dannorris3

Five and two-thirds innings. One run. Three hits. Three walks. Ten strikeouts.

Eighty-nine pitches. Sixty for strikes.

A 1.22 ERA and 1.84 FIP at High-A before moving up a level to New Hampshire — and theoretically a step away from the big leagues.

A 15.1 K/9 rate in his first two starts at Double-A.

A 2011 second-rounder who spent most of his first year-and-a-half as a pro in the wilderness with command issues, walking 18 batters in 42.2 innings in 2012, and 28 batters in 45 innings in the first half of 2013. But as the performances — like last night’s gem for the Fisher Cats — more and more consistently start to come in line with the talent and the pre-draft hype, fans are truly starting to take notice of Dan Norris.

It’s been a long strange trip as a pro for Norris — fitting for a guy who spends so much time in a 1978 Volkswagen Westfalia camper van — and things are probably about to start getting even more strange. For one thing, along with fellow Jays prospect Dalton Pompey, yesterday he was named to the roster for the All-Star Futures Game, and both got an impressive nod from Keith Law as two of five potential breakout names he gave in his piece on those selected.

From ESPN.com:

The game will also serve as a coming-out party for several breakout prospects, including the Toronto Blue Jays’ two representatives, lefty Daniel Norris, now up to 96 mph and throwing strikes, and center fielder Dalton Pompey, a potential leadoff-hitter and talented athlete, although Vinnie Vesuvius just owns him.

Norris is no stranger to glowing press clippings, it’s just… it’s been a while. But with what’s been a smooth transition to Double-A so far, we’ve started to remember things.

Things like…

- Law ranking him 35th heading into the 2011 draft, but calling him “one of the best prep lefties in this year’s class with a chance for three above-average pitches,” and a tough sign who, if he didn’t, would “immediately go to the top of the 2014 draft class.”

- Baseball America ranking him 16th, saying he “entered 2011 as the top high school lefthander in the country, and he has done nothing to change that assessment,” while noting his strong grades for makeup, suggesting that he “has strong present stuff and room to improve.”

- And Baseball Prospectus putting him to the Cardinals at 22 in their final mock draft that year, calling him “the highest upside arm still on the board” at that point, despite the fact that Alex Meyer, Henry Owens, Tyler Beede, and Jose effing Fernandez were still there as well.

Obviously a prospect’s status can change quickly, and a guy like Fernandez got much better much more quickly than anybody saw coming. But for Norris, his struggles out of the gate, as he and the Jays worked at making his mechanics more consistent, quickly turned him into something of a non-factor in the prospect porn world. Keith Law didn’t even list him as a top ten prospect on the Jays heading into 2013, citing him only as a sleeper whose “season was a disappointment overall, with his stuff still so inconsistent from start to start, but on the right day you’ll see 94 mph with two above-average off-speed pitches.”

He was certainly never a non-prospect, just a guy nobody was paying much attention to until the performances started to show up (so take heed, Matt Smoral, who struck out eight in his first three innings at Bluefield last week).

I mean, lots of people whose business it is to follow these guys knew exactly who he was, but as far as his being on fans’ radar, this is relatively new — a piece at Baseball Prospectus this morning debated him jumping into their mid-season top 50, describing him as “a 6-foot-2 lefty who is an outstanding athlete on and off the mound, Norris throws a fastball that sits easily in the 92-95 range and he can run it up to 97 when need be. If a quirky lefty with a mid- to upper-90s fastball isn’t enough for you, let’s talk about his off-speed and breaking stuff. Norris’ best secondary pitch is his slider, a sharp and darting pitch that can miss bats while making hitters look foolish in the process.” (They also add that “his curveball is rapidly improving and I believe that was the main factor in his first-half dominance in the Florida State League,” and that he has a legit fourth pitch, as his “changeup has the makings of a plus pitch and sits in the low 80s with good depth and late drop action.”)

And, of course, over the next few weeks, Norris’s trip is going to get even stranger in another way: because his name has already started surfacing in trade talks. Yesterday I called him “found money,” but that’s not really entirely true — the Blue Jays, after all, invested $2-million in getting him to forgo his commitment to pitch at Clemson, and surely always knew it would be an effort to get his mechanics to where they needed to be. Now he’s paying off, with other teams taking notice, with Alex Anthopoulos taking notice — he was there watching last night’s gem, according to a Shi Davidi piece at Sportsnet — and with fans trying to reconcile the fact that they badly want to see their club upgrade in the rotation, with the fact that Norris’s ascent provides the organization with another top upper-level prospect of the kind they’ve been too bereft of over the last eighteen months, since the trades with the Marlins and Mets were made.

