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Minor League Monday: James Norwood

James Norwood is an MLB-ready prospect in the Chicago Cubs organization. After two years in college, he was drafted by the Cubs in 2014. He worked his way up, before making his debut in 2018 as a 24 year old. Now 26, he's had patches of big league experience while pitching in about 100 games between AA and AAA the last few years.


Norwood is a relief pitcher. He started in college and early on in the minors. After getting lit up for parts of two seasons, he made the conversion and drastically improved. He worked as a primary late inning guy, finishing 96 out of 183 minor league games, including 23 saves.


Norwood has 4 pitches:

  • Fourseam Fastball: 97 mph

  • Splitter: 88 mph

  • Slider: 84 mph

  • Changeup: 89 mph (has only thrown it 4 times in his career, so it's basically non-existent)


Per Brooks Baseball:

His fourseam fastball is basically never swung at and missed compared to other pitchers' fourseamers, is an extreme flyball pitch compared to other pitchers' fourseamers, is blazing fast and has slight armside run.
His splitter is thrown extremely hard, is basically never swung at and missed compared to other pitchers' splitters, is an extreme flyball pitch compared to other pitchers' splitters and has some natural sink to it.
His slider is basically never swung at and missed compared to other pitchers' sliders, has exceptional depth, is an extreme flyball pitch compared to other pitchers' sliders and has primarily 12-6 movement.

This reads as a mixed bag. I really don't like reading all three of his pitches as "basically never swung at and missed," and "extreme flyball pitch." That reads to me as a ton of home run derby potential. That said, his home run rate at all levels is .6 HR/9, including .4 in his 22 big league innings. His K rate in the minors was 9.9/9, which is pretty good too. For what it's worth, he's beaten his scouting report thus far, with a 3.82 ERA at AAA and 3.51 at AA.

Norwood is a hard thrower, with some decent movement. His fastball has a ton of late movement, which is surprising considering the solid velocity as well. The slider and splitter both have similar arcs of movement, and a slight speed difference as well, which could be deceptive. Here's video from all three primary pitches:


Fastball:



Splitter:


Slider:

I like Norwood's upside. He has a legit fastball that when it's on, has some nasty late movement. The splitter has good movement if he can control it. The slider is a decent supplemental pitch as well. Norwood has struggled with control at times. If he can take the next step, he could be a decent 6th-7th inning guy. Overall, he's been good enough in the minors to warrant his placement on the Cubs roster. With a little more development, he could become a good arm for the pen.


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