Tyler Black could follow in his father’s footsteps, but that’s not the path he’s pursuing. What the 22-year-old Toronto native wants to do is to play in the big leagues — a goal that is very much within his reach. Drafted 33rd overall in 2019 out of Wright State University, Black is an on-base machine who ranks No. 12 on our recently-released Milwaukee Brewers Top Prospects list.
The road not being taken is related to the youngster’s dream. His father is former TSN and CTV broadcaster Rod Black, whose three-plus decades behind the microphone had him calling games in a variety of sports, including baseball (one of his on-air partners was World Series hero Joe Carter). I asked the infielder/outfielder if he ever envisions himself describing the action on a diamond, court, or even a sheet of ice.
“Maybe when I’m done playing,” Black told me during his stint in the Arizona Fall League. “I’ve never really thought about it seriously, but I can say that it was definitely great growing up around sports. My dad used to announce Blue Jays games, Toronto Raptors games — pretty much everything — so I was always around ballparks, and around athletes. That kind of put me into the game.”
Legendary Blue Jays broadcaster Jerry Howarth, who was alongside Tom Cheek when the latter emoted “Touch ’Em All Joe!” — a moment that will forever live in Canadian baseball lore — is among those who reached out after Rod Black’s son was drafted by the Brewers.
Reaching the cheap seats is something the left-handed-hitting prospect is hoping to do more frequently going forward. More of an Olerud than a Carter, he went deep just four times in a 2022 season that ended in early July due to a fractured scapula. But he does have the ability to impact a baseball. As fortune would have it, Black homered mere minutes before I talked to him in Arizona.
“Power is one of the things I really want to focus on,” explained Black, whom our lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen described as having 70-grade plate discipline. “I have a lot of contact to my game, and now I need to start tapping into my power and doing more damage. A lot of that is going to come from approach, from doing a better job of key-holing pitches and being aggressive when I get them.”
Black slashed .281/.406/.424 this year in 283 plate appearances with Low-A Wisconsin before incurring the shoulder injury while diving for a ball in the outfield. Displaying the aforementioned contact skills and discerning eye, he walked 45 times and struck out 44 times. If Black can add more pop to what is already an admirable skill set, any thoughts of occupying a broadcast booth can remain firmly on the back burner.
RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS
Jimmy Foxx went 19 for 39 against Wilcy Moore.
Nick Lodolo had a solid season for the Cincinnati Reds. In 19 starts, the left-hander logged a 3.66 ERA and a 3.90 FIP, with 131 strikeouts in 103-and-a-third innings. I asked Nick Krall if the 2019 first-rounder met expectations in his rookie campaign.
“He did,” replied Cincinnati’s GM. “He pitched a good amount of innings, and I think he really improved. There is obviously room for improvement; he’s 24 years old, so there’s still more upside there. He just needs to continue to refine what he’s doing, and keep learning how to pitch at this level as opposed to in the minor leagues.”
Krall had similar things to say about rookie right-hander Hunter Greene. After noting that the young flamethrower finished strong after going through some bumps in the road, he opined that at age 23, Greene isn’t close to reaching his peak talent. “He’s got a lot of runway to get better,” the executive told me.
Greene had a 4.44 ERA and a 4.37 FIP, with 164 strikeouts in 125-and-two-thirds innings on the season. Over this last five starts, he fanned 45 batters while allowing just two earned runs over 29 innings.
The numbers that Josh Jung put up in his 26 games with the Texas Rangers in September were nothing to write home about. The 24-year-old San Antonio native slashed a ho-hum .204/.235/.418, with five home runs and 39 strikeouts in 102 plate appearances. That said, his ceiling is high. A first-round pick in 2019, Jung is the top position-player prospect in the system.
“I think they both had really good years,” opined Young. “Josh got his first taste of the big leagues this year and experienced some highs, and also saw some of the challenges of facing big-league pitching on a daily basis. Ultimately, we’re super excited about his future. We think he’s going to be a very bright spot with us for a long time. We’re thrilled that he’s now our starting third baseman.”
“Foscue continued to show a great approach, with the walk and strikeout rates,” continued Young. “He’s an elite hitter in terms of his strike zone control, and he continues to get better. We’re looking forward to his continued development, and success in Triple-A next year.”
Texas’s first-round pick in 2020, the 23-year-old Foscue slashed .288/.367/.483 with 15 home runs in 460 plate appearances for Double-A Frisco.
Jim Palmer’s 268 wins are the most in Baltimore Orioles franchise history. Who ranks second? (A hint: he has the fifth most hits, and third most home runs, among players from the state where he was born.)
The answer can be found below.
Jeremy Frank (aka @MLBRandomStats) announced on Twitter that he will be joining the Chicago Cubs’ baseball analytics/R&D team. Frank is the co-author, along with Jim Passon, of Hidden Ball Trick: The Baseball Stats You Never Thought To Look For.
The Midwest League’s Cedar Rapids Kernels announced in December that they have hired Calvin Christoforo as their new play-by-play broadcaster. Christoforo is a product of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.
Fred Valentine, an outfielder who played for the Baltimore Orioles and the Washington Senators in a career that spanned the 1959-1968 seasons, died last week at age 87. Nicknamed “Squeaky,” the Tennessee State University product had 16 home runs and a 133 wRC+ for the Senators in 1966.
