Get to Know Giants’ Prospect Ray Black


One-hundred mile an hour fastballs are hard to come by in professional baseball. After a player misses two full seasons following labrum surgery and proceeding setbacks, fastballs like that are even more rare. But the San Francisco Giants have a player in their farm system that fits each of the above criteria.

Ray Black is a 6’5″ right-handed relief pitcher. The Giants selected Black from the University of Pittsburgh in 2011 as their seventh-round selection. He wouldn’t pitch in the minor leagues that year, but he reported to Spring Training camp with the team in 2012.

He got off to an impressive start, opening eyes with his blazing fastball. That didn’t last long, however, as he tore the labrum in his pitching shoulder before the season started. In a move that is common to the injury, Black elected to not undergo surgery immediately, instead opting for a rehab process.

After four months, the rehab hadn’t worked, and Black would ultimately have to undergo the surgery anyway. In the 2014 article by Connor Penfold, Black talked a little about the surgery. The most harrowing line came from Black himself, as he stated “when my surgery was over, they gave me roughly a 33 percent chance of coming back to throw.” The odds were against Black, but it wasn’t the first time.

In his senior year of high school, Black underwent Tommy John surgery. For a young pitcher, not even out of high school yet, that could be a death sentence. They could lose scholarships, along with their confidence, and never regain either. But Black worked through it, and wound up at Pitt.

“when my surgery was over, they gave me roughly a 33 percent chance of coming back to throw.”- Ray Black

The normal recovery time for the labrum surgery is 12 to 13 months, but Black suffered setbacks that turned that recovery time into 16 months. But he continued to work through it.

In 2014, during Spring Training, Black was back on the mound. He returned to his old self, and even became something of a new self. He had always been a hard thrower, but had never hit those triple-digits. He’d “flirted with it,” as he told Penfold, but he finally made his move in 2014. He surpassed 100, and even touched 101 on occasion.

It seemed that after so many detours, Black was finally on the right road. And the success wasn’t just limited to Spring Training. He carried it over into the regular season as well.

Almost three years after he was drafted, Black finally made his regular season debut with Single-A Augusta. He got off to an impressive start, as he totaled a 2.88 ERA in his first 26 games, and held opposing hitters to a .138 average, while striking out 52 in 25 innings. That’s not a typo. Black struck out 52 batters in 25 innings.

Then there was a hiccup. In a game against the Greensboro Grasshoppers, Black entered the game in eighth inning with a 3-2 lead. And then he imploded. He gave up five runs while retiring just one batter, and took the loss. His ERA spiked from 2.88 to 4.62 after that outing. But, like each time before, Black worked through it.

Over his final six appearances in Augusta, he returned to form. In six innings, he didn’t allow a run, held batters to a .105 average, and struck out 11. His ERA took a tumble back downwards, settling at 3.73. Take out that outlier against Greensboro, and his ERA on the year was 2.32.

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He was then promoted to Advanced-A San Jose, where he continued to blow hitters away. In four innings, he allowed one run and struck out seven.

Control was something of an issue for Black in 2014, which is to be expected from a guy who hadn’t pitched in two full years. He allowed 4.1 walks per nine innings. But an 18.1 K/9 rate, which means he struck out two batters per inning, certainly helps ease that pain.

His fastball, obviously, is his best weapon. A 101 mph fastball is tough to catch up to, no matter at what level you pitch. Control over the pitch has to be harnessed, but that should continue to improve as his confidence keeps growing. He also has a very good slider that sits around 84 to 87, but it has touched 89 before. The movement on the pitch is excellent, but like the fastball, control is iffy.

In the video below, taken by’s Nathaniel Stoltz, Black shows off both pitches, as he gets ahead of Jairo Beras with blazing heat before buckling his knees with a nasty slider.

Mechanically, for a young man who throws as hard as Black, he’s got a good, fluid delivery. His arm motion, while violent, is fairly fluid as well. He gets great drive from his lower body, taking some stress off of his arm.

He’s a quick worker, as he gets the ball and jumps right back on the mound, ready to go in seconds. He doesn’t waste much time, and is eager to attack hitters.

You have to be believe he’s on the big league club’s radar, as they added him to the 40-man roster after the season to avoid losing him to the Rule V Draft. 

The term “future closer” is thrown around quite a bit regarding young relievers, but Black seems to fit the bill to a tee. His size, his pitches, and his strikeout rates make him a force to be reckoned with. His development and ascent will continue in 2015, and he could be striking out big league hitters very soon.

Next: Yoan Moncada Works Out for Giants