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.