Scouting Yankees Prospect #39: Sean Black

Black has quickly developing secondary pitches

The New York Yankees selected right-handed pitcher Sean Black in the 7th round of the 2009 MLB Draft out of Seton Hall University. He went a perfect 6-0 with a 1.62 ERA for the Staten Island Yankees and he did it while his secondary pitches are still in the development stage.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Sean Black
Position: Pitcher
DOB: April 23, 1988
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 185
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

"Generally I think everything went really well," Black said of of his debut season. "I wasn't sure what really to expect coming right in and getting started, but I think I adjusted pretty well.

"I was able to, in between pitches and in between innings, to make adjustments to hitters and I think it really worked out. Doing that from inning to inning and from batter to batter rather than taking games to make those adjustments, [college] really helped me with that."

The former second round pick of the Washington Nationals out of high school credits his college experience for his strong foundation, but what makes his professional debut season so intriguing was the amount of success he had without a true breaking pitch.

Primarily a sinker ball pitcher during the year, he and the Yankees immediately went to work on his developing curveball during Instructs.

"It went really well," he said. "They told me on the first day that I was going to be working on my breaking ball and my changeup, and it ended up we worked on my [curveball] the whole time.

"I actually developed that relatively quickly because of that to a much better pitch than it was the whole season."

His curveball was leaps and bounds better by the end of the Instructional League, and while he leaned on his changeup during the New York Penn League season as his main secondary weapon, that too is still a developing pitch.

"Coming out of school I was throwing more of a split-finger rather than a changeup," he revealed. "The Yankees have the 30-day rule so I was kind of working on it on my own. I wasn't really using my changeup all that much.

"I was working on it in bullpens and in the games I was throwing it here and there, but towards the end of the season I was really able to use it as an out-pitch."

Pitching most of the season with two developing pitches and still having the kind of success he had is great cause for optimism, but so is just how quickly he developed those secondary offerings by the end of the Instructional League season.

"He has smoothed out his delivery, he pitches downhill, he shows a plus fastball and he sinks the ball well," Yankees minor league pitching coordinator Nardi Contreras said.

"He has a very good changeup. At Staten Island I didn't see a very good curveball so that is what he worked on in Instructs. He has improved the pitch immensely in little time. Now next year he just needs to pitch and gain professional experience."

Year

Team

W-L

SV

IP

H

BB

SO

ERA

2009

Staten Island

6-0

0

50.0

30

9

34

1.62



Repertoire. Fastball, Curveball, Changeup.

Fastball. Black is primarily a sinker-ball pitcher that routinely sits in the low-90's. He gets great sinking action with his two-seamer and he can command it extremely well, and what makes it a bit different from most sinker-ballers is he can run his two-seamer back in over the outside corner of the plate to right-handed batters. He does throw a four-seam fastball as well that can hit 93-94 MPH, but he uses it more to pitch inside to lefties or away from righties.

Other Pitches. His main secondary pitch last season was a splitter that he has turned into a legitimate changeup. He has toyed with a few different grips but has settled with a vulcan grip and he is very confident throwing it to location. His curveball has come a very long way in a short period of time. He was throwing it with a slow roll in the 74-75 MPH range during the Staten Island season but began throwing it with sharper bite and harder [80-82 MPH] during Instructs. If he can show that same kind of curveball consistently next season, it is a borderline plus big league pitch.

Pitching. Black's approach is like most typical sinker-ball pitchers in that he attacks opposing batters with sinking fastballs, gets them to pound it into the dirt, and uses his defense behind them. Where he excels a bit more with his sinker is with his ability to run it back over the plate at times. His secondary pitches were average to above average pitches by the time Instructs were over and he was able to use both of them as strikeout weapons. A former shortstop in high school, he is very athletic for a pitcher. He fields his position well and he is adept at holding runners close.

Projection. Black's big league projection is a bit hazy at the current time because he hasn't shown his secondary pitches to be consistent weapons to date. Until he does that consistently he best projects as a big league middle reliever, but he could have middle of the rotation type of potential if he can get his curveball and changeup consistently in the above average to plus range because the fastball and command are already in place.

ETA. 2013. Black is one of the leading candidates to lock down a starting rotation spot with the Charleston Riverdogs next season. A bit D.J. Mitchell like, Black also has the quickly developing game to possibly make his South Atlantic League stint a relatively short one.

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