When the San Diego Padres upgraded their offense with the likes of Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, James Shields and Craig Kimbrel, the team seemed destined for greatness. Somehow the acquisition of Derek Norris was swept under the rug during all the upgrading. He has proved in his short tenure, that he might be the biggest addition of all made by Padres ownership.
Some question his pitch calling and pitch framing abilities, but in my eyes those critics are just being too harsh on the 26-year-old catcher. Advanced defensive metrics are a work in progress, you really can’t consider them 100 percent accurate. Norris continues to provide the team with leadership in the club house and clutch hits on the field. That is all the Padres need from their catcher.
Despite striking out his first four times at bat Friday night, Norris stepped up to the plate in the ninth inning, and delivered the Padres first walk off victory of the season. It could not have happened at a better time, as the Padres desperately needed something in their clubhouse to light a fire under them. Perhaps this walk off and the hit by Norris was the spark the Padres needed to go on a major winning streak. Perhaps.
The Padres have been mostly stagnant in their play this season. The team has failed to win more than three games in a row, and a wining streak is surely to come at some point for this talented team that AJ Preller has assembled.
Derek Norris has continually provided the intangibles that can not be seen on any box score or statistic sheet. Players like that are truly valuable to a team that is trying to create a new image to their franchise.
His great start to the year has made Austin Hedges pretty much expendable. Hedges is currently up with the major league team, but is failing to receive constant playing time. Norris just refuses to take a day off and that is really what you want from your catcher. Hedges should probably be playing everyday in AAA. That is probably the best scenario for the 22 year old backstop.
The team does however need to be careful with Norris as too many innings early in the year, could result in him wearing down late in the season. That is when the Padres need him most. Pennants are won in July, August and September and nobody has ever been crowned in May in Major League Baseball.
With the return of Tim Federowicz from the disabled list, the Padres and Bud Black are sure to give Norris a rest more often behind the plate. It has also been speculated that Norris could see some game action at first base and designated hitter. His bat, at this point is too valuable to be left off the lineup card each and every day.
We will just have to wait and see how the Padres best utilize their young back stop. The Norris fans are forming very fast in San Diego, as he has quickly become a fan favorite. He clutch hits and easy going demeanor will go far in America’s Finest City. Enjoy watching him play Padres fans, its been awhile since the team has had a catcher of this ilk in their system.