Catcher Derek Norris made quick leaps at the end of the 2010 season with a championship at Potomac, expert education at instructional league, followed by another title in the Arizona Fall League.
Along the way, newly appointed Syracuse manager Randy Knorr kept tabs on the talented backstop and liked what he saw. Knorr says Norris is closer to making that next step but still has work to do in the minor leagues.
“I don’t see him as a big league catcher yet,” Knorr said. “I think there is potential there for him to be a big league catcher. If we want him to catch, we can’t let the bat push him too fast. He hasn’t really caught that much. When we drafted him out of high school, I think he had only caught six games.”
Knorr says Norris still has plenty of time on his side because catchers usually don’t break into the majors until they have logged a ton of games.
“If you think about it, most of your catchers that really start to take off are 25 or 26 (years old) in the big leagues,” Knorr said. “(Some teams) are rushing guys up there at 22, 23 years of age. (Norris) needs to get back there and catch.”
Knorr feels the 21-year old Norris is very close in all facets of his game, but still needs to work on one major component for all catchers.
“He just needs to get better at receiving the ball,” Knorr said. “One of several things he does is he calls a really nice game. I think because he misses balls, and doesn’t block the ball as well, I think we lose sight that he calls a good game. That is one of the last things that come as a catcher is calling the game.”
Knorr says that teaching a catcher how to call a game is very difficult, yet Norris has shown great skill and directing pitchers from the outset.
“There is no handbook,” Knorr said. “It is an instinctive thing, a gut thing, the ability to read hitters, he does have that. He needs to just lock himself up behind the plate. He has just got to get better.”
Knorr says Norris just have to figure out what defensive position to receive the pitch feels good to him and tick with it.
“He has got to find a comfortable position to catch ball,” Knorr said. “I could tell him numerous positions, Bobby Henley could tell him. Doug Harris could tell him. Bob Boone could tell him. But one thing about being a converted catcher is everybody is going to tell you how to set up. You got to find a spot where he says ‘Okay, I feel comfortable here.’ ”
“That is when he will take off when he can find that spot. Basically we give him guidelines. There are a lot of different theories. Everybody has a different body type. Everybody’s hands are different. He runs very well for a catcher. We don’t want to change his position. We like him at catcher. I think he likes it.”
Therefore, Knorr believes the Nats should bring Norris along slowly and if they do that, he has potential to be a future All-Star catcher. They don’t want to move him to the big leagues to quickly.
“He is going to be fine,” Knorr said. “I would like to not push Derek. I think if we give him a couple more years of playing and understanding the game from behind the plate I think when he gets to the big leagues you have a potential All-Star catcher. He throws the ball fantastic. He is our best thrower in the minor leagues to the bases.”