A year ago, Tigers left-hander Daniel Norris was part of CBS Sports’ “Breakout Brigade,” one of six players singled out who appeared poised to make “the leap” to a big season.
Norris responded with a season in which he went 5-8 with a 5.31 ERA and 1.61 WHIP in 101 2/3 innings — an uneven season that included a stint on the disabled list because of groin injury.
Norris likely will break camp with the Tigers next week as a member of the rotation, and he’s also making a return as a “breakout” candidate.
This time, it’s ESPN’s Keith Law who is offering optimism for the 24-year-old, listing Norris on Thursday as one of nine breakout candidates for the 2018 season (pay site).
Law isn’t predicting stardom, offering that his list is of players who are “primed for significant upticks in performance for the coming season.”
A “full-season” breakout for Norris, for example, “might look like 120-130 innings of league-average performance,” Law writes.
In two-plus seasons in Detroit, Norris has logged just 207 2/3 innings, going 11-11 with a 4.38 ERA and 1.44 WHIP. He’s fanned 184 with 73 walks.
“I admit I don’t love seeing that Norris’ velocity was sitting at 90-91 mph in one recent outing,” Law writes, “but I’m still listing him on the basis of his outstanding athleticism, his improved control in his looks this spring and the change in the Tigers’ coaching staff.”
Norris likely has a spot in the rotation, thanks in part to back stiffness that will keep the new acquisition Mike Fiers either in extended spring training or land him on the disabled list to open the season. Law writes he didn’t Norris was a lock for the rotation, but “that’s fine; he could work effectively in long relief for a few weeks and move into the first opening in the rotation.”
The Tigers open the season March 29 at home against the Pittsburgh Pirates.