Is Vic Black a viable contender for the New York Mets’ closer position in 2014? With the injury to incumbent closer, Bobby Parnell and the loss of LaTroy Hawkins, could Black emerge as a reliable closer for the team next year?
Victor Lawrence Black, 25, throws right-handed. He stands 6’4″ and weighs 215 lbs. After his acquisition by the Mets as part of the deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates last season, Black went 3-0 and earned one save. He threw 13 innings. He had a 12:4 K:BB ratio. His ERA was 3.46 and his WHIP was 1.154. Prior to getting to the major leagues last year, Black’s ERA stood at 2.51.
Did you know that the Mets originally drafted Black in the 41st round of the 2006 draft but didn’t sign him? The Pirates later drafted him at the end of the 1st round in 2009 with the 49th overall pick of that year’s draft. As of today, Black is ranked as the Mets’ 14th best prospect by MLB.com. LaTroy Hawkins said he had a “magical arm”.
In 2012, at the AA level, Black struck out 12.75 batters per nine innings. He mostly throws a mid-90′s fastball and mixes it with a slider (on a sidenote, there is still some debate about how to classify this second pitch).
To put some perspective on Black, his 2012 Arizona Fall League performance (while a member of the Pirates’ organization) was not good. He gave up 14 runs in only 10.2 innings of work along with 17 hits and 11 walks. Of course, this was after throwing 60 innings at Altoona (AA).
During a 2012 interview with FanGraphsAudio, Black said he “prided himself with his mindset of coming into a game and getting a needed strikeout for his team”. He said that after dealing with injuries, his fastball’s velocity dropped and that made his slider too “loopy and hittable”. He has dealt with injuries and after journeying back from them in 2010, he said that he “has learned to stay in the moment”.
A point to consider about Black; so far in his major league career, when batters hit the ball of him, he gives up flyballs almost half the time (47%). With the team’s improved outfield defense, this seems beneficial. We haven’t begun doing any predictions for next year yet, but he is poised to become a solid contributor out of the pen next year.