Q&A: Tyler Black on hockey, defensive versatility

April 1st, 2022

The Tyler Black Brewers fans last saw hit just .222 over 23 games at Low-A Carolina. Expect a very different Tyler Black this time around.

The Wright State product was selected in the second round of the 2021 Draft after posting a .383/.496/.683 line as a junior, exhibiting why he had one of the best left-handed hit tools in his class. Following the brief downturn in pro ball, which came after the long spring and in which he still managed a .388 OBP, Black took hard to his workouts in the offseason to prepare for a hotter start in 2022 and to maintain it for the long first full season ahead.

Black spoke to MLB Pipeline from Brewers camp on Wednesday about those 2022 preparations, his background as a Canadian hockey player and his potential defensive versatility in the Milwaukee system:

Dykstra: This is your first Spring Training. What are your first impressions?

Black: Yeah, it's been awesome. I've been down here for about a month, a month and a half, and just been able to get my work in every day. That's all I can ask for. I've been loving it, and the guys have been awesome.

Dykstra: You’re preparing for your first full season. You got a small taste of pro ball last year. What are you expecting from April to September?

Black: I'm expecting it to be a grind. But you get to play baseball every day, you know what I mean? So I think the main thing is taking care of my body. I worked hard in the offseason preparing for my body to last this whole summer. So I think it's going to be a grind. But I've prepared for it. I’m ready.

Dykstra: What was the focus of your offseason workouts?

Black: I'm just getting quicker, staying in shape, staying mobile. For me, it wasn't necessarily focusing on my weight or anything like that. It was just keeping my body in tip-top shape and preparing for the long summer.

Dykstra: That motivation to get quicker specifically, where did that come from?

Black: Honestly, [infield coordinator] Bob Miscik and a lot of the defensive guys here talked to me about getting quicker and getting in shape, getting my body in better positions. I’ve really worked hard on that. It wasn't about losing weight or anything. It’s just my footwork, being able to play multiple positions. I know that if I want to do that, I'm going to have to get quicker.

Dykstra: Have you moved around much defensively this spring?

Black: Oh, yeah, I played a lot of third base as well as second. A lot of reps in the outfield too, so looking forward to seeing wherever I go.

Dykstra: Where in the outfield?

Black: Mostly corners right now.

Dykstra: Take me through your offensive approach. For anyone who watches you, the leg kick is going to stand out. How did that develop and why does it work for you?

Black: It’s just my timing mechanism. I've played around with a lot of different things, and for me, it just works the best, I’ve found. It’s all about being on time, rhythm and sequencing, and that’s really what I’m focused on this spring with my swing. I feel really good.

Dykstra: So is it getting your foot down in time? At what point did you really like this stance most?

Black: I don't really try to think about it too much. Getting up early was big for sure. That was an adjustment I made. Getting it up in time and just sequencing, being on time for the fastball.

Dykstra: Coming from Canada, you were a hockey player. What type of hockey player were you?

Black: I was kind of a stay-at-home defense. I didn't really grow until later in high school. So I was that smaller kid, and I wasn't really an offensive threat. Just stay at home and move the puck up. That was it.

Dykstra: What about that then translates to baseball?

Black: Honestly, a ton. I talk to people all the time about this. I'd say the biggest thing is the mentality. I think playing a lot of sports growing up gives me an edge over a lot of guys just in terms of being competitive and learning how to work with a team and work with teammates. And then in terms of skill, hand-eye coordination. I think it definitely helped.

Dykstra: Is there any part of you as a second baseman with a runner bearing down on you that makes you want to throw a hip check?

Black: (laughs) Yeah, a little bit, a little bit.

Dykstra: At what point did you realize baseball was for you then?

Black: I'd probably say around 16. I had to make a decision. I could argue that I was almost better at hockey at that time. I just loved the game more. Baseball was, growing up for me, a game I played in the summer to get away from the ice early on. As I grew, I really, really loved the game [of baseball]. It just took over.

Dykstra: Was it just time and resources? Why make that decision at 16?

Black: You know how it is nowadays. I really wanted to take baseball to the next level. I was just playing baseball in the summers, and that was it. I wasn’t hitting in the winters and didn't do anything else on the ice [in the summers]. It came down to that time when I had to make a decision and specialize in one if I really wanted to take it to the next level. Obviously, I chose baseball.

Dykstra: Back to today, what are you hoping to take away from last year’s brief Minor League stint and implement into this season with Opening Day just a week away?

Black: I think last year was really good in terms of learning and my introduction into pro ball -- how things operate, how things roll around here, what you have to do every day. It's much different than college. You’re not playing on the weekend. You're not playing midweeks. You have to bring it every day.

Dykstra: What did you learn about yourself then, and what did you have to adjust about yourself?

Black: What I worked on in the offseason. I have to get in shape. I have to keep my body in shape, take care of my diet, take care of stuff like that, just so I can play every day and be prepared to play.

Dykstra: Before the Draft, what did you know about the Brewers?

Black: Not much honestly. I knew they had a lot of Canadian talent through their system over the years. But yeah, I didn't hear much from them honestly going into the Draft. Everything worked out. I'm really happy to be here.

Dykstra: What about you best plugs into their player development philosophy, do you think?

Black: I just really like how they value the kind of blue-collar player. They let guys be themselves. That's something I really like, and I'm thankful to be here.

Dykstra: Speaking of being yourself, how would you describe yourself?

Black: Kind of a grinder baseball player. Never want to give it an at-bat away. Very versatile defender and I'm going to bring it every day.

Dykstra: I know comps aren’t always fair from outside observers. But when you look at who you could be or who you want to be as a Major Leaguer, who is that?

Black: Probably say like a DJ LeMahieu type. Versatile. Can hit. Plays his own game.