Toronto Blue Jays rookie Daniel Norris is one of the most interesting prospects to watch in the major leagues this September. His rise to the highest level has been rapid: he was in rookie ball two years ago. But Norris wasn't just in rookie ball, he was getting blasted in rookie ball. The road to the major leagues had a bumpy start but he's made up for lost time.
Norris was a second-round pick in 2011 from high school in Johnson City, Tennessee. He was considered a first-round talent but his stock slipped a bit due to bonus demands and concerns about his mechanics. He didn't make his debut until 2012 and it did not go well: in 43 innings between Bluefield in the Appalachian League and Vancouver in the Northwest League, Norris coughed up a 58 hits and an 8.44 ERA. His K/BB ratio wasn't bad at 43/18, but there were serious concerns about his secondary pitches and the Blue Jays had to completely revamp his delivery.
He moved up to Lansing in the Low-A Midwest League in 2013 and improved a great deal, with a 4.20 ERA, a 99/44 K/BB in 86 innings with 84 hits allowed. The improvement was even more notable in 2014: in 125 innings between High-A Dunedin, Double-A New Hampshire, and Triple-A Buffalo, Norris combined for a 2.53 ERA with a 163/43 K/BB ratio and 96 hits allowed. His K/BB was 38/8 in 23 Triple-A innings.
He dominated Triple-A hitters. This is not the same guy who couldn't get people out in the Appalachian League.
Norris is a 6-2, 185 pound lefty born April 23, 1993. His fastball has always been strong at 90-95 MPH, with movement, and his ability to locate the pitch is much better than it was when he was first drafted. His mediocre breaking ball was troublesome when he signed, but his breaking stuff is much more refined now; he developed both a curve and a slider to go with a decent change-up. When he's going well, he has four major league quality pitches, and his command of everything has quickly sharpened thanks to mechanical refinements.
While there is always the risk of back-sliding, Norris has progressed rapidly from thrower to pitcher, solidifying his status as one of the top southpaw prospects in baseball.
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