Derek Norris – Catcher
The Tampa Bay Rays were linked to Derek Norris for most of the offseason, even after they signed Wilson Ramos. Finally on the team, his performance while Ramos is on the disabled list will be a key factor in the Rays early season success.
Last season, Norris struggled in virtually every aspect. Plenty of ink has been spilled, and words captured online, about his depressing .186/.255/.328 batting line. Yes, he tied for his career best with 14 homers, and he did steal nine bases, but it was a far cry from his All Star performance from two years before.
If Norris can even come close to his performance from 2015, it would be a significant upgrade from what the Rays typically have behind the plate. That year, he was just about league average, posting a .250/.305/.404 batting line. The Rays would certainly take that production.
Norris is also the type of catcher the Rays like behind the plate defensively. While Ramos is a solid defensive catcher, he is not quite as adept at pitch framing as other catchers Tampa Bay has employed. After all, that skill kept Jose Molina employed for years. Norris ranked 14th in the game in runs above average, measuring how many extra calls he got. Ramos, meanwhile, was significantly worse.
As long as Derek Norris hits at a reasonable rate, his defensive ability should be a boon for the Rays. His pitch framing skills will also prove to be a benefit for the team, and hopefully allow the pitching staff to improve in the coming year.