Name: Corey Black
Draft: 2012 4th round out of Faulkner University
Size: 5-foot-11, 175-pounds
Fastball: 99 mph
Other pitches: Changeup, curve ball, slider
BBDP Ranking: 42
On Friday we looked into the breakout candidate Greg Bird. Today we look at a pitcher who could break out in a major way next season. A breakout candidate is slightly different than a sleeper. A sleeper is someone who is not expected by most to have a big season, but performs above expectations for one reason or another. Last year Matt Tracy was a popular choice, and he did not disappoint. A breakout candidate is someone who you predict will emerge as a prospect and gain attention. The former is production based, and the ladder is performance and tools based.
One could make the argument that Corey Black has already made a lot of noise in his big league debut. He advanced through three levels this year in his first minor league season, finishing in Charleston. In 52.2 innings this season, he had a 3.08 ERA and 50 strikeouts, while walking 15 (2.6 BB/9). He let up just one homerun the entire season. Slightly less than half of his innings last season were in Low-A, but he struck out 29 batters in just 23.1 innings. He had a 3.80 ERA in those innings. In Charleston at the age of 20, he is still young enough that the Yankees can afford to take their time with him.
Somehow, equipped with a 99 mph fastball and an excellent rookie performance, Black has still managed to slip under the radar. One of the reasons is undoubtedly the astounding depth of pitching in the lower minors of this system. He simply has gotten lost in the shuffle. Ranked just 42nd by Rob Abruzzese and I, most pundits don’t go beyond the top 30 in their rankings. The most aggressive ranking I have seen is 26, and even that is an aggressive ranking for him.
The stuff is definitely there. While at 5-foot-11 he doesn’t have much projection left in the tank velocity wise, he’s already got the 99 mph fastball. Projection is not the issue. On top of this fastball, he has a stellar changeup which is already major league above average. Those two pitches alone are good enough for him to be a successful major league reliever. Couple that with his penchant for control and hitting the “black,” and there might be even more to this pitcher.
Black is currently working on a curve ball and a slider as well. If he is able to hone his skills on either one of those pitches, he has number two or even ace potential. He hasn’t been marketed as a possible number one yet, but anytime you sport a 99 mph fastball and a plus changeup, the word ace has to come up in conversation. The Yankees and Nardi Contreras have become known for successfully teaching the curveball and slider, so this may just be a slam dunk. I’m sure that most of his offseason will be dedicated to sharpening these two pitches. If he’s successful, there’s no limit to how far he can go.
As mentioned above, despite slipping under the radar, this is a potential ace. He’s young enough so he has time to learn, and he’s already extremely polished for his age and level. The control is huge. Whether he reaches his ceiling is all about developing a third pitch. If he doesn’t, then his floor is that of a major league caliber reliever. A player who can dial it up as high as Black with his level of control will eventually get a shot in the bullpen of some major league team.
The estimated time of arrival is difficult to say. He has already moved rapidly through the system. If he can move two levels at a time, he could contribute to the major league team as early as 2014. I’d suspect a more likely estimate would be 2015. If he’s converted to a reliever, all bets are off.
There are only a few players in the entire system that can dial it up to 99 mph. Of those that can, none of them has the control that Black does. In retrospect, the ranking of 42 was probably not generous enough. Now that the list and the Summer has had some time to settle in, I suspect his pre-season ranking will be higher. He could go from 42 to top 10 by the end of next season if he breaks out like I think he will, which would be a BBDP record, albeit in a short one year history.