Sunday, July 27, 2014

Two Prospects/Two Different Paths of Development Update


      With the Giants announcing the signing of first round pick Tyler Beede, we thought that we would update his progress as a prospect with that of Blue Jays farmhand Daniel Norris.

     Beede was the Blue Jays' first round pick in 2011, drafted 21st overall, while Norris was taken in the second round, the 74th selection in the draft.  Toronto had a tough task ahead in signing both:  Beede had announced before the draft that he had committed to Vanderbilt, while Norris had committed to Clemson. Negotiations with both were protracted and went right to the then-mid August deadline, but Norris signed for a $2 million bonus a few hours before the deadline, while talks between the Blue Jays and Beede went right to the final hour, with Beede believed to be asking for a $3 million price tag, while the Blue Jays were offering around $2.5 million.
   Beede turned down the Jays final offer, and a few weeks later was off to Tennessee to begin his collegiate career, with the knowledge that he wouldn't be eligible for the draft again until 2014.  It was too late in the season for Norris to make his pro debut.
   As the winter of 2012 gave way to spring, Beede was set to make his college debut with the Volunteers, while Norris was kept behind in extended spring training until short season play began in June.  Beede overcame a slow start to be named to the All-Tournament team at the Raleigh Regional; Norris struggled in short season ball, posting an 8.44 ERA in 42 innings.  Beede was clearly ahead at this point.
   In 2013, the gap appeared to widen as the collegiate season wound down.  Beede's 14 victories matched David Price's school record, while Norris had a disastrous April, and after his first start in May, had a 10.07 ERA.
   The gap between the two was at its widest at that point.  Beede was on his way to being named to Team USA for the summer, and was being touted as a top 5 pick in the June 2014 draft, while Norris was being termed a bust, and Baseball America wondered how a prospect like Norris who had such great stuff could be hit so often and so hard.
   And that's when the tide began to turn.
   Norris began to stop nibbling, and went after hitters with a mid 90s fastball, using his secondary pitches later in the count.  Over his next 17 starts, Norris struck out 84 hitters in 68 innings, posted a miniscule 1.98 ERA, and received a late season promotion to High A.  Beede, on the other hand, pitching against top international competition, struggled to find the strike zone, and finished the summer with a 6.59 ERA.
   Clearly, the gap was starting to close.  Norris had started to gain mention in numerous end of season top prospects lists, while Beede was still being mentioned as a first round pick in the following year's draft, maybe in the top 5.  As late as March of this year, Keith Law walked away from a Beede start proclaiming, "That's the Tyler Beede we've all been waiting for."
   Norris, meanwhile, started the year at High A in Dunedin, and was simply dominant from day one.  Pounding the zone down low with his fastball, Norris was named Milb.com's prospect pitcher of the month for May,  overmatching Florida State League hitters.  With 76 strikeouts in 66 innings, and a sparkling 1.22 ERA, Norris was promoted to AA in June, and was later named to Team USA's roster for the Futures Game.
   At the same time, things began to head south for Beede.  Outings like the ones Law saw were few and far between, and he was hit hard in two important starts late in the NCAA playoffs.  With a chance to sew up a national championship for Vandy, Beede was sharp through the first five innings against Virginia, but wound up leaving the game with two outs in the 7th, having surrendered six runs on 10 hits and 3 walks.  Vanderbilt did win the title the next night, but Beede's draft stock had taken a hit.  Reports suggest that he had all but abandoned his breaking ball in the playoffs.
   On draft day, the Giants, an organization with a good track record when it comes to developing pitchers, took Beede with the 14th pick, and signed him in early July to a $2.6 million bonus.
   So, did Beede's gamble pay off?   He did move up in the draft, from 21st in 2011 to 14th in 2014, but under the new slot value system put in place by MLB, if reports from 2011 are to be believed, he gained about $100 000.  Was it worth it?
   That's hard to say, of course.  With some experts thinking that Beede will need extended time in the minors to overhaul his breaking pitch, he might not be looking at an MLB ETA until around 2017 or 2018 (he has yet to start his pro career, and likely won't pitch much more this summer).  Norris, on the other hand, even though he has been hit hard in his last few AA starts, is looking at being in the majors sometime in 2015, although Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopolous has suggested that the club might look at using Norris out of the bullpen this season.
   Either way, Norris looks to be several years ahead of Beede at this point.  Arbitration-wise and salary wise, that puts him far ahead financially, presuming both have major league careers that last that long. Had he accepted the Jays' offer, it's hard not to think that Beede wouldn't be in a similar position as Norris.  The argument could be made, of course, that Beede received an education in the process, although his Vanderbilt bio says that he didn't declare a major after his first year, and while he likely did after that, his bio makes no mention of it, and he's likely a number of credits shy of a degree.  It's nearly impossible to be a full-time student athlete and do justice to both. So we can't really consider education a factor.  From a financial standpoint, then, it's hard to say that Beede is better off for having gone to college.  He didn't get the bonus he wanted, and his development as a pitcher may have taken a step backward.
   Did failing to meet Beede's bonus demands in 2011 pay off for the Blue Jays?  The answer is an emphatic yes, on more than one count.  They were able to offer Norris enough of a bonus to dissuade him from going the collegiate route (he was viewed by many as the top prep lefthander in the draft), and with the compensation pick Toronto received the following year, they landed Duke RHP Marcus Stroman, who is quickly becoming a mainstay in the Blue Jays rotation, two years after they had drafted him.
    Beede is currently at the Giants' complex in Arizona, taking part in a conditioning program and most likely having his mechanics tweaked.  Norris is in New Hampshire, awaiting a call either to the majors in September, or the Arizona Fall League in October.  Norris has worked his way into many Top 50 mid-season prospects lists, while Beede would have a tough time cracking the Giants Top 10.  Beede has gone from potential top 5 pick to prospect in search of an identity, while Norris has made the journey from near-bust to the cusp of the majors.
   Our comparison between the two may not be over, but we give a decided edge to Norris.  And the Blue Jays.
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