One of a half dozen rookies expected to open camp with the Blue Jays, lefty Daniel Norris will be one of two in Toronto’s starting rotation at the beginning of the season. Currently most famous for living in a van during the off-season, Norris is one of the top left-handed pitching prospects in the game.
He began the 2014 season with High Class-A Dunedin of the Florida State League, and dominated to the tune of a 6-0 record and 1.22 ERA with 76 walks in 66.1 innings across 13 starts. That performance earned Norris a promotion to Double-A, where he struck out 49 hitters in 35.2 innings before being sent to Triple-A Buffalo. After just five starts with the Bisons, Norris earned a September call-up.
The 21-year-old uses a low-90s fastball, quality slider and mixes in a change-up and slow curveball to keep hitters off balance. It worked well in 2014 as Norris’ 163 strikeouts were the fifth most among all minor leaguers. This spring he is 2-0 with a 2.41 ERA with 21 K’s and only four walks in 18.2 innings spread across five starts.
With a starting spot locked up, Norris should get a jump on most of his AL Rookie of the Year competition.
(Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
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Even the Chicago Cubs (and this year, especially the Chicago Cubs).
Part of the Cubs' renewed sense of optimism is a minor league cupboard stocked full with some of the top prospects in the game. Jorge Soler and Javier Baez got their feet wet in the big leagues last season while Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, C.J. Edwards and others are knocking on the doorstep.
Despite being sent back to Triple-A Iowa Monday, Baez is no longer a rookie because he saw action in 52 Major League games in 2014 in which he had 213 at bats. However, the rest of the aforementioned group is eligible for – and some are among the favorites to win – the Rookie of the Year Award in the National League.
As the winners of the 2014 awards can attest, there are multiple routes to becoming Rookie of the Year. Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu, a veteran free agent from Cuba, slugged his way to the trophy with 36 home runs and 107 RBI in 146 games, including a start on Opening Day.
Abreu was 27 years old and the top prospect in the White Sox system when he made his debut, and was a big name before he ever played in a Major League game.
On the other hand, right-handed pitcher Jacob deGrom was just the tenth ranked player in the Mets system in 2014 according to Baseball America. He was sent to minor league camp after four appearances in the spring of 2014 and made seven starts in Triple-A before earning a call-up to the big leagues in May.
In a farm system stocked with young flamethrowers, deGrom was often overshadowed as a 9th round draft pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft. Still, as a 25-year old rookie, he posted a 9-6 record and 2.69 ERA in 22 starts to rise to the top of the 2014 rookie class in the NL.
Whether a player signed a huge contract as an International free agent like Soler or Abreu, was a first round pick like Baez or Bryant, or even an under the radar prospect like deGrom, like 30 teams with World Series hopes, there's a large crop of aspiring big leaguers with their eyes on the prize that is the Rookie of the Year award.
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