With the Blue Jays losing four of their past five series, knocking them four games back in the wild-card race and to third place behind the Orioles and Yankees in the AL East, it might be a good time to reflect on more positive news — and no, I’m not referring to reports that GM Alex Anthopoulos and skipper John Gibbons are set to return in 2015. I’m talking about Toronto’s top pitching prospect Daniel Norris joining his peers Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman at the big-league level and position player Dalton Pompey’s move to triple-A.
Saying that Norris, a 21-year-old left-hander who purchased a 1978 Volkswagen camper van (which he lived out of in his Dunedin days) with some of his $2 million signing bonus, is having a breakout season in the minors is an understatement. He has climbed the ladder from Class-A Dunedin to double-A New Hampshire to triple-A Buffalo in a matter of months. His most recent transition has sparked enough buzz that he is now hearing his name discussed by Anthopoulos to the media as possible relief depth in September.
In his first two starts with the Buffalo Bisons, Daniel Norris allowed just one run on five hits and a walk while striking out 23 of the 38 batters he has faced in 11.2 innings. Across three levels this year, he holds a 2.22 ERA with a 32 percent strikeout rate — a big reason to thank the GM for not including this future of the franchise in a package deal that could have secured a save-the-day star pitcher who may or may not have given the ball club a postseason edge.
If Anthopoulos is serious about bringing Daniel Norris up next month, we should expect to see him in the Bisons’ bullpen very soon. As a groomed starter who has clearly found his niche, this could be a challenge for him. Remember, Stroman struggled with that transition when testing the waters in that role. If that happens in Norris’ case, there is no reason to panic, because there is no doubt Norris will be considered as a serious contender for a starting spot next year.
Pompey, also 21 years young, appeared in this year’s All-Star Futures Game with Norris. He’s two spots behind Norris in the 47th spot on Baseball America’s midseason ranking of the sport’s top 50 prospects. The Canadian also began this season at Class-A where he played 70 games before his promotion. At New Hampshire, he batted a .295, hit three home runs and produced eight steals before making the announcement himself on Twitter that he was heading to Buffalo.
“So close I can almost taste it,” he wrote. “My dream is starting to become a reality.”
While there is no guarantee Pompey will join the Blue Jays in September when rosters expand because Anthony Gose will probably be a first choice, there are signs he could join the club in 2015 depending on outfielders Colby Rasmus and Melky Cabrera’s free-agency outcomes. Regardless, this promotion is not only encouraging for the Blue Jays’ farm system, but also for the future of Canadian baseball with hopes that one day soon two Canucks will wearing the nation’s jersey.