James Norwood

Position: RHRP
Level: Double-A
Affiliate: Tennessee Smokies
League: Southern League
Born: 12/24/1993 (Age: 29)
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 215
B/T: Right / Right
Acquired: 7th Rd., 2014 MLB First-Year Player Draft (CHC)

Prospect Spotlight

The Cubs drafted the sturdy righthander out of Saint Louis University in the 7th round of the 2014 draft, signing him slightly under slot for $175K. Norwood began as a reliver in college and saw his draft stuck balloon after converting to the rotation full-time as a junior. As a Cub, Norwood has returned to the pen full-time, working leverage innings before being called up to the show in July. I saw Norwood this March on Arizona backfields.

Norwood has a strong, filled-out build, throwing from a ¾ slot with some stiffness through the delivery. He flies open and pulls his head at release, impacting his command within the zone. His fastball was 95-to-96 mph with running life up the zone. There is some plane when he gets it down, and despite relief-only command, the velocity and movement grade the fastball to 55. The go-to secondary is a hard splitter at 87-to-88 mph that can be an above-average pitch that induces swinging strikes outside the zone. Though it’s unusual to have both a splitter and a true changeup, Norwood works with both. He will wrinkle in a true changeup in the mid-80s as well as his harder split-finger grip, giving another wrinkle to mix in.

Norwood’s promotion to the big leagues is on the heels of a strong first half of the season split between Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa. The mechanical effort likely holds his control/command back from pitching in leverage situations in the big leagues, but with two above-average pitches, the ceiling is a solid middle relief piece. He has all three options left, making him an especially flexible add to Chicago’s bullpen.