Although C.J. Edwards and Pierce Johnson get the bulk of the pitching prospect hype at AA Tennessee, you probably already know that there are several other quality pitching prospects on the staff, much of which was promoted from that killer Daytona staff that helped the Cubs win the Florida State League last year.
One of those pitching prospects is Corey Black, the young righty the Cubs received in exchange for Alfonso Soriano (and a bunch of cash) last year. At just 22, Black is nearly two and a half years younger than the average player in the Southern League, and he’s had an excellent start to his 2014 season. In fact, his recent no-hit performance (six innings), together with eight strikeouts, was good enough to net him Pitcher of the Week honors in the Southern League.
Black is an interesting prospect, one whom the Yankees were loathe to give up in the Soriano deal, but his future remains cloudy. Thanks to his smaller size, and some control issues, many talent evaluators say Black’s future is in the bullpen (although they are usually complimentary in so saying, indicating that Black could be a very good reliever down the road). The Cubs will allow him to keep starting as long as he can do so effectively, and he is sporting a 2.65 ERA over 17 innings so far this year. Indeed, his no-hit performance last week was actually his second no-hit performance already this season (he gave up no hits over five innings back on April 11).
(Interestingly, for his career, Black has dominated left-handed hitting far more than right-handed hitting, which I suspect is a testament to a very effective changeup.)
Before we go too crazy on Black just yet, I should point out some caveats to his 2014 numbers thus far. Although he’s struck out 16 over those 17 innings (nice), he’s also walked 12 (not so nice). His BABIP against is a scant .146, so these no-hit performances are probably not quite sustainable. Given some of those peripherals, it won’t surprise you to learn that, while the ERA is tiny, his FIP is a much higher 4.55.
None of that is to raise any red flags on Black, or undercut his success so far this year. Instead, it’s mostly just offered up as a reminder that it’s only been 17 innings this year. The results have been mixed, and Black remains an interesting pitching prospect to watch. Coming into the season, he showed up on several top Cubs prospects lists, ranking 9th to Keith Law, 15th to Baseball America, and 16th to MLB.com.
And, hey, he’s got a little hardware, which is always nice.