Tyler Black suffered an ankle injury in his junior year of high school. The injury resulted in the Toronto, Canada native receiving little NCAA recruiting interest. Black considered attending a junior college, but then Wright State expressed interest in the prep infielder.
Now in his third year at Wright State, Black has developed into one of college baseball’s top infielders. He has an exciting combination of power and speed that will make him a sought-after prospect in July’s MLB draft.
Scouts project Black as a potential top-two-round pick who could continue to enhance his draft status with a solid finish to his junior season.
“The draft is cool to look forward to, but it is the least of my worries right now,” Black said. “I have so much fun playing with these guys every day. I just think we have a really special team.”
Black posted an impressive freshman campaign at Wright State in 2019. He notched a .348 average with 11 doubles, five triples, seven home runs and 39 RBIs in 158 at-bats in 49 games.
He didn’t duplicate that success in the pandemic-shortened season last year, however. Black put pressure on himself to try to live up to his freshman season while also dealing with a small labrum tear in his right shoulder, he said.
Black had surgery on the injury after hitting .239 with one home run and five RBIs in 46 at-bats in 13 games last year.
This season, Black is performing similarly to his freshman year. He has a .351 batting average with four doubles, one triple, seven home runs and 25 RBIs in 74 at-bats in 21 games.
The 6-foot-2, 190-pound left-handed hitter has an advanced approach at the plate with above-average power and a strong feel for the strike zone. He also has respectable speed.
Defensively, Black has split time between second base and third base during his collegiate career. He was a shortstop growing up and is comfortable playing all three infield positions, he said.
Scouts believe he likely profiles best as an offensive-minded second baseman in the pro ranks.
“My bat is my biggest strength,” Black said. “I take a lot of pride in it and have worked really hard on developing that part of my game. But, I think a really undervalued thing for me is my versatility. I can play a lot of different positions, and I am athletic. For me, that’s something I take a lot of pride in because I know at the next level, I will be bouncing around a little bit.”
This season, Black hopes to steal more bases. He worked on his footwork and speed in the offseason. He stole eight bases his freshman season and has tallied five steals this year.
Black believes his speed is an asset in his game that he hasn’t fully tapped into yet.
“For me, I try not to set goals or anything, but one thing I can control is my stolen base numbers,” Black said. “That is something I really focused on this summer. It is a part of my game that I think I can really take to the next level. For me, I have always had good speed, but I didn’t feel comfortable until this year with it.”
Although Black is drawing draft interest, he is keeping a team-first mindset. Wright State is 13-8, including a 13-3 mark in Horizon League play this season. The Raiders hope to return to the NCAA tournament after not earning the conference’s automatic bid in 2019.
“This is one of the closest teams I’ve been a part of in my life,” Black said. “We have the talent and depth. Struggles are going to happen, and we just have to stay together and learn from them. We are just so talented that if we stay together and continue to build on the chemistry, we already have, we will make some noise.”
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.