This player preview was written by Joe Lucia, who posts here as the infamous bigjoe.
On May 5, 2008, Greg Norton came to Atlanta. At first, the reception was tepid...at best. In fact, in the fanshot talking about acquiring him, more people cared about Prado's injury than bringing in Norton.
Then something happened. Norton started getting playing time, and we, the fans, became infatuated with him. Even as he struggled throughout May & June, there was something about the guy that we liked. After the All-Star Break, Norton threw up a line of .323/.462/.597 in 62 at bats. Also for the season, he was tied for second in the league in pinch hits with (now former) teammate Ruben Gotay. In fact, among all hitters with more than 50 pinch hit plate appearances, Norton led the league in OPS (.976, powered by an absurd .458 OBP).
Greg Norton was the pinch hitter du jour for the Braves. When you have a guy on the bench who can give you a 15% BB rate, and a .176 ISO, you should be very happy with what you have. The only major downfalls on Norton are his strikeouts (23.5% last season), his defense (roughly adequate at first base, a complete butcher everywhere else) and his batting average (.246 with the Braves for the season, but you're all smart enough to know that batting average is a dated statistic). Norton was valued at $900,000 last year, and he re-upped for $800K this winter, which is a fair market deal for him.
For Norton to have a successful 2009 season, there are some things Bobby Cox must keep in mind. Bobby Cox can't fall into the trap that the Phillies have with Greg Dobbs, which is thinking their great bench bat is an everyday player. Norton was used extremely well last year, if not too often. Norton should not be part of a left field platoon under any circumstance. He should be the first option pinch hitter off the bench, and be used very sparingly in the field (and knowing Cox's love of the double switch, it seems likely that he'll spend some late innings out there). There is no reason to believe that Norton can't reduplicate his 2008 season this year.
Just a fantastic preview of Norton, great work Joe!