- Full name Victor Laurence Black
- Born 05/23/1988 in Amarillo, TX
- Profile Ht.: 6'4" / Wt.: 210 / Bats: R / Throws: R
- School Dallas Baptist
- Debut 07/25/2013
Drafted in the C-A round (49th overall) by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2009 (signed for $717,000).
View Draft ReportBlack may have cemented his status as Texas' top college prospect when he outpitched two of his main challengers, Texas A&M's Brook Raley and Alex Wilson, in front of a crowd of scouts in late April. Black allowed just one hit in the first six innings before tiring, topping out at 96 mph and sitting at 92-94. His fastball is pretty straight because he throws from a high three-quarters slot, and his control sometimes deserts him, but he has pitched in the mid-90s throughout the season. Black has improved his mechanics and command significantly from a year ago, when he struggled mightily at Dallas Baptist (1-6, 4.97) and in the Cape Cod League (0-4, 7.01). He had a good curveball as a freshman but lost it in 2008, and he now throws a slider. It has good tilt when he stays balanced over the rubber, and it was sharp against the Aggies.His changeup has been more effective this year, but it will require work in pro ball. His 6-foot-4, 204-pound frame is built for durability. The velocity and progress Black has shown this season could carry him into the end of the first round.
Organization Prospect Rankings
Mets general manager Sandy Alderson has excelled at maximizing the value of veterans on expiring contracts, exchanging them at peak value for prospects. He famously acquired Zack Wheeler for Carlos Beltran in 2011, both Noah Syndergaard and Travis d'Arnaud for R.A. Dickey in 2012 and, most recently, Dilson Herrera and Black for veterans Marlon Byrd and John Buck in 2013. Black pitched erratically and sporadically in the Pirates system until talking flight in 2012, when he led Double-A Eastern League relievers in opponent average (.189) and strikeouts per nine innings (12.8). Black has two plus weapons at his disposal that both generate swings and misses in great volume. He pitches at 95 mph with plus armside life, and he can rear back for 97 in tight spots. His mid-80s curveball features so much depth and power when it's sharp that neither righties nor lefties can touch it. Black's control is below-average, but that won't be much of a hindrance in a late-inning relief role so long as he continues to miss bats. After making 15 September appearances for the Mets in 2013, he's ready for a full-time role.
One of the hardest throwers in the 2009 draft, Black went 49th overall and signed for $717,000. He began his pro career as a starter but was plagued by control problems and continual bouts of biceps tendinitis. The Pirates decided to convert him into a reliever in 2011 and he continued to struggle with his control, then started putting it all together last year in Double-A. He led Eastern League relievers in opponent average (.189) and strikeouts per nine innings (12.8). Black racks up whiffs with a fastball that has been clocked as high as 101 mph and sits at 95-97. He mixes in a hard slider and has all but junked his changeup, which was never effective. In the Arizona Fall League, he worked on learning a two-seam fastball to give hitters a different look. Black still walks too many hitters, but if he can keep making strides like he did last year, he has the stuff to close in the major leagues. Even with spotty control, he's good enough to work in the late innings. Pittsburgh added him to the 40-man roster in November and likely will give him his first big league opportunity in 2013, though he figures to start the year in Triple-A.
Black was one of the harder throwers available in the 2009 draft, and the Pirates used a supplemental first-round pick on him after his fastball was clocked consistently at 94-96 mph at Dallas Baptist. He comes from an athletic family as his three sisters all played NCAA Division I volleyball, and that athleticism adds to his intrigue. He pitched just five innings in 2010 while battling shoulder and biceps problems, and those issues delayed the start of his 2011 season until late May. Pittsburgh moved him to the bullpen when he got back on the mound, and he pitched well enough to earn a promotion to high Class A in August. Black's fastball sat at 91-93 mph last year, though he should show more velocity once the Pirates take him off a tight leash. He had shown a hard slider with good tilt in the past, but that too has yet to come all the way back. He also throws a changeup. Besides regaining his former stuff, Black also must do a better job of finding the strike zone after averaging 5.0 walks per nine innings during his brief pro career. Pittsburgh is anxious to see what he can do if he's fully healthy at Bradenton at 2012, hoping he can become a set-up man or maybe more down the road.
When the Pirates paid Black $717,000 as a supplemental pick in 2009, the view was that his hard stuff might translate best to late-inning relief. Organization officials feel even more strongly about it after he was set back significantly by missing almost all of 2010 due to various issues with his right shoulder and biceps, and he is expected to move from starting to relief in 2011. His big frame and big arm could allow him to move quickly through the system out of the bullpen. When healthy, Black's fastball tops out at 96 mph and sits at 92-94. It comes from his big, powerful frame and is delivered from a high three-quarters slot, keeping it somewhat straight. His only other fully developed pitch is a dynamic slider, one with good tilt. He abandoned his curveball in 2008, and his changeup will require more work, which will require more innings. Black did not pitch competitively after May 22, but he was healthy for instructional league activity in October, so the Pirates expect him to handle a full workload this season. Keeping him in the bullpen will also allow them to more tightly control his workload, and he'll probably go to high Class A Bradenton to begin working in his new role.
Black put himself into first-round contention when he outperformed two top Texas A&M pitching prospects, Brooks Raley and Alex Wilson, in front of several scouts in late April. Though some clubs cooled on Black after he lost his last three starts, the Pirates took him with the supplemental first-round pick they received for failing to sign Tanner Scheppers in 2008. They signed Black for $717,000 and limited his pitch counts at short-season State College. Black's fastball sits at 91-95 mph and registers a tick higher when he reaches back for more. He throws his slider at 84 mph and it completely locks up hitters when he has command of it. His changeup is lacking, which leads some scouts to wonder if his hard stuff would better serve him as a late-inning reliever. He had a poor sophomore season when he lost his delivery and control, and he still needs to throw strikes more consistently. He also could stand to add some upper-body strength to go with his solid lower half. The Pirates want to keep Black in the starting rotation for now, and he could begin his first full season in high Class A.
Minor League Top Prospects
Black always showed electric arm strength at Dallas Baptist but struggled with his command and consistency in his first two seasons. He was better as a junior in 2009, and the Pirates signed him for a $717,000 bonus as a supplemental first-round pick. Pittsburgh kept him on a strict pitch count at State College, limiting him to no more than three innings in an outing, but he dominated with two above-average pitches at times. Black throws downhill with a plus fastball that ranges from 91-95 mph, and he could throw harder as he grows into his 6-foot-4, 185-pound frame. He flashes a wipeout 82-84 mph slider with good depth, though it can be inconsistent. At this stage, Black profiles best in the back of a bullpen, though he has a changeup that shows promise at times. He sometimes struggles to repeat his delivery, which negatively affects his command, but he usually can regroup. He's muscular and strong, but his delivery has some effort and he needs to incorporate his legs better.
Best Tools List
- Rated Best Slider in the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2010
- Rated Best Fastball in the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2010