Name: Corey Black, P
Age: 23 (8/4/1991)
How acquired: Traded to Cubs on July 26, 2013 from the New York Yankees for Alfonso Soriano and cash.
Tennessee Smokies, Southern League, AA, (26 G, 6-7, 3.47 ERA, 124.1 IP, 71 BB, 119 K, 1.38 WHIP)
Prior to Cubs
A four-year letter-winner at Mission Bay High School in San Diego, Black spent most of his career at shortstop, hitting .431 with seven homers as a senior. He missed a majority of his junior season with Tommy John surgery and only threw three innings his senior year. He headed to San Diego State, making 14 appearances, including seven starts, with 50 K in 47.1 IP as a freshman. Black moved into a full-time starting role in 2011 for the Aztecs, going 4-5 with a 3.56 ERA and 78 K in 73.1 IP. He left SDSU that fall and enrolled at Faulkner University, a NAIA school in Alabama. He dominated the competition going 11-2 with a 1.53 ERA with 96 K in 88 innings. The Yankees selected Black in the 4th round in 2012 (157th pick), signing him for $215,000. He made his debut on July 2 in the Gulf Coast Rookie League, made six starts (27.2 IP) at Staten Island in the New York Penn League, and made five more starts in the South Atlantic League. He ended his first pro season with a line of 2-2, 3.08 ERA, 52.2 IP, 42 H, 15 BB, 50 K. Black admitted he didn’t have confidence in his stuff to start 2013 with Tampa in the FSL and had trouble repeating his delivery. In 19 starts for the Yankees, he went 3-8 with a 4.25 ERA and 88 K in 82.2 IP but 45 walks. Black had his best outing of the season against Daytona on May 30, no-hitting the Cubs for five innings, allowing a run on four walks with seven strikeouts. He whiffed a season-high 11 Clearwater hitters on May 2.
After getting traded for Alfonso Soriano, he made five starts for Daytona, going 4-0 with a 2.88 ERA. He had 28 punchouts and 10 walks in 25 innings. Black made two starts in the playoffs and was outstanding, tossing five shutout innings with seven strikeouts against Dunedin in Game 1 of the division series, and threw six more shutout innings in Game 4 against Charlotte in the finals. The San Diego native finished his second year of pro ball going 7-8 with a 3.93 ERA and led the FSL with 116 strikeouts.
After making his AA debut on April 5 in relief of a rehabbing Jake Arrieta, Black made 25 starts for the Smokies, logging a career-high 124.1 innings. The right-hander’s biggest issue in ’14 was commanding the strike zone, as he finished with a career high 5.14 BB/9. It was a problem all season, walking 12 over his first 17 innings and 15 over the last 16.2. When he’s throwing strikes, Black has some of the best stuff in the organization, and despite a 1.38 WHIP, held Southern League hitters to a .224 BAA. He fanned over 100 hitters for the second straight season, earned pitcher of the week honors after six no-hit innings against Birmingham in April, and was named to the Southern League mid-season all-star team.
Black got a non-roster invite to spring training and made three appearances in big league games (2.1 IP, 3H 2R 2BB 2K) before being reassigned. One noticeable difference was Black’s delivery, which had plenty of movement before he even delivered the ball with no one on base. Depending on how many pitchers on the 40-man roster start the year on the DL, could determine whether Black starts in Iowa or back in Tennessee to get innings. The Cubs are also at the stage where they need to determine wether Black best fits into their plans as starting pitcher depth in the minors, or an arm that can help the club sooner out of the bullpen. His fastball sits consistently in the low 90s and can hit 96 and he also throws a good slider and a decent change-up. He has big time swing-and-miss stuff but if he can’t improve his command, is limiting his chances as a major leaguer.