Norris, a former All-Star originally acquired during Padres general manager A.J. Preller's trading spree in the 2014-15 offseason, is coming off his worst year as a professional and saw his future playing time in doubt with touted youngster Austin Hedges ready to come up and assume the role of Padres starting catcher.
Avila is the latest in a series of low Class A righthanders acquired in one-for-one trades for veterans by the Preller regime in recent months, joining Anderson Espinoza (for Drew Pomeranz), Hansel Rodriguez (for Melvin Upton Jr.) and Chris Paddack (for Fernando Rodney).
Pedro Avila, rhp
The Nationals signed Avila as a 17-year old out of Venezuela as part of their 2014 international signing class. He progressed quicker than other more touted signees from the group, dominating the Dominican Summer League in his first year and earning a full-season assignment in year two. Avila is only slightly bigger than his listed 5-foot-11, 170-pound frame and lacks power stuff, but he commands his low-90s fastball well in the bottom of the zone and features a breaking ball and changeup that both draw generally positive reviews. His curveball is ahead of his changeup at present, but he has excellent feel to pitch that has manifested in success at every stop so far in his young career. Evaluators report Avila needs to get on a weights-and-conditioning program to strengthen his slender frame and improve both his stuff and his durability, but believe he has the foundation to be a starter with a quality three-pitch mix he commands. He will likely head to high Class A Lake Elsinore for the Padres in 2017 after holding his own at low Class A Hagerstown with the Nationals last season, although he finished the year on the disabled list with an unspecified injury.
Derek Norris, c
Norris joined the Padres with much fanfare before the 2015 season, but the power-hitting catcher was largely a disappointment after an initial hot start to his Padres career. He hit .233 with a .685 OPS from June 1 on in his debut year, and then a ghastly .186 with a .583 OPS in 2016. Norris admitted wearing down in 2015 after catching the most games of his career and promised to bulk up, but in 2016 the extra bulk visibly slowed down his actions in the batters box. The bulk also cost him quickness behind the plate, with his 34 percent caught-stealing rate in 2015 dropping to 21 percent in 2016 as he was slower to get out of the crouch and on his exchange. He now will get a fresh start with the organization that originally drafted him. Washington picked Norris in the fourth round of the 2007 draft, and he spent five years in the organization before they traded him to the Athletics in 2011 as part of a four-player package for Gio Gonzalez.
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