HT: 6-0 WT: 205 POS: C
Bluefield Orioles(33 G, 113 AB, .274/.397/.381)
Drafted in the 15th round of the 2006 draft out of Cleveland State Community College, Dustin Black is among the final crop of draft and follow picks for the Orioles. He spent two years at CSCC and passed up a commitment to play at the University of Tennessee to sign with the Orioles.
Black has a line drive stroke and utilizes all fields well. Although he didn't hit a single home run in his professional debut, some of that can be explained away by a minor wrist injury he sustained in July. His high walk total is a function of him working deep into counts, which leads to his share of strikeouts as well, even though he has good contact skills. He's one of the few 20 year olds that the organization will actually encourage to be more aggressive in 2008.
Black is a below-average runner and is no threat on the basepaths. He hits both lefties and righties well and the Orioles envision him growing into a good batting average OBP source with gap power.
Black saw time at both infield corners as an amateur and is not a spectacular athlete. With the Orioles, he will stay behind the plate. Black has a solid arm and is the kind of vocal leader that many like to see at catcher. He has polished receiving skills, but is not particularly agile and will continue to work on his footwork. Few in the organization doubt his ability to stick at catcher long-term.
Although Dustin Black is the first to tell you that he is learning more about the game every year, the Orioles were happy with how polished he looked in his debut. Between Black and Brendan Monaghan, low-A Delmarva should be set at catcher for 2008. It's possible that they'll compete for a spot on the Shorebirds' roster, with the loser staying in extended spring training until Aberdeen's season starts up, but they could end up splitting time. At this point, Black has an intriguing toolset that has him profiling as a potential big league backup. He'll spend next year trying to prove he can be more than that.
Michael Hollman is the Senior Writer for Inside The Warehouse and can be reached via e-mail at Publisher@InsideTheWarehouse.com