The answer to the quiz is Dave McNally, who logged 181 wins for the Orioles from 1962-1974. The southpaw’s 97 hits and nine home runs are the most for a player born in Montana.
“I think very highly of Curtis Mead,” Bendix told me in November. “But he’s a Top 100 prospect, so I’m not sure that he qualifies. How about Kyle Manzardo? Left-handed hitter, first baseman, just had as good of an offensive year as anybody in the minor leagues. He was drafted in 2021 and ended this season in Double-A. I don’t know if he’s still under the radar — nationally, he probably is — but the dude can hit. He. Can. Hit.”
Manzardo, who was featured here at FanGraphs in September, had a 173 wRC+ across three levels with the bulk of his plate appearances coming in High-A.
Asked if he could elaborate on Mead, a recently-turned-22-year-old native of Adelaide, Australia who logged a 142 wRC+ between Double-A and Triple-A, Bendix said the following:
“From what I’ve seen, and from the opinions that we have of him, he’s a just a great overall baseball player. He really hits. He’s a great defender at third base. He’s cerebral; he can process information. And he wants to get better. He’s the kind of person you would bet on to keep getting better.”
Mead was No. 23 on our Top 100 at season’s end.
Jae-Young Jang has a 3.30 ERA to go with 37 strikeouts in 30 innings for the Australian Baseball League’s Geelong-Korea. The 20-year-old right-hander has allowed nine walks and 22 hits.
Anthony Quirion is slashing .372/.443/.617 with five home runs in 106 plate appearances for the ABL’s Perth Heat. A native of Sherbrooke, Quebec, the 25-year-old catcher/first baseman had a .607 OPS across three levels in the Philadelphia Phillies system in 2022.
Matthew Lugo is slashing .275/.360/.450 in 140 plate appearances with the Puerto Rican Winter League’s Criollos de Caguas. Selected 69th overall in 2019 by the Boston Red Sox out of the Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy, the 21-year-old infielder had 18 home runs and an .844 OPS this past year with High-A Greenville.
Julio Teheran has a 3.49 ERA in 38-and-a-third innings for the Dominican Winter League’s Toros del Este. The 31-year-old right-hander last pitched in MLB with the Detroit Tigers in 2021.
NPB pitching phenom Roki Sasaki is reportedly getting a raise and will be paid an estimated ¥80 million ($608,000) next season. The 21-year-old Chiba Lotte Marines right-hander had a 2.02 ERA and 173 strikeouts in 129-and-third innings.
Chatting with a friend at my go-to coffee shop on Thursday morning, the subject of Hall-of-Fame-worthiness led us to compare the careers of Norm Cash and Fred McGriff. The latter was, of course, recently elected via an era committee. The former, who has never been so honored, manned first base for the Detroit Tigers from 1960-1974 — this after breaking into the big leagues with the Chicago White Sox, who subsequently dealt him to the then-Indians, who proceeded to flip him to Detroit in what might be worst trade in franchise history. In exchange for Cash, Cleveland received Steve Demeter.
McGriff had 2,260 more plate appearances than Cash, as well as 670 more hits and 116 more home runs. His edge in most counting stats is clear. As for rate stats, The Hit Dog had a .383 wOBA, a 134 wRC+, and 56.9 WAR. Stormin’ Norman had a .382 wOBA, a 139 wRC+, and 54.6 WAR.
Was Cash a better player than McGriff? He arguably was. At the same time, McGriff is probably the more Hall-worthy of the two.
LINKS YOU’LL LIKE
Ten MLB umpires are retiring, the most since 1999. Jesse Rogers has the story at ESPN.
The Athletic’s Jayson Stark presented us with The Year in Strange But True: MLB’s Weirdest & Wildest games, plays, moments and stats of 2022 (subscription required).
RANDOM FACTS AND STATS
Corbin Burnes and Gerrit Cole each threw 3,274 pitches this past year, tied for the most in the majors. Burnes walked 51 batters and allowed 121 hits that weren’t home runs. Cole walked 50 batters and allowed 121 hits that weren’t home runs.
Ty Cobb and Bull Durham were teammates with the South Atlantic League’s Augusta Tourists in 1904. A right-handed pitcher who went 2-0 with a 5.28 ERA in 29 innings over parts of four big-league seasons, Durham had one big-league hit. Cobb had 4,189 big-league hits
Dolf Luque had 312 professional wins, including 194 in MLB. In 1919, the La Habana, Cuba native became the first Latin American player to appear in a World Series game, and 14 years later, at age 42, he became the oldest pitcher to be credited with a World Series win. Luque went 27-8 with a 201 ERA+ with the Cincinnti Reds in 1923.
Players born on today’s date include Rafael Roque, who went 5-8 with a 5.36 ERA in a career comprising 56 appearances, 38 of them as a reliever, for the Milwaukee Brewers from 1998-2000. The southpaw was Milwaukee’s opening-day starter in 1999.
Also born on today’s date was Hiker Moran, who threw 23 innings for the National League’s Boston Bees between the 1938 and 1939 seasons. The right-hander’s lone win came against the St. Louis Cardinals, a complete-game effort that also saw him record his only big-league hit.