Could Norris himself provide the kind of lift that the Jays are looking for? In the recent past the Jays have shown willingness to bring up pitchers with limited experience above A-ball — Henderson Alvarez had only 14 Double-A starts on his resume when he first got the call, and Drew Hutchison had pitched only 31.2 innings at the level when he did — but unfortunately I’m not sure this is a realistic path for Norris. For one thing, he threw 42.2 innings in his first year as a pro, then jumped up to just 90.2 innings last year. He’s already at 77.2 so far this season, meaning that just twelve starts of five innings apiece would take him nearly to 140 on the season, which is a pretty big jump on its own. To put it in perspective, if R.A. Dickey were to make the same number of starts this year as he did last, he’d need to make 18 more. And then, hopefully, there would be playoff starts in addition.

One might bring up the Michael Wacha example, suggesting that Norris could be brought up to help the bullpen for a while, saving some of his innings for later, and then eventually stretched out to start — the way that the Cardinals did — but it really doesn’t fit so well. Wacha threw 140 innings in 2012, if you include his time at Texas A&M, before throwing 85 in the minors last and 65 in the big league regular season.

His wasn’t an arm that was being asked, within the pressures of a big league playoff race, to log so many more innings that it ever had before. Simply not smart or realistic to ask Norris to do a thing like that. And that’s OK. Keep him developing! Keep him healthy! Or… y’know… trade him for something that can help you right now and for next year, too.

Tough decisions, tough decisions. And surely not the last we’ll hear of this. (Though in his latest on the Jays for CBS Sports, Jon Heyman makes it seem like the Jays are going to be very reluctant to part with their top prospects. But more on that in the next post…)

Comments (69)

  1. Baseball Prospectus had an article on Norris today. Lots of good stuff in there, also noting that he will be in the top 50 list coming out next week. Let me know if you want the article!

    • Gah! As if I missed that. Will definitely work some of it into this post.

    • I realize that article was a debate, but there was no real stated resolution (unless I missed it.)

      Even comparing him to Berrios is complimentary, and Norris certainly seemed to shine a little brighter in that piece. They’re both fucking studs, though.

  2. GAAAH! Now I’m all enamoured and shit and I don’t want him traded.
    Goddamnit

  3. Keep him.

  4. Norris is only 21, which makes him pretty young for AA.

    I see no reason to bring him up in 2014. Add the lefty arm to the bullpen via trade, if possible. Maybe a change of scenery type guy, but not a 21-year old with somehwat inconsistent control.

    Would also like to see Anthopoulous keep a death grip on him. Sanchez is a huge unknown – could be solid, could make 5 starts in the MLB with a 25.00 ERA. I would also greatly prefer a lefty with command than a righty power arm without it manning the rotation in the future.

    • “Somewhat inconsistent control”

      based on the stats, that’s not what i see. from may on in 2013 he walked 3/9 ip. this year he’s averaged a hair under 2.5/9. while still keeping his k/9 over 10 at each level.

      if he can roll over aa hitters like he has a and a+, i wouldn’t be shocked to see him up this year.

  5. ARRRRGH! SEXY PROSPECT PORN!

  6. I think we should keep Norris and Sanchez, I trust in what aa is doing. This could be vicious cycle trading away top talent just to get into the playoffs. With morrow coming back and stroman pitching so well I say we stand pat for now.

    • I understand where you’re coming from, but the way it looks by the time Sanchez and Norris are able to contribute to the big club in a meaningful way, Bautista, EE, Reyes et al are likely to be well past their best years, so there’s a logic to getting “big league ready” pieces right now. It’s a hard balance, and heaven knows I flip flop on which way I hope they go enough in a given week.

      • In an alternate universe where Norris didn’t sign, he would have been in this years draft. In this universe, pretend he pitched just as well at Clemson as he’s currently pitching. Where does he go in the draft? Gotta be top 5 easy, right?

      • Yeah but here’s the thing… if we trade away all the good prospects for help now when Bautista, EE, Reyes et al are likely to be well past their best years what will we be left with? A depleted farm system and once again a big league club on a long process of rebuilding?

        I understand the thing about flags and their tendancy to fly forever and the washout rate of prospects but I’d still rather they try to build towards creating a sustainable winner then make a grab for short term glory followed by long-term pain. Without a committment to even higher spending the only way to do that is with young cost-controlled guys on the MLB roster.

