What to expect from Brewers No. 4 prospect Black in big leagues

April 30th, 2024

Tyler Black homered twice Sunday for Triple-A Nashville, marking his first multihomer game in the Minor Leagues. Two days later, he isn’t in the Minor Leagues anymore.

Batting from the left side, the Brewers' No. 4 prospect owns a .303/.393/.525 slash line with five homers and three steals over 25 games for the Sounds before the move. Perhaps most pertinent to the Major League club, he had made 18 of his 19 defensive starts for the Sounds at first base. That already exceeds his cold-corner start total of 16 from 2023, when he primarily played across the diamond at third base.

Milwaukee has rotated the right-handed-hitting Rhys Hoskins with the lefty Jake Bauers at first base to open this season, but Bauers has had a difficult time holding up his side of the platoon, hitting .200/.250/.383 with a 77 wRC+ over 64 plate appearances during his first season with the Crew. Black could serve as a natural replacement upon arrival.

The owner of a career .412 on-base percentage in the Minors since he went 33rd overall in the 2021 Draft out of Wright State, Black has long thrived on a strong approach and eye at the plate, despite a large leg kick that might keep other batters out of rhythm. His 13.7 percent strikeout rate and 6.8 percent swinging-strike rate rank 12th and 21st-best among 219 Triple-A qualifiers at the time of his promotion. He’s also made contact on 90.8 percent of swings inside the zone, fourth-best among Triple-A batters with at least 100 plate appearances.

Black has done an especially good job against four-seam fastballs, slugging .641 with three homers against such pitches during his time at Triple-A, but his data against breaking pitches has been solid as well, proving why he has the potential to be a plus overall hitter.

What the Ontario native lacks offensively is standout power, even taking into account Sunday’s slugfest. Black’s hard-hit rate for Nashville this season has been just 31.8 percent, below the Triple-A average of 37.1 and akin to Brice Turang’s (33.8) in the Majors to give a Brewers comp. His 84.9 mph average exit velocity and 102.3 mph 90th EV are also below the averages for Triple-A (87.6 and 103.7, respectively). There’s a chance Black could replicate his 18-homer performance from 2023 at the top level because of a flyball-heavy approach, but the lack of true impact dulls that overall slugging ceiling.

Where the infielder can make his influence felt elsewhere offensively is in his speed. Black swiped 55 bags a year ago between Double-A and Triple-A, and while he’s been a bit more timid on the basepaths with Nashville in 2024, he still has the wheels to pressure opposing defenses. He can record home-to-first times as low as the 4.0-4.1-second range, making him fast enough to beat out the occasional infield dribbler.

Black carries that high-octane approach to the field as well, as he showed on April 21 when he raced into short right field to make a game-ending catch in a 7-3 win over Omaha. The Brewers have moved him all around the park with time at second and center as well in search of a defensive home for his bat, but below-average arm strength and actions have left him at first base as he closes in on the Majors.

The Canadian won’t be a typical first baseman due to his promising speed and lack of power, but the Brewers don’t necessarily need a slug-first-type with Hoskins on the roster and Gary Sánchez also getting time at DH. Instead, Black’s arrival represents just the latest promising callup for a Brewers club that already boasts recent Top 100 talents Jackson Chourio, Sal Frelick and Joey Ortiz in its everyday lineups.