Ray Black: Single-A Flamethrower To San Francisco Giants Closer?
Ray Black is a relative unknown in prospect circles. Who wouldn’t be after missing two seasons with Labrum surgery and its lingering effects? Entering 2014, the right-handed pitcher was finally healthy and able to pitch his first innings as a professional. The results? 35.1 innings and a 71/16 strikeout-to-walk ratio. And with just 16 hits allowed, his WHIP was a miniscule 0.93. Now 24, is Black a fast riser capable of replacing a key piece in the veteran laden Giants bullpen?
The San Francisco pen is rock solid, for now. This winter, Sergio Romo is a free agent and co-closer Santiago Casilla has one more year left on his contract. Speaking of post 2015, both Jeremy Affeldt and starter-turned-reliever Tim Lincecum will also hit the open market. Jean Machi will hang around, but the 32-year old is a late bloomer and longevity will be a question.
Facing the prospect of change, Ray Black can help lessen the blow. And with Kyle Crick (Scouting Report) and Keury Mella (ROTOscouting Report) also in the queue, it’s possible the Giants can keep veteran starters like Tim Hudson and Jake Peavy who are capable of piling up quality starts knowing it can replicate the success of the Cardinals and Royals who’ve leverage cheap power arms into shortened baseball games.
As for Ray Black, he took the mound after Mella regularly popped 95-96 on the radar gun. Expecting the normal procession of fringe arms at the Single-A level, Black’s ability to pop the mitt left me scrambling to pull out the radar gun. At 92-95 to to the first batter faced, initial velocity was impressive. 96-98 mph to the second batter was even more so. By batter number three, Black was touching 100 mph on the radar gun, drawing oohs and ahhs from scouts in attendance.
In addition to 70-80 grade fastball velocity, Ray Black also showed the ability to snap off an 80-84 mph slider. The pitch featured hard, late break to the outside corner, but the University of Pittsburgh product repeatedly threw it in the dirt. And while throwing a slider to the correct quadrant (low and outside) is half the battle, a pitcher who’s unable to throw a pitch for strikes — even on occasion — will find hitters will adjust and lay off anything with spin. For now, Black is more of a one pitch guy dabbling with a breaking ball than a reliever with two legitimate MLB offerings.
At 6-foot-5, 225 pounds, Ray Black has both big stuff and an intimidating presence on the mound. But after two years of rehabilitation and missed development time, his command and control are iffy at best. Black will improve with more innings under his belt, but he’s more of a work in progress than just about every 24-year old pitcher scouted in person who isn’t already in the upper levels. If things break right for Black, he has the pure stuff to debut as early as September of 2015. And after his recovery from serious injury, the Giants would be wise to save the bullets in Ray Black’s right arm for MLB opponents.
Owning Ray Black
One inning of Black was enough to rank him in my top-50 fantasy baseball prospects scouted. His explosive pure stuff has closer potential, but he’s a seventh or eighth inning reliever if command doesn’t improve. Multiple looks would provide a better sense of how quickly the arsenal can come together, but a triple digit fastball has value regardless. In 5×5 leagues, elite closers are more valuable than most starters and Black is one of few true relievers who can transition from a MILB bullpen to MLB closer role. In deep dynasty leagues, Ray Black is worth a flyer considering the Giants bullpen will enter a period of transition unless multiple contract extensions are reached. Bet on Black to fill a void, but understand he’s a shooting star whose injury history negatively impacts longevity.
27 Oct 2014 / Mike Newman /
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