League, according to Baseball America.
2010 Expectations: The pitching ranks could be crowded in A-ball next year, and Black’s assignment really depends on how much the Pirates intend on using him. If he is limited to three innings per outing, he might be assigned to high-A, in a similar role as guys like Tom Boleska this year, pitching two or three innings after the starting pitcher comes out of the game. If the Pirates want to give Black a chance for more innings per outing, he might be better off at West Virginia, where there might be more space in the rotation. Either way, I wouldn’t be surprised if Black ends up in AA by the end of the season, although a conservative approach would have him starting AA in 2011.
Optimistic Projection: With a mid-90s fastball that has room for more velocity, and a sharp slider, Black could end up an All-Star closer in the majors. This assumes he improves his control in the lower levels, and gains more command of his top two pitches.
Conservative Projection: Black is definitely a back of the bullpen arm in the future, and if he’s not a closer, he could turn in to a very valuable set up man, perhaps like Evan Meek.
Check back tomorrow for prospect number 17…