Weight: 230 lbs
Drafted: 7th round in 2006 out of UConn.
Position: Starting Pitcher
Stuff: Norton sports a 92-95 mph fastball, thanks to his big power pitcher frame. He was drafted with a reputation of having very poor mechanics in his pitching motion. The Yankee staff in Staten Island cleaned that up, and he dominated. He throws a hard breaking slider, which is top-notch. He compliments it with an above average splitter. When pressed, he usually resorts to the slider over the splitter, which Yankee coaches are trying to reverse. He is also working on a changeup. He came out of college throwing a Slurve/Forkball combo instead of Slider/Splitter. The Yankee coaches changed this and the results showed.
Command: After cleaning up his mechanics, Norton took hold of the strike zone and never gave it up. He posted a team best 83 Ks in 72 innings, allowing just 12 walks. He posted the best ERA for a starting pitcher on the team at 2.60, to go along with two dominating playoff performances. He is very good at locating his fastball and slider, although his splitter needs work in that regard. His consistent, mature approach on the mound reflects his four years of college experience.
Outlook: I like Norton a lot, but I am a little skeptical of his potential. His college record is lackluster, with his only real stellar year being 2006. He never struck out too many batters, walked a lot, and didn't pitch a ton of innings. That said, Norton posted excellent peripheral numbers against wooden bats this summer. There has been a lot of speculation that he could end up in the bullpen, due to the lack of a third reliable pitch. With his pitchers frame, he could crank the radar gun up to 96-97 in shorter stints. I don't entirely disagree with this. The Yankees will see how he does in 2007 as a starter before making any decisions. Norton does not show all the signs of a short season bust that Zach Kroenke showed in 2005 (Kroenke had sub-par K/BB numbers and only pitched 39 innings. Norton had some of the best K/BB numbers in the league and pitched almost twice that).
Grades: Ceiling B, Health B+, Comparison: Brett Myers.
Friday, December 29, 2006