Norris, Meyers earn Minor League Awards

Norris and Meyers c.JPGAll the hype was around first round pick Ross Detwiler after the 2007 First-Year Player Draft for the Nationals. Fourth round pick Derek Norris (right) and fifth rounder Brad Meyers (left) went under the radar. They’re not under the radar anymore. The two of them made a name for themselves with the impressive numbers they produced this year.


The 2009 Minor League season is in the books and the awards have been handed out. The Nationals named Norris, a catcher, as their Minor League Player of the Year and Meyers, a right-handed pitcher, as their Minor League Pitcher of the Year.


They join John Lannan (2007), Jordan Zimmermann (2008), Justin Maxwell (2007) and Leonard Davis (2008) as past recipients of the awards. Three of the four are with the Nationals right now and Davis finished the season with the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs.


The Goddard, Kansas native, Norris turned down a scholarship to play at Wichita State and signed with the Nationals in 2007. He hit .286 with 30 doubles, 23 home runs, 84 RBI and 78 runs scored in 126 games with the Single-A Hagerstown Suns this season. He paced full-season Washington farmhands in home runs, walks (90), on-base percentage (.413), slugging percentage (.513) and OPS (.926).


The player of the year award adds to the laundry list of accolades the 20-year-old has received this year. The right-handed hitting slugger earned both midseason and postseason South Atlantic League All-Star honors. Last week, Norris was named the SAL Most Outstanding Major League Prospect. He was recently cited in Baseball America‘s annual Best Tools survey voted upon by league managers as the Best Batting Prospect and Best Power Prospect in the SAL.


On the award: I actually came up here the other day to get an x-ray for my finger and I was sitting, had a ticket to the game, and [Mark] Scialabba [Assistant Director, Player Development] came up and [Mike] Rizzo and Bob Boone were sitting there and we were just talking about the results of the x-ray and they went ahead and told me. So they told me to come back on Tuesday and not go back home yet. I haven’t really put too much thought into it. It’s been a long season so the only thing on my mind was getting out of Hagerstown and going home. It’s nice to get an award for something. You work hard and it’s nice to be rewarded for something like that.


Life in the Minor Leagues: It’s tough. You pick up different things, kind of funny things that guys do that actually work. I heard about a guy who brought one of those little chairs you put in pools, the little blow up chairs, they put that in the aisles [of the bus on long bus rides], I guess some people do that. We tried it and it ended up working all right so it wasn’t too bad.


Key to improving each year: Just sticking with the same approach and not trying to do too much, especially when you get in hitters’ counts. From the hitting aspect, you know you get in hitters’ counts, it’s most likely they’re going to have to throw something out over the plate, they’re not going to be able to nitpick the corners. So not trying to do too much with something, just taking what’s given to you.


On the Arizona Fall League: It’s the best of the best. It’s going to be nice to play against the best of the best and play at that competition level. There’s so much hype about Strasburg, it’s going to be kind of nice to meet somebody with that kind of arm. [Danny] Espinosa and [Chris] Marrero are two great ballplayers and I’m excited to be playing with them too.


On catching in the Pros: No, I’m not looking to change any positions. I think with continuous work and effort put towards catching I think I can achieve what I want to achieve behind the plate. And I know it looks a little shaky, my numbers, as far as passed balls and errors and stuff but I think that if I keep progressing from year to year I’ll achieve what I want to achieve.


Major League role model: [Matt] LeCroy and I were talking, he sees me as a Russell Martin type. Not a [Joe] Mauer though, he’s a freak of nature. No one can just go out there and hit .380 every year. I don’t see myself doing that. But if anything, Russell Martin would be my guy I idolize a lot.


What did you learn from LeCroy: Anything and everything. He’s a great guy. He has a lot of knowledge. And being a guy that caught and played a lot of positions as well, he knows the game from more than just behind the plate. So he was a great guy to have, he was a really great manager to have.


meyers c.JPGMeyers was drafted in the 14th round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft by the Mets but decided to attend Loyola Marymount (CA) University. He was drafted in 2007 by the Nats. He has the prototypical projectable pitcher’s body at 6-foot-6 with a fastball in the low to mid 90s. He went 9-7 with a 4.79 ERA with the Suns in 2008. He was brilliant in 2009. He started throwing all his pitches for strikes and went a combined 11-3 with a 1.72 ERA in 24 games (23 starts) with Double-A Harrisburg and Single-A Potomac. Meyers led all full-season Minor League pitchers with a microscopic 1.72 ERA and allowed two earned runs or less 20 of 23 starts (87%) this season.


The 24-year-old went 5-1 with a 2.25 ERA (12 ER/48.0 IP) and a 3.9/1 strikeout-to-walk ratio (43 K/11 BB) in nine starts with Harrisburg. Prior to his July 7 promotion to Harrisburg, Meyers dominated the Carolina League, going 6-2 with a league-best 1.43 ERA (14 ER/88.1 IP) in 15 games (14 starts) with Potomac. He was selected as a midseason Carolina League All-Star and was a two time Carolina League Pitcher of the Week honors (May 4-10 and June 29-July 5).


On the award: It was awesome. I didn’t really expect it but and it’s nice to get an award. Obviously coming out here and standing out there for batting practice and just kind of taking the tour around here. So it’s been good. I got the call a couple of days ago, I was kind of surprised. I was all set and ready to go home and they told me to come up here and I was pretty excited.


Life in the Minor Leagues: The toughest thing is that everything is temporary. You don’t know what you’re doing, where you’re going to be, from day to day, always sleeping in hotels and that. It’s been a good experience though.


Biggest difference between ’08 and ’09: Just repeating a consistent delivery. I started using my legs this year, got some help from the pitching coach down in Potomac. Just got my mechanics better and threw all my pitches for strikes this year.


On walking people: That’s kind of a pet peeve of mine–don’t walk people and force contact. I try to make hitters put it into play. Usually things go good when I’m doing that.


Timetable for the pros: There’s really no timetable and if you do put a timetable on it… that’s just going to make it tougher for you, more pressure. But you basically just go out and get better every day. That’s your ultimate goal to get to the Big Leagues. Whatever happens, happens and hopefully the sooner the better.


Now the two of them can rest… and that’s what they are going to do.


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