I’m back from my trip to Lansing and Midland, Michigan and I’ve got some reports for all you Blue Jays prospect watchers out there. I’ll split my report into two parts: pitchers and hitters. I’ll also keep the reports to guys that I hadn’t seen play before or guys that I haven’t written about before.
On the pitching side, the big names were the left-handed starters Daniel Norris and Matt Boyd. I also got a pretty good look at Eric Brown, a Canadian righty who has recently been promoted to Lansing from Vancouver and Chad Girodo, a side-arming lefty that the Jays drafted in this year’s 9th round.
On the hitting side, I finally got to see Santiago Nessy (who was injured on my last trip to Lansing) as well as more from Emilio Guerrero, Carlos Ramirez and the newest Lugnuts Daniel Klein and Jordan Leyland (recently promoted from Vancouver). That will come tomorrow. First the pitchers.
Lots of people are talking about Norris, and not just Blue Jays prospect writers. An interview at Fangraphs by David Laurila came out today and I heartily recommend reading it.
This is a guy I’ve been wanting to see all season and I was finally able to do so. I specifically scheduled my trip to see Norris and, in all honestly, he’s exactly what other writers and scouts have been saying about him. When he’s in command, his stuff is filthy with three plus pitches already that can probably improve a little bit.
His fastball comes in at 93 mph pretty consistently. I saw him throw just over four innings and his velocity didn’t flag in the late-going. There appears to be some movement to the fastball as well. His slider could very well be his best pitch. He was throwing it around 83 mph and got at least one swinging strikeout with it. His changeup actually surprised me a little bit, coming in at around 85-86 mph and when he buried it down and away, he got quite a few swings and misses. His curve was thrown around 75 mph and, to me, it seemed like a “show-me” pitch — one that he’ll use to throw off a hitter’s timing and give them something else to think about. He hung it a couple of times that he threw it and it could have been one of those days on which he just didn’t have the feel for the curve. With this pitch combination, Norris definitely projects to be a major league starter. Speaking about Norris’s pitches and his start on Friday, pitching coach Vince Horsman told me that he’s trying to get Norris to throw the changeup more.
The one knock on Norris is that he struggles with his command. I saw this on Friday too. He had two great innings to start the game and then lost his feel for the zone in the 3rd. When he couldn’t find the zone, it was obvious that he was struggling, but the plus is that his stuff is so good that hitters can’t completely zero in on fat pitches when he’s lost his command. Norris didn’t give up any runs in those four innings and it was his ability to strike batters out and get out of jams that helped him out. He recovered in the fourth inning showing some maturity and development but didn’t retire either of the batters he faced in the fifth inning.
His mechanics are pretty solid with a nice, (seemingly) easy arm action. I noticed that Norris cross-fires a little bit — i.e., he steps a little bit towards first base with his right foot and throws a little bit across his body. This helps him hide the ball and it’s not so drastic that it shouldn’t be a problem down the line. Norris does fall off quite a bit towards third base (you can see this in the photo above) which doesn’t help him when he becomes a fielder.
To me, Norris has all the tools that a pitcher needs to be successful. He’s got a nice, big frame, he throws at an above average velocity for a lefty, he has a couple of excellent off-speed pitches and has the ability to both throw them for strikes and get swings and misses with them. When he learns to command his stuff within the zone a bit better and avoid the bad innings, he’s just going to destroy his competition as he moves up.
Come on back tomorrow for a scouting report on Matt Boyd, 6th round pick in the 2013 draft.