        That being said I wouldn’t be opposed to spending a smaller price on a rental type player if the team looks strong at the non-waiver deadline. Just don’t want to be clouded by excess short-term thinking.

    • What would of been cool is if Rogers would of just given AA the money he needed to get a couple free agent arms then the Jays could have it all.

  7. I don’t know if you any of you saw the “Home Field Advantage” piece on MLB.com with Colby Rasmus showing off his condo, and his “commute.” The clip of him buying a hot dog from one of the vendors outside of the Dome made me happier than it probably should.

    http://m.mlb.com/video/topic/70142686/v33825201/

    • I just love this man.

    • What the hell has that got do with Norris?

      Also, I saw it, and it was fab. I heart Colby Rasmus. Poor, shy li’l southern kid.

      • Nuthin’, but saw it and thought about sharing it.

        Kinda look at this place like a bar…conversations start around one topic, but then go all over the place. If that’s not the feel of the room, apologies.

        I’m with Bob, though – really love Colby. I feel the same way about him I did about Shaker. A player with limitations, sure, but a really easy guy to root for.

    • He’d never let on, but I think our lil’ southern boy loves Toronto.

    • His hamstring must have been tender he couldn’t even shake that old bird that wanted the autograph

    • He pronounces Toronto correctly!

      • While I like to think it’s because he learned this from locals, I bet it’s because Phenix City, AL is near Atlanta — which everyone pronounces “Uht-lanna” much like “Tuh-ronno.” I live not too far from ATL either, and no one has the Toronto-hard-t problem here, thankfully.

        …Thus concludes far too much analysis of his pronunciation of Toronto.

    • Street meat IS one of the best things about being in a big city.

    • aw man, those high-waist pants — such money.

    • His shirt tucked into his pants and the fact that he lives literally next door to the SkyDome makes it seem like he’s a little kid who’s only purpose of being in a big city is to play baseball.

      I am very jealous of his life.

  8. The whole 30 inning jump theory has been smashed to pieces so I’m not sure why so many teams still follow it, including us. I’d be very upset if we traded any arms for a Happ replacement. The guy has a lower xFIP than Dickey. Sure that’s a low bar and an upgrade would be nice but at what cost? Flags fly forever sounds great but I’d rather have a team that consistently contends and shipping out all of our high end talent doesn’t help accomplish that.

    • Yes, the theory has. We’re talking about going well beyond a 50 inning jump. Just not smart to push it like that — and not a lot of research on the impact because teams generally don’t.

      xFIP is great, but you have to look deeper than just one number.

      • Looking deeper provides more of the same. I’m not saying Happ is better, just that the gap isn’t as large as most would expect. Happ has a better K rate, higher BABIP and really that’s the problem with this team. Not that it lacks depth but that it doesn’t have a standout #1 unless you believe Buehrle can keep it up. I’d rather use Norris/Sanchez for what we can during the regular season then roll with Dickey/Buehrle/Hutch/Stroman come playoffs should they happen. The playoffs are just such a crapshoot now that I don’t you can compare getting Shark to Cone. Not just the wildcard but the one game playoff really throws a wrench into things.

  9. I wonder what kind of value Drebek and McGuire have? Could we get a nick franklin or Ian Kennedy for that level of prospect?

  10. The Jays’ pitching pipelone in general is looking kind of awesome, and probably should be getting more attention.

    Stroman 23
    Hutch 23
    Norris 21
    Sanchez 21
    Hoffman 21
    Osuna 19
    Castro 19
    Reid-Foley 18

    That is some serious legit high upside SP talent, and its backed up by a whole bunch of big arm longshots (Tirado, Labourt, Smoral, Dejong, Cardona, etc.) and interesting low upside pitchability prospects (nolin, mcguure, cole, boyd, dawson, robson, smith, etc.).

    And come to think of it, even the position prospect side is starting to look better too with high upside guys pompey and barretto killing it, pentacost added to the fold, and a mix of other high upside guys (lugo, nay, urena, tellez, davis) and lower uspide guys having good years (pillar, smith).

    • It’s fun to have a lot of prospects to follow AND a competitive team to watch every night.

      The Jays recent strategy of targeting high upside prospects makes it interesting to follow the progress of even the lower level guys.

    • A couple places said a healthy Hoffman is the Jays best prospect. I know he’s not healthy now, but a full recovery adds another top 50 prospect to the fold if that’s the case.

      And based on my complete lack of scouting skills I stool think Smoral is going to be something. 6’9″ lefty with a mid 90s heater? Are you kidding me?

