Every Thursday, Swingin’ A’s will unveil a top Oakland A’s prospect. Starting from number 10 and finishing with number 1, be sure to stop by every Thursday to see who makes the list of the Top 10 Oakland A’s prospects. We now turn our attention to No.9 on our list, Derek Norris.
The decision to trade Gio Gonzalez may not have been a popular one among the dwindling Oakalnd A’s fanbase, but Billy Beane’s decision to trade Gonzalez may prove to be a smart move. Oakland’s farmsystem received plenty of young players in the swap that sent Gonzalez, Oakland’s 2011 All-Star, to the Washington Nationals.
Those young players came mostly in the form of talented young pitchers, but Oakland did receive one big bat in the deal: Derek Norris. Norris, who will 23 by Opening Day, will likely open the season with Double-A Midland, but don’t let that fool you. Norris is a potential big league starter who, in a few years, could be replacing Kurt Suzuki behind the plate.
With Norris, the A’s primarily get two things: power and a whole lot of walks. Last year, Norris hit 20 home runs and drew 77 walks over 423 at-bats. For a team that has struggled to find power, Norris is a great pick-up for the Athletics. He’ll hit a few home runs each season while getting his share of free passes as well.
Still, Norris will need to improve a few things before he gets a shot at taking over for Kurt Suzuki. Last year in Double-A, Norris hit just .210 and struck out a whopping 27.7% of the time. Norris will likely never hit for a huge average, but the A’s would definitely any sort of improvement over the .210 average Norris posted last year.
The A’s did give up one of the best players, though, to acquire a guy like Norris. He suffered a little bit, perhaps even taking a few steps backward last year, but Norris has the raw power to break out and climb up the ranks. Cutting back on his strikeouts would help, but I’m sure the A’s are looking at his on-base abilities and just smiling right now.
In contrast to that 27.7% strikeout rate in ’11, Norris walked 18.2% of the time. He also posted a .251 ISO, suggesting he’s a guy who will either hit a home run, get a free pass, or strikeout. At 23, though, Norris has plenty of time for improving and getting back on track with his overall development.