We now know who the player who was to be named later is in the Marlon Byrd/John Buck trade. In addition to receiving second base prospect Dilson Herrera, the Mets will receive Triple-A relief pitcher Vic Black. So, let's get to know the Mets' new pitcher.
Victor Lawrence Black was born in Amarillo, Texas on May 23rd, 1988. Showing a proclivity for baseball, he pursued the sport, eventually playing for Amarillo High School as a catcher. In his senior year, because of his phenomenal arm strength, his coaches moved the right-hander to the mound, where he had all the keys to succeed. At 6'4" and a few shades under 200 pounds, he was tall and durable enough to be a hurler. His fastball sat in the low-to-mid 90s, and showed flashes of being a plus swing-and-miss pitch. His slider and change-up both flashed potential- when he was able to control them.
His tools earned him consideration in the 2006 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft, where he was selected in the 41st round by the New York Mets with the 1,234th overall draft pick. He declined to sign with the Mets, and instead went to college, attending Dallas Baptist University- the alma mater of, among others, former Met Lance Broadway, and current Tampa Bay Ray Ben Zobrist. He continued playing baseball, pitching for the Dallas Baptist Patriots. His college numbers were generally underwhelming. As a freshman, he went 5-5 with a 4.86 ERA in 87 innings pitched. As a sophomore, he was 1-6, with a 4.97 ERA. As a junior, he improved to 6-4 with a 4.16 ERA in 88.2 innings.
The Pittsburgh Pirates drafted Black in the supplemental first round of the 2009 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft, with the 49th overall pick. The Pirates received the supplemental pick because the failed to sign Tanner Scheppers in the 2008 Draft. Black signed with the Pirates, receiving a $717,000 signing bonus. He mad his organizational debut at the end of June, assigned to the State College Spikes of the New York-Penn League (A-), where he pitched for the rest of the 2009 season. He made 13 appearances, starting seven games, to good results. In 31.1 innings, he had a 3.45 ERA with a 9.5 K/9 (23.6 K%) and 4.3 BB/9 (10.7 BB%).
Going into 2010, Baseball America ranked Vic as the Pirates 12th top prospect. In addition, he was rated as having the best fastball in the system, and the best slider in the system, and projected him to be the Pirates 2013 closer. John Sickels ranked him as the Pirates' 11th top prospect. MinorLeagueBall.com's webmaster graded the right-hander as a C+ prospect, citing his live arm and high ceiling, but noting that his control was problematic and needed to improve. The future looked bright for the young flamethrower. Unfortunately, fate would intervene. Black was assigned to the West Virginia Power of the South Atlantic League (A), but only made two starts for them, pitching a grand total of 4.2 innings, because of shoulder and bicep injuries. As a result of both the injury, and the Pirates' farm system getting stronger, Black fell further down the organizational prospect list that Baseball America compiled for the 2011 season. They named the right-handed flamethrower the Pirates 16th top prospect. John Sickels did the same, completely leaving Black off of his Pittsburgh Pirates Top 20 Prospects list.
Vic returned to the mound in 2011, but Pittsburgh changed his role. In order to limit his workload, and give him the ability to maximize his already impressive fastball velocity, Black was put in the bullpen, as a middle reliever. Bouts of tendonitis would limit his total workload, and effectiveness, but the right-hander was at least on the mound and pitching. For the year, he pitched 35.2 innings, with a 5.05 ERA, 7.1 K/9 rate (16.9 K%) and 5.0 B/9 rate (12.5 BB%). More because his advanced age than anything else, Black was promoted to the Bradenton Marauders of the Florida State League (A+) near the end of the season. Going into 2012, his organizational value further dipped. Baseball America ranked Black as the Pirates' 19th top prospect, and John Sickels once again left him off of his Top 20 Pittsburgh Pirates Top 20 Prospects list.
Vic was assigned to the Altoona Curve, of the Eastern League (AA), all but skipping Advanced-A Ball. Fully healthy, the 24-year-old finally got a chance to shine. Vic pitched 60 innings for the Curve, saving 13 games, with a sterling 1.65 ERA. Though walks continued to be problematic for him, as he issued 4.4 walks per nine innings, (11.7 BB%), the strikeouts returned to the flamethrower in spades. Black struck out 12.8 batters per nine innings (34.1 K%), the highest in the Eastern League that year. He made the Eastern League All-Star Game as a late entrant. Pittsburgh sent Black to the Arizona Fall League when the baseball season ended. He pitched for the Scottsdale Scorpions, and was generally ineffective, with an 11.81 ERA, 11 strikeouts and 11 walks in 10.2 innings.
Despite his successful season, Black's standing in the Pittsburgh farm system did not recover much. Baseball America ranked Black as the Pirates 16th top prospect. John Sickels listed him as the Pirates' 15th top prospect in his Pittsburgh Pirates Top 20 Prospects list. Mr. Sickels remained pat with the C+ grade that he had given Black years before, citing his continued command problems as depressing his overall value, and that the youngster could have closer potential if his command improved.
Black was assigned to the Indianapolis Indians of the International League (AAA) for 2013, and was once again highly effective. In 35 innings, Black posted a 2.31 ERA, with 20 hits, 13 walks, and 51 strikeouts. His success coincided with an injury to Jason Grilli, and as a result, when the Pirates placed their closer on the DL, they called up Vic Black. He pitched four innings out of the Pirates' bullpen before being sent back to AAA, pitching against the Washington Nationals and the St. Louis Cardinals. He didn't close out any games, as Baseball America predicted he would back in 2009, but as Vic he told David Laurila in an interview with Fangraphs, he didn't expect to close out any games with the Pirates with the bullpen that the 2013 Pirates have. Back with Indianapolis, the right-hander continued the success that he displayed before his call-up. To date, he pitched an additional 11.2 innings with them, posting a 3.09 ERA with 8 hits, 8 walks, and 12 strikeouts. He made the International League All-Star Team, and pitched in the 9th inning during the AAA All-Star Game. He only pitched to two batters, but showcased his trademark heat, hitting 98 MPH or more on all but one of his fastballs.
On the periphery of most Pirates top prospects list, Black will likely fall somewhere in the same range in the Mets farm system. It is very likely that Vic sees minimal minor league time as a Met. Though not without problems, he is all but a finished product, and further seasoning in AAA is unnecessary. With the demotion of Jack Leathersich, Black will either be inserted into the Las Vegas 51s bullpen to strengthen it as they make their playoff run, or he will immediately be inserted into the Mets' bullpen with the expansion of rosters in September. Along with Bobby Parnell, the Mets will have quite the dynamic duo- while most teams have at least one reliever capable of touching the high 90s, the Mets will have not one, but two relievers capable of touching the century mark.