    • Why is Smoral a long shot? He was supposedly a tough sign which is why he fell so far in the draft.

  11. Heyman’s saying The Shark ain’t gonna happen, and the Jays are looking at rentals…

    http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2014/06/heymans-latest-blue-jays-mariners.html

    De La Rosa? Liriano? Hmmm. But Peavy? Please no.

    • I agree but didn’t AA try for Peavy when he was a White Sox at one point or at least it was assumed he did?

    • Sorry, Stoeten already linked to this. I was temporary blind after all the hot prospect action.

  12. I’m glad they are staying away from shark, I think there are better options out there.

  13. I’m confused by all of this talk about fixing Norris’ mechanics.

    John Farrell told me the Blue Jays aren’t good at player development.

    • +10000000 Fuck I hate Farrell

      • The silver lining there is that because of the fluke win last year, the red sox are going to be stuck with this supershitty “worldseries winning” manager for the next decade.

        • They fired Francona only a 4 yrs after his World Series? And there wasn’t even a losing season in there. Just an epic ‘Chicken n Beer’ fueled collapse.
          Red Sox nation will turn on the golden boy just as fast.

  14. Jose Fernandez obliterated A+ hitters in 2012 before skipping the next two levels to do the same to MLB hitters in 2013. Norris is just more than a year older than Fernandez was at A+, but he has a better K%, BB%, ERA and FIP at that level. I’m not suggesting that they’re in any way similar pitchers or that Norris will become a star of any kind because I’ve never actually seen him start (and even if I had, my scouting abilities are completely non-existent), but given that they were ranked in the same range for the 2011 draft and Norris is only 8 months younger, it kind of makes me believe (and by believe, I mean “wildly dream”) that a rapid ascent is possible.

  15. I wish there were pitch counters in the low minors.

    You have to think with all those walks and hits in previous years, norris’ pitch totals were much higher than the raw innings totals would suggest, especially compared to this year’s much lower walks and baserunner totals.

    I doubt organizations use raw innings totals to judge how much work the pitcher is getting anymore, and most likely use pitch counts and other cool stuff instead.

    Napkin math:

    2012*: 42.2ip = 128 outs + 78 baserunners = 206 batters faced
    2013: 90.2ip = 272 outs + 131 baserunners = 403 batters faced
    2014: 77.2ip = 233 outs + 80 baserunners = 313 batters faced

    (* 2012 probably doesn’t include a bunch of extended ST innings)

    I’m not sure how to directly translate the “30 more IP per year” thing into batters faced percentages but if we make it 25% (low imo) that means he could face about 500 batters this year, which translated to his efficiency this year would mean he’d have about 50ip left to use this year. If we make it 50% then that means he can face 600 batters this year, which at his current efficiency he’s only about halfway through his expected workload this year and might have 75-80ip left. If we split the difference then maybe he has 60-70ip left, maybe 10-15 more starts.

    Of course while batters faced is more accurate than raw IP, it still might underrate improved pitch count efficiency per batter faced, so maybe norris can go even longer this year without going higher than his expected pitch count.

    Or maybe this napkin math is a bunch of horseshit. I dunno.

    • Good point. The average number of batters faced per inning (for simplicity, 3 + WHIP) between a guy who does well and a guy who struggles a lot is somewhat significant. Last year Norris’s WHIP was 1.49 (again, forgive me for using the blunt object that is WHIP). This year it’s a bit above 1.00. So, for roundness, his WHIP was 1.5 last year and is 1.05 this year (not a bad idea to round up, since WHIP doesn’t account for things like runners who reach on errors).

      So:
      2013 – 90.2 IP, 4.5 BF per inning = 406 batters faced
      For the 2014 version of Daniel Norris, those same 406 BF at 4.05 BF/IP would be equivalent to 100 IP. (So far he’s pitched 77.2 IP at 2014 goodness levels.)

      In essence, at his current rate of being kinda awesome, he has roughly another 22.1 IP until he reaches last year’s total of batters faced, not 12.1 IP.

      In which case, it means you can ramp the guy up to, say, 135 IP, instead of 125 IP this year. An extra start and a couple relief appearances, basically.

      Significant, but not *that* significant. (Oh and pitches per plate appearance – P/PA – did not appear to significantly correlate with high K/9 or BB/9 rates, nor goodness or shittiness of the pitcher measures like FIP, so I don’t think we can say he threw that many more pitches per inning last year.)

