Norris Comes Up Big In Short Season

Derek Norris had some adjusting to do, but it appears that he got all of that out of the way last year and put his skills to work this season at Vermont. The 19 year old could move to a full-season league for the 2009 season.

It generally does take high school players a little time to adjust. After all, there's not only a wooden bat to adjust to, but for most, it's their first time away from home. For some, the adjustment can take a couple of seasons, but for Derek Norris, it took just over one year in a short-season league to make the adjustments. In 2008, he moved from the Gulf Coast League to Vermont and started slowly, but found himself being very comfortable by the end of the season.

Norris represents the whole package, but nobody got to see much of what he can do until he tore up the New York - Penn League with a .349 average in July. Adjusting to the wood bat, Norris is the type of hitter who turn easily on pitches and has the power to go deep. As he continues to mature and develop, his swing is good enough that he'll develop power to all fields. One of the keys for Norris is that he knows what's a strike. He led the NYPL with 63 walks and posted a .444 on-base percentage, which also led the league.

In his first season, Norris was tentative and somewhat out of place at times, but showed no sign of that in 2008. After hitting just .203 in the Gulf Coast League his first season, the Nationals saw enough of him in camp to justify moving him along to the next level and he rewarded them by showing enough that none other than Baseball America tabbed him as the second best catcher and fourth best overall prospect in the league.

For a young hitter to launch 10 home runs in 227 at bats and walk more than he struck out, is phenomenal.

Meanwhile, Norris continues to hone his skills behind the plate, but doesn't need much work even though this was just his second summer as a catcher. It wasn't until his senior season at Goddard High School (Kansas) that he moved behind the plate, but he has shown natural skills and instincts. If there is a defensive weak spot, it's in his ability to block pitches in the dirt. If you have to name a strength, it's likely to be his arm; Norris threw out 47% of base stealers this season and isn't afraid to throw to any base to try to catch a runner leaning the wrong way.

It will be interesting to see just where the Nats place Norris for 2009, but it's likely to be in Hagerstown for his full-season debut.

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