Mason Black didn’t start pitching until his junior year at Valley View High in Pennsylvania. The decision to move from behind the plate to the mound resulted in him receiving recruiting interest due to his arm strength and potential.
The right-handed pitcher garnered interest from numerous mid-major Division I schools in the Northeast. He enjoyed the vibe around Lehigh’s baseball program and felt it was the best place for him to develop in hopes of one day playing professionally, he said.
Now in his third year at Lehigh, Black has enhanced his skills to develop into one of the top college baseball players. He also is a well-regarded prospect for July’s MLB draft, as professional scouts project him as a potential first-round pick.
“It has been really fun, honestly,” said Black on the draft. “Going through the team calls and getting to meet so many people has been fun. I’ve really enjoyed it all. You have to try to stay in the moment and not think too far ahead, though.”
Black has worked primarily as a starting pitcher in his first two years at Lehigh. As a freshman in 2019, Black posted a 4.36 ERA with 28 strikeouts and 12 walks allowed in 33 innings. Black made five of his 10 appearances as a starting pitcher.
Last season, Black was exclusively a starting pitcher, recording a 3.68 with 29 strikeouts and eight walks allowed in 22 innings (four starts).
Black is a 6-foot-3, 230-pound right-hander who throws a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, changeup and slider.
His two-seamer is an above-average offering that was up to 98 mph in the fall. He commonly uses it to attack right-handed hitters on the inside half of the plate but worked in the offseason on a backdoor two-seamer that he could use against left-handed hitters. Black also started throwing a four-seamer in the offseason with the hope of using it high in the strike zone against hitters.
“I think my biggest strength is my fastball,” Black said. “Being able to throw it to both sides and get inside on hitters have been my biggest strength. I’m also a big ground ball pitcher. I am a power pitcher who can get strikeouts with fastballs.”
Black ditched his curveball in the offseason, as it was too slurvy, and focused exclusively on developing his hard slider, he said. He is comfortable throwing his changeup, which features the potential to be at least an average offering in pro ball.
Besides refining his pitches, Black also dedicated time to his mechanics in the offseason. He is now throwing from a shorter arm path and shortened up his stride to allow for a better lead leg lock in hopes to improve his command, he said.
Black believes his new arm action will allow him to throw his slider and changeup with more consistency.
“I just really hope to take the next step in having a strikeout pitch,” Black said. “You can always throw fastballs. Those will be there every day. But having a consistent off-speed pitch like a slider that you can use in any count and manipulate it to have a more cutter-like approach will be important.”
Expectations are high for Black as he enters his junior season. He also has high hopes for Lehigh this spring.
Lehigh has not qualified for the NCAA tournament since 2015. But Black believes the Mountain Hawks have all the pieces to snap the postseason drought this season.
“As a team, we are hoping we can win the Patriot League,” Black said. “I think this is the best, most talented team we have had since I have been here. I am excited to see what that looks like. From a personal standpoint, I just want to go out there and put us in a position to win every time I step on the mound.”
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for six years. He has interviewed 253 of the top draft prospects in that period, including three No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today, MLB.com and The Arizona Republic, have quoted his work, while he has appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.