      Still, a good point worth considering when dealing with a fast-moving pitching prospect worthy of promotion — likely said prospect is having a better year than last, and thus, innings counts are not as accurate as batters faced. Of course, the teams likely keep this info on BF and pitches thrown (and for all I know, it’s online, too) and don’t need such convoluted calculations.

      Just keep developing Norris. He can probably help next year if he continues at this trajectory and his innings are capped in 2014, which means trading for a year and a half of Samardzija might not have the VOTP (value over traded player) that it appears to have at first blush…

  16. I am so ready to love this guy

  17. Guys I know this had been discussed a lot on here, but I’d like to see Rasmus shipped out for a pitcher. I know we take a offense hit and lose a potential pick. But I think with gose in center and another starting pitcher this would improve our team and minimize the amount of assets we lose.

    • who exactly is going to trade a pitcher that would be an upgrade, for a few months of colby rasmus?

    • Nope.

      No team wanting a win now player like Rasmus is going to give up a win now pitcher good enough to make it worthwhile.

      Seriously. Of all the teams over .500 outside of the AL east, only teams where Rasmus is a serious upgrade is Atlanta, Detroit and Seattle.

      Who would we want that they would give up? Ervin Santana? Porcello? I really can’t see it.

  18. I know this is going to get crapped on but I thought I float it out there. The main trading chip for a #1 starter in my books is Dickey. Send him back to the NL where he has better success and he can be a #1. He has a great contract so that would be an enticement for any NL team trading away their ace. It also mitigates their damage for the ace leaving. There is no way you can put Dickey on the mound in the post season. He is way too unpredictable. I am unsure if it would take one or two prospects with Dickey to get what you need. With this trade, you are upgrading your staff with an innings eating ace that you need while hopefully mitigating the damage to your prospects. Don’t know if that would fly but that’s what I would try for. AA would never do it because it would mean the trade was TDA, NS, and another high end prospect or two for the ace coming back. I’d try to do it though. You didn’t get the ace you were hoping for with RA so time to move on.

    • You’re right, this will get crapped on.

      Rightfully so.

      Can we please have a moritorium on this NL/AL pitching thing. It’s not that big a difference and the sole difference is because you face a pitcher instead of a DH. Going there will not make dickey an ace again.

      • Even if he is a #3 in the NL. That’s why I didn’t know how many or quality prospects you package him with. Bottom line is we have too many #3 and #4s. He’s the oldest so bundle him to reduce to prospect capital you need to use to get your ace. Unless he is worth nothing.

        • What “Ace” do you have in mind for this deal of yours? The Jays mascot maybe?
          Do you think Philly for example would trade Cliff Lee for RA if they go to rebulid mode?
          Ther Cubs give us Jeff z for a 40 yr old ? Maybe the Dodgers would give us Kershaw right? Just Dickey ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++. C’mon, Let’s think a little here and stop with JAys talk crap

          • I was being sarcastic about him not having value. He has a ton of value. He is a #3 innings eater on a great contract. That’s why you can trade him with prospects to upgrade for an ace that could be used in the post season. You can’t use Dickey in the post season. Too erratic.

            I realize teams trading their front line starters are generally looking to reload on prospects they can bring up later. It was simply a way to reduce the prospects going the other way while upgrading the pitching. Trading Rasmus plus prospects downgrades the position and gives up a draft pick. This doesn’t.

          • And when in my posts did I ever say Dickey straight up? Of course that would never happen. Helps when you read the full post.

      • Well, there is a pretty big difference, and the gap seems to be widening.

        Last 4yrs era:

        AL: 3.96, 3.99, 4.08, 4.08
        NL: 3.66, 3.74, 3.95, 3.81

        Lower Dickey’s era to the 3.75 range and fans are much happier with him.

    • Not to be a dick, but AA wouldn’t do it because it’s a ridiculous idea. Not because of prospects.

      The Jays need MORE guys who can pitch 200 IP with a 4ish ERA, not start trading them away, good god.

      Just because Dickey’s not the ace we thought doesn’t mean he doesn’t have value. Even if he is disappointing, he’s still a really important cog in the rotation.

  19. When’s the last time a mid-season trade worked out and the fanbase didn’t regret it?

  20. Um, just because the innings limit might prevent him from pitching for the Jays in October, doesn’t mean he couldn’t help them get there in the first place? I’m just not nearly at the point where I’m thinking about slotting starters in a playoff series. Let’s just get to September and not be 8 games out already. That would be fucking awesome. Stand pat, Alex, and see what happens.

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