Two of the younger players in the American League, Rougned Odor and Daniel Norris, were popular on draft day in many leagues, especially deeper leagues or long term leagues such as dynasty formats. In those long term leagues, injuries to players ahead of them during spring training solidified them spots out of the gate, and many – including myself – were hopeful that the youngsters would have what it took to stay both on the major league roster and productive from a fantasy perspective. I even went so far as to write up on Odor when he struggled over the first few weeks of the season, but I was unfortunately wrong on my tout.
Now over a month and a half into the year, both players find themselves in triple-A. The good news is that both are producing very well at triple-A, which should give those who invested in them confidence that they can produce in the long term, even though their picture for the remainder of this year remains a bit hazy.
While Odor has been down in the minors for only a week, he has hit three home runs and has a 17.2% walk rate against a 6.9% strikeout rate. If Odor is able to straighten out his plate discipline, we saw last season that the power was there. The ZiPS rest of season projection on Odor still has him at a .158 ISO, which may even be light if he is able to take control of the zone with more authority.
It is not a big surprise that Odor struggled with plate discipline in the majors, as he was rushed last year due to injuries and was still expected to either battle with Jurickson Profar for playing time or be in triple-A to start the year. He was brought up last year with less than 300 plate appearances above double-A, so some time in triple-A to work on his plate discipline is a positive to me.
With Norris, he was able to post a 3.86 ERA in his five major league starts, and 15 years ago that probably would have been enough to keep him in the big leagues, but due to the statistics and analytics we have available to us now, it was clear that Norris was headed toward a few blowups unless he made some changes. The Blue Jays, hoping to continue contending in the tough AL East, would rather see Norris either have those blow ups or improve at the minor league level, which was a sensible option.
Over Norris’ three starts in the minors, he has averaged six innings per start and has struck out over 26% of the batters he faced. He has recorded a 2.50 ERA and a 3.21 FIP – the FIP being drastically lower than his 5.08 major league mark this season – though he has still shown some command issues. Norris has tremendous stuff and is a very athletic pitcher, which has given him the ability to develop new pitches rather rapidly, but it will be tough for him to ever be the front line starter most hope he will become if he does not get his command under control.
Where Norris was struggling at the major league level was with his fastball. He had -1.77 win shares per 100 pitches, which is a very disturbing number. Norris has other quality offerings but almost no starter can succeed as a front line starter without a reliable fastball.
There is a bit of long term risk with Norris in that he is an extreme fly ball pitcher who pitches in Toronto and will frequently be traveling to Camden Yards, Fenway Park, and Yankee Stadium. Even so, if you have made the investment in him either in the long term or via a trade, Norris working on things at the minor league level should not deter your long term outlook on him.
Those in redraft leagues will not get the type of value they hoped from him, but the young and grizzly lefty was still ranked as the 17th best prospect in baseball by our own Kiley McDaniel and received similar rankings from other publications. We also saw that Norris had the mentality to battle and keep his ERA low despite giving up homers and allowing a good deal of walks. While that is not something you can necessarily take away for certain from five starts, that is a quality that Norris may need to own if he is going to be a high walk pitcher who frequently walks the tight rope.
Ben has been at RotoGraphs since 2012 and focuses most of his fantasy baseball attention toward dynasty and keeper leagues.