Padres Editorial: Should Derek Norris Play Some First Base too?

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Cortesy: UT San Diego
Cortesy: UT San Diego

With recent call up of Austin Hedges from the minors, San Diego Padres fans are trying to figure out where that leaves Derek Norris. Could he see some time at first base spelling Yonder Alonso against left-handed pitchers? That is a possibility, not sure if it will happen though. With the recent injury to Alonso, the possibility still remains, we will see have to wait and see how the Padres approach the issue.

The San Diego Padres Achilles heal so far looks to be the defense. The pitching has been atrocious at times, but the staff is of quality personnel and shouldn’t be a continuing problem. Unfortunately for the Padres, the defense looks to be just as advertised. All though Myers has been adequate in center field, he is not a gold glove caliber center fielder. At least not yet, that is. Myers would need to work hard, but he is more than capable of stepping up his game. Tony Gwynn worked on his craft to be a better outfielder, there is no reason why Myers cannot do the same. He has a lot of natural ability, all he needs is the work ethic.

So with defensive specialist Austin Hedges promotion comes the questions of whether the Padres are trying to address the defensive problems now. In my opinion Hedges was ready to be promoted. Yes, you would like him to get more at bats in the minors and play every day. However Hedges was raking the ball in AAA this season, and his confidence and value have never been better.

At the age of 22, you cannot list a prospect as a bust. Some people with in baseball thought his bat would never progress. It has so far this season, and rather than risk Hedges slumping again in the minors, the Padres bravely called him up. Now working with hitting coach Mark Kotsay, Hedges can further progress his craft in the batters box. He can also do so, while not hurting his trade value. A.J. Preller is always thinking.

You see, if Hedges does not succeed this season, then most will simply say he wasn’t ready for big league pitching. His value will not plummet but if Hedges remained in AAA and started to struggle then his value would be tarnished. A smart move by the Padres as they try to decide the future behind the plate.

Let’s face it, if Hedges comes up and shows a half way decent bat then the Padres have absolute gold! A defensive catcher is an undervalued commodity. A defensive catcher that can also swing the bat and not hurt the team offensively, is a rare thing. When you have those type of catchers, you need to hold on to them. Johnny Bench, Yadier Molina and Ivan Rodriguez were all catchers that were very well-rounded. It is WAY too early to put Hedges in their company, but he has the ability to be there one day. The rest is up to him.

So if the Padres let Hedges handle the pitching staff more, where does that leave one of the teams best offensive weapons? Norris has hit well this season and has shown strong leadership abilities. You can’t just sit someone like that on the bench. Norris is hitting .311 with two homer runs and 16 runs batted in so far and has shown some great intangibles in the locker room and on the field.

His defense has been hard to decipher. His pitch framing and advanced defensive metrics have been horrible, while at the same time he has thrown out 11 of the 20 base runners who attempted to steal. I have never been one who puts too much faith in defensive metrics, but you have to give it some consideration. Norris has also allowed three passed balls which leads the league. He clearly needs to improve in some aspects of his game defensively.

Norris has been hit and miss behind the plate, but his real value IS as a catcher. His bat is fantastic and he gives you quality at bats, after quality at bats. Norris is a fleet-footed catcher and some would argue that he can play the field somewhere. The Major Leagues are not a slow-pitch softball league, it is difficult for a player to just pick up a new position. I would be interested in seeing Norris at first base, but with the Padres defense already suspect, now is not the time for experiments.

The possibility of Norris at first base all depends on how and if he can make the proper adjustment there. He has a natural physical ability and is surely a great athlete. However first base is not an easy position to just go out and play. The casual fan would think so, but anyone who has played the sport competitively would whole-heartily disagree. The San Diego Padres seem to be a bit disheveled at the moment. All the moving parts platooning everywhere needs to stop. The lineup for the most part should be a consistent thing, it’s just easier for the players to perform if they are comfortable. Hope fully the lineup and positions will be solidified soon.

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