John Norwood is known to most as one of the heroes from the 2014 National Championship Vanderbilt team. He turned on a high and tight 97 MPH fastball from former Reds first round pick Nick Howard for a solo home run, breaking the 2-2 tie in the 8th. They would go on to win 3-2.
Despite his heroics during his Junior year, he was not drafted and eventually signed with the Marlins as a free agent after flaunting a .844 OPS in the Cape Cod league that summer. Norwood went undrafted in large part because of questions with his contact skills, lack of power and smaller frame for an outfielder (it didn’t help he grades out as just an average fielder and runner). However, he added a small leg kick late in the 2014 season that gave him an uptick in offensive output and the Marlins jumped at the opportunity to sign him for $275,000.
The signing is starting to see some returns. Now in his 4th season of pro ball, he has only improved his offensive marks while climbing the minor league ladder:
While his walk and strikeout rates have remained relatively steady, the production Norwood is showing warrants some attention. With his skill set and his lack of projection on his frame, it is unlikely that the 24 year old will ever be a a star in the Majors. This is especially true with the Marlins, as he is blocked by Stanton and Ozuna in the corner outfield spots. Nevertheless, his stats are beginning to become too loud to ignore.
As of right now, the Marlins can enjoy the fact that there is some shining light gleaming from the depths of the MLBs worst farm system. But if Norwood continues to show signs of being a capable Major League outfielder, the Marlins may have an interesting decision to make. If Ichiro retires or Ozuna gets traded, there may be an opening for him to compete for. Otherwise, he could be used in trade talks one of the few minor league trade chips the Marlins have.
The “ifs” currently surrounding the young outfielder are probably too thick to parse through. One certainty that remains is that Norwood is on the verge of blossoming into a legitimate prospect, and Fish fans ought to take note.