Norris was stellar again last night, striking out nine despite admittedly struggling a bit with control early in the game. He’s struck out 57.1% of the batters he’s faced at Triple-A and has recently added a cutter to his repertoire, which he throws at a slightly lower velocity but with more movement. One of the things Jay Blue noticed watching Norris in New Hampshire was that he doesn’t get much much armside run on his four-seam fastball but it appears he’s already adjusting with the cutter in his preparation to soon face major league hitters.
How soon will that be? Rosters officially expand on September 1st, which means the Toronto Blue Jays could purchase Norris’ contract from the Bisons and put him on the 40-man without having to worry about activating an option year.
Not that I’m expecting Norris to fail when he’s inevitably called up. His fastball and slider are his best and most consistent pitches according to an eyewitness account from Chris Mellen of Baseball Prospectus. Mellen hangs a present 60 grade on his fastball and a 55 on his slider while listing his curve and change as fringe average with 45’s.
I’ve watched about half of Norris’ starts since he was called up to Double-A (then Triple-A) and would have to agree for the most part with Mellen’s assessment. His curve I’m a little higher on as, when he’s throwing it well, it can be an above average pitch with lots of depth, spin and spotted with good command. It can get a bit loopy at times, lacking sharp break, and some nights he doesn’t miss nearly as many bats as others so I understand Mellen’s lack of excitement over the pitch, which Norris often throws in the low-to-mid 70’s.
The slider is tight with late break and will eat up right-handed batters just as much or more so than lefties. He’s actually been better this year against opposite-handed hitters and is holding righties to a .191/.264/.284 line across the three levels he’s pitched at this season.
It’s been a whirlwind 14 months or so for Norris, who struggled in the first half of 2013 with Low-A Lansing but has been practically unhittable since getting his mechanics more in line with the plate. The ups and downs of his first two seasons seemed to make him stronger mentally as well. I’m excited to see how his game will translate at the big league level.
Norris will very likely pitch out of the bullpen if he’s called up this year due to an innings limitation. The projection is for him to become a middle of the rotation starter for the Blue Jays in the near future with the potential, if absolutely everything goes right, of being a number two.
There’s even the very slight chance the Blue Jays add him to the roster prior to September 1st, which would make him eligible for the postseason*. It’s doubtful this happens but it is a possibility if the Blue Jays truly believe he’s ready to contribute now.
Well, of course this would happen.
*If necessary – try not to snicker.