These are about the only things I like better than a fantasy catcher with power and patience. Meet Derek Norris—a breakout catching prospect who has already mastered these skills.
The 20-year-old backstop hit .278, with 10 HRs, and .463 SLG last year in short-season ball. The numbers weren’t eye-popping and he stayed under the radar on most preseason prospect lists. For example, Baseball America had him at No. 6 on their Nationals’ Top 10 list. However, even last year Norris exhibited stellar patience with a 21.7% walk rate and .444 OBP, despite the fact he was one of the younger players in the New York-Penn league. The writing was on the prospect wall.
Norris busted out the big stick this year at Low-A by hitting 23 bombs and posting a .513 SLG. Oh yeah, he also threw in a .286 BA, 90 walks and a .413 OBP. In addition, I can guarantee you that many of those 30 doubles will turn into bombs in the near future. Geez, it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy to talk about a Nats’ prospect not-named Stephen Strasburg in such glowing terms. You?
The sturdy catcher was primarily a pull hitter when he first joined the pro-ranks. However, he has developed power to the opposite field. This kid is a tireless worker when it comes to fine-tuning the nuances of his hitting game – always a good sign.
As we’ve seen with other prospects on MLBFP’s Top 25 countdown, Norris struggled down the stretch with a .176 BA and 0 HRs in 74 August ABs. Ugly stuff. No worries…let’s see how you hit (or even look) after squatting for 100 games for the first time in your career. You always have to keep fatigue in mind when considering the performance of these prospects at the end of a long season.
Are you wondering why the hell I don’t have Norris ranked higher on this list since I’m so enamored by his skills and potential? Well, I’m not convinced the perenn ial cellar dwellers are going to keep him behind the dish. Obviously, his fantasy value will take a hit if he leaves the premium position. There have already been murmurs about moving him to first base or a corner outfield spot; he certainly has the bat to man these positions.
It isn’t that Norris doesn’t have the defensive skills to play catcher in the bigs. In fact, he has a strong arm, quick release and at least average blocking ability. Instead, the development of Jesus Flores will determine Norris’ final landing spot. Flores has shown flashes with the bat over the past three years. For example, he hit .301, with a .371 OBP, and .505 SLG this year. Granted, he put up these numbers in limited action (93 ABs) due to his shoulder woes. Nonetheless, he once again showed some hitting upside. Flores could still stick as the catcher of the future and kick Norris to another position. Keep your fantasy eye on Flores’ production in 2010.