Is Daniel Norris a Tumbler?


We’re in the ‘shoulder’ season for those of us that write about prospects.  The time of year when the minor league seasons are done and we’re kind of waiting for the Arizona Fall League to start before the top prospect lists will kick off in earnest.  To bridge the gap, Marc Hulet, over at Fangraphs, has started a ‘Minor Review of 2013‘ series where he’ll quickly blast through each team’s organization.  Giving an overview of the inevitable ups and downs of a team’s prospect depth.

Daniel Norris pitches for the Lansing Lugnuts in Lansing, Michigan on August 9, 2013. Mandatory Credit: Jay Blue

If you’ve read any of my stuff, you’ll know that I link Hulet quite a bit.  When you can’t get to see prospects yourself you are forced to rely on the scouting reports of others.  Marc has been one of my go to guys for the Jays organization for a couple of reasons.  He’s been covering the Jays for quite some time and has a thorough knowledge of the entire system, not just the ‘top 10’.

That being said, who knows how often these prospectors actually see the players they are writing about.  Which can lead to a longer term bias than necessary when it comes to certain players.

I’ll try and cover a few of Hulet’s ‘major happenings’ but want to specifically focus on ‘The Tumbler’ Daniel Norris

In his piece (linked above) Hulet gives the usual details, $2mm USD bonus to forego his Clemson scholarship, 1st round talent drafted in 2nd round, etc.  The quote that jumps out though is the ‘He flashed his considerable talent with a second-half surge but he still has a long way to go to harness his stuff well enough to succeed against more advanced hitters in the upper levels of the minors.’


Let’s compare the below:

The 2012 season numbers are the Midwest League stats of the Blue Jays consensus number one prospect and future frontline starter Aaron Sanchez.  A season which had us all dreaming…making up nicknames like the Lansing Big Three and so on.

The 2013 column are of Norris at the same level and same age.

Sanchez was slightly younger than Daniel, there is about 9 months differential between the two, but due to his late signing, Norris’ Lansing season was only his second in pro ball compared to Sanchez’ third.

Taking all the above into account, what, if anything, can we read into the numbers?  For me, it’s the fact they look pretty freakin’ similar.  Their FIPs are basically even.  Norris had a better (and very impressive) 10.4 K/9 while both had pretty crap walk per nine ratios.  Still, Daniel’s was slightly better, and if you look at the fangraphs game log page it improved markedly over the final two months of the season.

Yes, he gave up more hits, but it has been widely reported, and I confirmed it with C’s pitching coach Jim Czajkowski, that Norris was only allowed to work with two pitches for the first half of the season.  He was having troubles repeating his delivery and was leaving balls up in the zone.  The Lansing pitching coach, Vince Horsman, is a huge believer in fastball control (and quite irascible by some accounts) so wouldn’t let Norris throw his potential plus curve until he proved he could command his fastball and change down in the zone.

I cherry picked some stats recently which showed how good Norris was in the second half, and included some tasty tweets from @StatsKing who scouts the FSL for Baseball Prospectus.  He seemed quite impressed with the left-handers one and only appearance for Dunedin.

I do agree with Hulet’s assertion that Norris ‘still has a long way to go’.  As I mentioned, he walks too many and gives up too many hits, although a high BABIP didn’t help.  But there is no way he should be have been labelled a ‘tumbler’ in the Jays org.  I could think of numerous other names to fill that role, including Sanchez himself.  If anything, Norris should be ‘on the rise’.

If the Blue Jays aggressive late season promotion is anything to go by, provided he pitches well in the first half,  I think we could potentially see Norris join Sanchez in New Hampshire at some point next season.  Should be very interesting.

Speaking of aggressive promotions, I had the chance to chat with one of the GCL Jays hitting instructors about the shortstop triumvirate of Dawel Lugo, Franklin Barreto, and Richard Urena.  Like Hulet, who named Barreto his ‘Riser’, Guillermo Martinez raved about Barreto’s advanced approach and physicality (if that makes any sense).  Martinez said he wouldn’t be surprised at all if the 5’7″ shortstop skipped Vancouver to start the season in Lansing.

The fact he turns eighteen in February and only had fifty-eight plate appearances for Bluefield makes that hard for me to believe, but it’s exciting nonetheless.

I’m going to try and break down Lansing’s opening day roster in time, but it has a very good chance to be, once again, very young, and very exciting.