Monday, January 12, 2009

Derek Norris- Prospect # 6

Derek Norris is another potential first round draft pick that the Nationals were able to snag in a later round. The six foot, 200 pound, catcher from Goddard Kansas dominated the Jayhawk state his junior year of high school. The right handed power hitter scorched opponents batting .500 with 11 doubles, 3 home runs and 36 RBI's, earning all-state, all-league, all-metro, and honorable mention All-American in 2006. 

Like many potential, but not lock first round draft talents, Goddard committed to play to a school (Wichita State University) the fall of his senior year as a safety net in case he didn't get the kind of professional opportunity he hoped for. This seemed like a brilliant move for Norris after an arrant throw struck him in the head while he was standing in the dugout, causing him to start the season slowly. 

Norris was able to rebound however, earning all state honors again as well as making Louisville's All American team. Norris was also named player of the year for the state of Kansas. Because of his slow start however, and his 'inbetweener' status as a third basemen/catcher, Norris slipped to the fourth round of the 2007 draft where the Nationals picked him up and signed him with a $210,000 signing bonus. 

He started playing for the Gulf Coast League Nats right away and got quality playing time at the age of 18. In 37 games he had 123 at bats and played almost exclusively at catcher. Norris disappointed by only batting .203 and slugging only .382. The young backstop however did show exceptional plate discipline for an 18 year old, getting on base at .344. This, along with his potential for power, earned him a promotion to the Vermont Lake Monsters in 2008.

Here Norris excelled. In 70 games he batted .278/.444/.463, while hitting 10 homers and driving in 38 runs. The improvement caught the attention of Baseball America who named him the fourth best prospect in the New York Pen League. He was also named to the NYPL all-star team and was named the Lake Monsters player of the year.

Norris's scouting report from The Baseball Cube

Norris's most impressive attribute is his plate patience. For such a young player (19), reaching base 44% of the time is truly impressive. His power stroke returned as well meaning that if Norris can ever get his contact rate up he could be a very dangerous hitter at every level. His ability behind the plate also improved dramatically as he threw out 49% of attempted base stealers. 

Norris has major league ability. The Nationals however seem to be strongest right now at the catching position with Jesus Flores only 24 years of age and fellow top 10 prospect Adrien Nieto competing at the same spot. Norris could be converted to a first basemen and be forced to compete with Morrero for the future at that position, or he could possibly be made into a corner outfielder. 

These are questions however that don't need to be answered for at least a few years, as he is a solid 2-3 years away from the majors. He should start out the season next year at Harrisburg and depending on his development he could be brought up to Triple A by seasons end. 

Nat Fact: Norris was named Baseball America's prospect of the day on July 29th when he reached base 8 out of 9 at bats in an 18-inning marathon against lowell. 

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