Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Curiosity Kills Something

Right, it's playoff time and I'm making a quick post about a single-A catcher, deal with it. I made my Division Series picks at the final hour over on my twitter page (yea, I "tweet") and also promised for a post that evening - best unemployed writer, ever!

Anyways, there has been a fair amount of negative things written about Nationals catching prospect Derek Norris. Here are comments by two of the industries most well-known prospect authors.
  • Kevin Goldstein stated, "[Norris] became an on-base machine with little power" while giving him a mulligan due to injuries (I'll touch on these later).
  • Jason Gray wrote, "Norris will look to rebound from a subpar season in the Carolina League, where he hit .235 and slugged just .419."
Truth be told, I actually thought there was more negative press about the 21 year old. However, we still have two authors who walked away unimpressed with the power that Norris displayed in 2010.

Quick explanation. Keith Law wrote in a recent chat transcript that it isn't uncommon for hitters to take a year to a year and a half to recover their power stroke after a hamate injury. I have read that similar power sapping can occur to wrist injuries. The hamate bone is, from my non-medical opinion, a part of the wrist, and as such, Derek Norris' power sapping should not have been too much of a surprise.

Norris also suffered a minor concussion when he was hit in the head by a "96mph fastball". Which Norris admitted took him a fair amount of plate appearances to bounce back from, something his month-by-month statistics show as this was the only full month where Norris posted an OPS under .830 (keep this number in mind for later). Even his playoff-shortened month of September had Norris posting an OPS of .865 (if my math is correct).

Of course we don't want to altogether eliminate Norris' month of June, but we can see that something might not have been right that month, and it's not out of the realm of possibility that it had to do with having just taken a fastball off the head.

Neither of which is the point. The point here is that Norris didn't really have that bad of a season. In fact, his power numbers as is would suffice in the big leagues.

Consider where he would stand with those numbers at the show. These numbers I am speaking of are the end of season line of an .838 OPS and an ISO of .184.

Among catchers with 390 plate appearances (Norris had 387) there are 20 qualified catchers, five of whom posted an OPS higher then Norris' .838, while six put up an ISO over Norris' .184.

In other words, if Norris' numbers translated cleanly to major league baseball, he suffered a serious hand injury, and a concussion, we're looking at a top 5 or 6 hitting catcher in baseball. Keep in mind Norris is also putting in a conscious effort to being a better defensive catcher, something we all know a guy like Jorge Posada could care less about.

Derek Norris is one of my favorite prospects and should be one of yours as well. Keep his name in mind over the next 20 months or so, because he'll be making a splash in Washington while Stephen Strasberg is making a push for his first Cy Young award.

Quick question, is the catcher position getting "deep"? There are a fair amount of highly regarded youngsters that are already in the majors, and we should see another handful or so in the next year.

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