San Francisco Giants Top 2016 Prospects: #13
#13: Ray Black, RHP, Age 25: Those who “know” say you aren’t supposed to give relief-only prospects high rankings, but there was absolutely no way I was leaving Black out of my top 15. He just has too much wow factor for me to ignore.
Most people in these circles know Black’s story pretty well at this point, but the rest of the baseball world might soon start becoming familiar with him too. Alex Pavlovic outlined the righty’s extensive injury history (TJ surgery, broken throwing hand, torn labrum, went completely M.I.A. for two seasons after the Giants drafted him from Pitt) in a piece from last spring.
Black has a true (and incredibly rare) 80-grade fastball. When he’s on the mound, he averages 99 mph. He touched 104 in the AFL just a few months ago. That’s Aroldis Chapman territory, and it’s so incredibly hard not to dream of him overpowering hitters on the AT&T Park mound with that kind of heat. David Lee watched him extensively a couple years ago in Augusta, and had great things to say about his slider. I’ve kept those reports in the back of my mind… he’s not a one-pitch guy, and that’s an important detail for a relief prospect.
What’s holding Black back at this point? Well, he’s never pitched on back to back days in the minors (hopefully he does this season). He also had some pretty significant command problems last year, walking exactly one batter per inning in San Jose, then 6 more in 9 innings of AFL action. But he had 67 K’s in only 34 IP in 2015, so there’s your upside. The Giants certainly have a nice list of potential long term closer candidates post-Santiago Casilla, but they don’t have one guy they’re saving the job for at this point. If Black can avoid anymore serious injury setbacks and improve his command, he could well be one of the most electric 9th inning arms in baseball one day. At the least, I think he could be helping the MLB bullpen at some point this season.