The 28-year-old is fresh off a season divided between the Detroit and Milwaukee organizations. His work out of the Tigers’ bullpen didn’t match the success he found there in 2020, but a fluky .354 batting average on balls in play and other ERA estimators figured his 5.89 ERA with Detroit last season was more bloated than it should have been. The Brewers figured as much as well, and acquired the left-hander in a deadline deal last July.
Unfortunately for the Brewers, Norris’s run prevention skills only worsened. In 20 plus innings Norris gave up 15 runs and walks apiece, along with five home runs, all of which contributed to a 6.64 ERA with his new team. Despite a .231 batting average on balls in play after the trade, his reduced groundball, strikeout, and home run suppression abilities all resulted in a cumulative 6.16 ERA on the year that easily stands as his worst.
Even though things seldom clicked all at once for Norris in his platform year, there are still green flags in his profile. Chief among those flags are Norris’s ability to stymie left-handed batters. In 2021 opposing lefties struck out at an unappealing 29.5% rate and posted a weak .635 OPS when facing the pitcher. Furthermore, a 4.32 SIERA and other ERA estimators largely paint Norris’s end-of-season numbers as unlucky, and point to improvement should he keep his same skillset intact next season.
While no longer the high-end starter prospect who headlined the trade that sent David Price to Toronto back in 2015, the Cubs figure to have plenty of use for the modern day reliever version of Norris. Currently the only left-handed relievers projected by Jason Martinez of RosterResource to be in Chicago’s bullpen are Brad Wieck and Justin Steele. While Wieck had a 0.00 ERA through 17 innings on the year, and Steele debuted to a respectable 4.26 ERA in 57 innings (2.03 ERA in 13+ innings as a reliever), neither has a long enough track record to bank on repeated bullpen dominance.