First off, the facts. Daniel Norris gave up 40 earned runs in 2012 over 42 2/3 innings, pitched mostly in Bluefield. His ERA was 8.44. This season, he has made three starts and one relief appearance. His ERA stands at 12, as he has given up 16 earned runs in 12 innings. One would assume that at this point people are starting to lose confidence in Norris' future with the club, despite his lofty status as $2 million over-slot signing. Unfortunately, I do not work for the Toronto Blue Jays organization, so I can not tell you what they think of him and what the coaches are working on with him. I can, however, delve into the stats of other high school draft picks and look at whether bad early results were predictive of similar results at higher levels. In other words, we're looking at how many pitchers improve on horrible early results. We know many prospects will have trouble at higher levels after finding success at lower levels, but do any pitchers have an opposite trend? I'll be looking at first round high school draft picks from the 2003-2005 drafts.
HS Pitchers mini-research
Second category - poor early results, poor results later: -
Third category: mediocre-good early results: John Danks, Chad Billingsley, Adam Miller, Craig Whitaker, Luis Atilano, Homer Bailey, Scott Elbert, Phil Hughes, Kyle Waldrop, Eric Hurley, Gio Gonzalez, Jay Rainville, Chris Volstad, Mark Pawelek, Aaron Thompson, Chaz Roe, Trevor Bell, Sean West, Michael Bowden
Injured for almost all of his first years: Jeff Allison
The good news for Norris seems to be that every high school pitcher picked in the 1st round from 2003-2005 would at least have a good season at some point, even if they were bad early on. Mark Rogers even made it to the majors eventually, pitched decently in seven major league start last year (he is now injured). The bad news is that over 80% of these pitchers found the lower minors pretty easy, even if most of them never made any sort of positive impact in the major leagues. More bad news is that even the poor few who had trouble early on never were quite as awful as Norris has been so far.
Scouts obviously rated Daniel Norris highly coming into the 2011 MLB draft, and he was regularly mock drafted high in the first round. However, minor league hitters have not rated Daniel Norris quite as highly, because they have hit him around like Albert Pujols hitting off Jo-Jo Reyes (or Brian Tallet, take your pick). I would assume that whatever scouts saw in Norris is still there, because the Jays promoted Norris to Lansing despite having trouble in both Bluefield and Vancouver. This in contrast to Jeremy Gabryszwski (or King Scrabble the Third), who pitched to a better ERA in Bluefield, yet was left in extended spring training this year. One might have to start considering the possibility that the scouts were "wrong" however. Perhaps Norris' pitches are easy to pick apart? Perhaps his fastball has the velocity, but not the movement required to keep hitters from squaring it up? We don't know, but we do know that Norris' outlook is not great. Bust? It would seem reasonable to wait on calling Norris a bust until his season ends, but I'd say it's pretty likely he will soon be called a bust, unfortunate as that is.
Other minor leaguers:
Jim Negrych - now hitting .460/.526/.720 for the Bisons. Izturis and Bonifacio are not exactly making it hard for a second baseman to get consideration, so we might see Negrych at some point.
Kevin Pillar - obviously good at hitting line drives: .333/.391/.464. How well will that skill translate to the majors, when or if Pillar gets his chance?
Andrew Burns - my favorite minor league players usually get traded, so expect Burns to get traded somewhere this season, I suppose. He's now at .342/.449/.603
Roberto Osuna - was already my number one prospect over Sanchez, and is doing nothing to change my mind: 2.95 ERA, 26 Ks to 3 BB in 18 1/3 innings.