The next player in our top 30 remains high in numerous Blue Jay top prospect lists (including ours) despite a very average pro debut. This is one pitcher I’m really going to struggle to not take into account his 2013 as it encapsulates his career thus far. It’s also difficult to evade the word ‘bust’ when discussing Norris, as it’s being liberally tossed around. Baseball America even got in on the act recently:
Name: Daniel Norris
Position: Left Handed Pitcher
Date of Birth: 25/04/1993 (20)
Acquired: 2nd Round of 2011 Draft ($2,000,000 USD)
High School: Science Hill, Tennessee
Height/Weight: 6’2”/180 lbs
Awards and Accomplishments:
We didn’t finish the 2012 Top 30 prospects list!!
Ranked 91st on Baseball America’s pre-2012 top 100 prospect list
Ranked 4 on Marc Hulet’s Fangraphs Blue Jays Top 15 (after trades)
2012 Statistics and Analysis
2-4, 42.2 IP, 58 H, 40 ER, 4 HR, 18 BB, 43 K,
8.44ERA (3.81 FIP), 1.781 WHIP, 9.1 K/9, 3.8 BB/9
If you look at Norris’ 2012 numbers and compare them to what your expectations may have been then yes, they are poor. I remember Kyle Matte and I having a pre-season twitter conversation musing on whether the left-hander would skip short-season ball altogether and debut in Lansing. That didn’t happen, as Norris made his start in Bluefield before finishing the season winning a Northwest League title with Vancouver.
However, if you dig a little bit deeper, some of the peripheral numbers add at least a bit of gloss to some pretty ugly counting stats. The 9.1 K/9 in particular. His FIP of 3.81 is also quite respectable despite the ugly ERA. He walked too many (something that has carried into this season, making my next argument somewhat moot), but after having not pitched since finishing his high school career in 2011, it may be unrealistic to expect pinpoint control right off the hop. Something 2012 compensation round pick Matthew Smoral is finding out this season.
Although I didn’t see him pitch for Vancouver last year, I did listen to one of the games and, according to the C’s play by play man, Norris couldn’t get the breaking ball over for a strike. Allowing hitters to sit fastball, and as was said at the time, it doesn’t matter how hard you throw it, pro hitters will hit a fastball if they know it’s coming.
Norris uses an over the top 3/4 arm slot which gives him good depth on his breaking ball. This is the pitch that could make or break him career wise which we’ll discuss more below. He lands more on the first base side so has a bit of a crossfire release point. Still, it’s a pretty relaxed motion and should be repeatable.
Pitch Arsenal Breakdown
Norris throws four pitches, of which, three project as plus. Which is what makes it so hard to figure out why minor league hitters seem to be squaring him up so much. If you read scouting reports on him, the main adjective describing his fastball is ‘electric’. It sits in the 92-94 range, but he has the ability to ramp it up to 96. From most accounts he also gets late sink on it, which, again, makes it difficult to believe he gets touched up.
For secondary pitches, the Tennessee native has a curve, changeup, and slider. The changeup is his go to off-speed pitch, with about a ten mph separation and late movement. As mentioned above, the curve has good depth and could develop into an excellent offering. If his slider continues to progress than he’ll be sitting on four legit offerings.
The perfect world projection for Daniel Norris is a solid number two, or a high end number three starter in the mold of Tampa Bay’s Matt Moore. Of course, if he doesn’t learn to trust his stuff, then he’ll see New Hampshire and pitch alongside Deck McGuire for eternity.
2013 Outlook, Risk, and ETA
Obviously we know where he ended up in 2013 with a mildly surprising full season assignment. A horrific start has been followed by a decent run, including a terrific span of three starts in late May, early June. Unfortunately a hip injury then sidelined him for a month, meaning he hasn’t thrown a ton of innings since.
Outlook for the rest of the season? I’m going to go with the fingers crossed approach here. He dominates for the rest of the season. Next year sees him follow the path of Aaron Sanchez with a conservative season in Dunedin (or Palm Bay, wherever the FSL team is) before seeing AA and AAA in 2015 and the bigs in 2016.
The risk, of course, was described above. He’s a bust that never sees a level beyond double-A.