Rotoprofessor’s Prospect Watch: Bud Norris

Jul 11, 2009



Written by
Eric Stashin the Rotoprofessor

If you simply looked at his record, you may be a little bit deceived at the prospects of Bud Norris making an impact at the major league level this season. How could a pitcher sporting a 3-7 record at Triple-A be of any potential value? Once you look at the rest of the numbers, you get a better idea of the entire story:

99.0 Innings
2.45 ERA
1.31 WHIP
99 Strikeouts (9.00 K/9)
47 Walks (4.27 BB/9)
.299 BABIP

The ERA is the first number to jump out at you, especially when you take into account that he pitches in the hitter-friendly (understatement) Pacific Coast League. Given his career minor league ERA of 3.69, so you can’t say that this number was something that was expected of him.

Last season at Double-A he posted a 4.05 ERA over 80.0 innings after being limited by an elbow strain. The team had him on a limited pitch count upon his return, before sending him to the Arizona Fall League to increase his innings count.
He made 12 appearances (0 starts), posting a 1.89 ERA over 19.0 innings, second only to the dazzling performance by Tommy Hanson (0.63). That gave a hint of what he could be, but his peripherals there mirror what he’s done this season, with 20 Ks vs. 13 BBs.

The strikeouts are extremely realistic. Over his minor league career he’s posted a K/9 of 9.8. Baseball America, who ranked him as the team’s #2 prospect prior to the season, described his arsenal by saying:

“Thanks to a stocky build and strong legs, he pounds the zone with his fastball and shows a hard, short slider. The fastball was clocked at 98 mph in the AFL, but he works better when it’s 93-95 and he spots it. Thanks to an adjustment in his delivery, he created better angles to attack hitters. The slider benefited the most, breaking down and away from righthanders.”

That certainly seems like a mix of pitches that will generate strikeouts, but his control is a major issue that will prevent him from being successful at the next level.

He has a career BB/9 of 3.8, which is marginally better then his mark this season (though, over his last ten starts he’s posted a 3.7 mark). In the AFL, it equated to a BB/9 of 6.16, albeit in an abbreviated sample size. Unless he can consistently throw strikes, there is little chance of him being successful in the major leagues.

There had been talk of him needing to develop a quality third pitch in order to success as a starting pitcher. According to an article in the Austin American-Statesman (click here to view), he has done just that, now using his change-up to go along with his fastball and slider. That certainly is a good sign, and could help to explain his improvement in the ERA department.

Considering that the bottom of the Astros rotation is filled by Brian Moehler, Mike Hampton and Russ Ortiz (with Felipe Paulino from time-to-time), there certainly is the chance of him making his major league debut before the end of 2009. Of course, a potential innings limit could influence that as well.

If he does get the opportunity, he’s going to be worth monitoring. There is no doubting that he has the stuff to succeed against major league hitters, the only concern is if he can control his pitches. If he can get the walks down into the low 3’s, he has the potential to be a usable in all formats in the not too distant future (and potentially present for keeper league and NL-only owners).

In 2009, he won’t be worth more than a spot start depending on the match-up, however, thanks to his strikeout potential. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it 100 times. Rookie pitchers are inconsistenct.

What do you think of Norris? Is he a pitcher that you think could develop into a usable fantasy option by 2010?

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