Norris Gets The Call
After a solid first half of the season with the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats, Derek Norris is set to take on a new challenge. The Oakland A's announced on Thursday that they were promoting their top prospect at the catcher position to the big leagues. Norris will make his major league debut versus Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers in the A's series finale versus LA on Thursday afternoon.
Norris' journey to the big leagues was a relatively quick one. Drafted by the Washington Nationals in 2007 in the fourth round out of Goddard High School in Kansas, Norris rose quickly through the Nationals' system. He moved up one level a year, earning All-Star honors in the short-season New York-Penn League and the Low-A Sally League along the way. Norris' progression through the minor leagues wasn't halted despite a move in organizations. He was part of a package of four players sent by Washington to Oakland in December for Gio Gonzalez and Robert Gilliam.
Norris had a strong major league spring training camp with the A's and was then assigned to Triple-A Sacramento. He got off to a fast start with the River Cats, posting a 909 OPS in April. His production has slowed since then, as he has posted OPSs of 743 and 710, in May and June respectively. However, his overall line of .273/.331/.474 is still solid and he has played well for the River Cats defensively.
Over the course of his career, Norris has been known for his power and patience. He has never posted an OPS below 800 at any level and has reached double-digits in homeruns in each of the past four seasons. Norris had eight homers for the River Cats in 55 games. In 2008-2010, Norris posted on-base percentages higher than .400. His OBP dipped to .367 last season, but he still walked 77 times in 104 games. This year with Sacramento, Norris has been less patient, walking 20 times in 55 games, resulting in a .331 OBP. However, he has significantly cut down on his strike-outs (39 this year, 117 in 104 games last year) and has seen his average rise from .210 in 2011 to .273 this year.
It isn't clear how the A's plan to use Norris at the big league level. A's starting catcher Kurt Suzuki has been an everyday player with the A's since veteran Jason Kendall was traded in 2007. The transition from Kendall to Suzuki may give the A's a roadmap for how they use Norris in the big league initially. Suzuki was called up from Sacramento midway through the 2007 season and spent a few weeks learning from Kendall as the veteran's back-up before the A's made Suzuki the full-time catcher by trading Kendall. Suzuki has been rumored to be a trade target for several years now.
Suzuki has also been struggling at the plate this year, perhaps due to a bruised left hand that he has played with for several weeks. The A's could be looking to give Suzuki more time to rest the hand and felt that Norris was their best alternative to Suzuki, rather than Josh Donaldson or Anthony Recker. Both Donaldson and Recker had been serving as Suzuki's back-up at various points this season. Recker has been at Triple-A for the past few weeks and Donaldson was sent down to Triple-A on Thursday to make room for Norris.
Other News and Notes
- The rosters for the annual MLB All-Star Futures Game were announced on Thursday. The A's have two representatives: Michael Choice and Zhi-Fang Pan. Choice will be suiting up for team USA, while Pan will play for team World. Choice was the A's top pick in 2010 and is currently playing for Double-A Midland. Pan was the A's first amateur free agent signing out of Taiwan. He is currently a starter for the Low-A Burlington Bees. The game will be played as part of the All-Star game festivities in Kansas City.
- In addition for swapping Donaldson for Norris, the A's made another roster change on Thursday. Oakland reinstated reliever Jordan Norberto from the disabled list and sent down reliever Pedro Figueroa to Triple-A. Figueroa made one appearance in his latest stint with the A's, pitching three scoreless innings in relief of an injured Bartolo Colon on Sunday. Colon is expected to land on the disabled list with an oblique strain, but the A's have yet to make an official move regarding Colon. Tyson Ross, Graham Godfrey and A.J. Griffin are candidates to take Colon's spot in the rotation should he land on the DL.
- Current minor league strike-out leader Dan Straily will make his Triple-A debut on Thursday for Sacramento. He was promoted from Double-A Midland this week.
- The A's came to terms with five more draft picks on Tuesday: supplemental first round picks Daniel Robertson and Matt Olson, 16th-round pick Melvin Mercedes, 18th-round pick Derek DeYoung and 33rd-round pick Tyler Johnson. Johnson pitched on the SUNY-Stony Brook squad that reached the College World Series in Omaha. Robertson and Olson have already been assigned to the A's Rookie League team. The others should receive assignments soon.
- Sacramento infielder Brandon Hicks is continuing to make waves with his bat. He homered for a third straight game on Wednesday and has five homers in his last six games. On the year, Hicks has a 905 OPS and 12 homeruns. He had a 986 OPS in May and is carrying a 1007 OPS in June.
- The AZL A's put on quite an offensive show in their first game of the season on Wednesday. They defeated the AZL Angels by a score of 11-3 and had 16 hits. B.J. Boyd had three hits in his pro debut, including two doubles, and Shawn Duinkerk, Vicmal De La Cruz, Bruce Maxwell, Reynaldo Mateo and Michael Soto each had two hits. Maxwell was making his professional debut, as well, and De La Cruz and Duinkerk were playing in their first regular season games in the US. A's 2012 top pick Addison Russell made his pro debut, as well, going 1-for-5.