Just one month through the long major league season, two Astros are showing why they are worthy of being on your fantasy roster. Here, we will go inside the numbers of Bud Norris and Brett Wallace and prove why they are two players that are making baseball fans take their numbers seriously.
First, let’s dissect the pitcher who threw a 7 2/3 inning shut out against the slugging Brew Crew: Bud Norris. Lowering his ERA to 3.03 on the year, Norris makes batters look clueless when he gets his fastball/change up combo working. Bud struggled at the beginning of the year against the Phillies and Marlins, but he quickly picked up his tempo in his next 4 starts. In those 4 starts, Bud has thrown 25 2/3 innings of jaw dropping baseball. With 30 strikeouts in those starts, Bud boasts a 10.52 K/9 ratio that is only fourth in the National League to Matt Garza, Jonathan Sanchez, and Cliff Lee. That’s better than Lincecum, Halladay, Johnson, and a hand full of other aces in the National League. Administering only 9 walks in those 4 starts, Norris is controlling the strike zone more consistently than he did in previous seasons that left Astro fans wondering what he was capable of doing on the mound.
Bud’s WHIP is the only statistic outside of wins that could be concerning to potential fantasy owners. Historically, Bud’s career WHIP is a high 1.48, but one must keep in mind that he is a young, acclimating pitcher. Owners would need to keep an eye on his walks and problematic innings if they took the leap, and pick up this budding star of the Astros. By picking up Norris, owners potentially could harness a top 10 strikeout guy with an ERA below 3.50 as the season grows longer in tooth. Combined with his 1.25 WHIP, picking up Norris may be a move that not only boosts your K’s, but stables your WHIP and ERA which is something strike out pitchers like Edison Volquez and Cliff Lee cannot claim this season.
Brett Wallace is perhaps the most intriguing first baseman in the National League this season. Leading all NL qualified first basemen in AVG and second to only Joey Votto in OBP, Wallace proves that he is worthy of being mentioned with the big boys so far this season. Wallace is tied with Prince Fielder with 9 doubles on the season, but Wallace claims only 9 RBIs on the season. Batting behind Carlos Lee who is struggling to put the ball in play for the Astros this year hurts Wallace when it comes to RBI opportunities. In Sunday’s game, though, Carlos Lee left with what appears to be a brutal rib injury that could sideline the clean up hitter for the Astros. One would have to imagine that Jason Bourgeois and Brian Bogusevic would take over most of the reps for the big man. This would shake up the Astro lineup and most likely move Brett Wallace up to the 3 spot in the lineup and bump Hunter Pence to the clean up spot if Bogusevic plays. If Bourgeois gets most of the reps, then you would most likely see the Saturday night lineup of Bourgeois in the 2 spot followed by Sanchez and Pence, leaving Wallace in the fifth spot.
With these two options on the table for the Stros, Wallace wins in either case. If he stays put in the fifth spot due to the addition of Bourgeois, he benefits from the addition of another speedy, high AVG, run scorer batting in front of him. If Bogusevic plays, then Wallace moves into the 3 spot and reaps the benefits of batting behind the Bourn and Angel Sanchez. In either scenario, Wallace will be able to utilize his great hitting start with the opportunity to knock in runs. Even when his AVG dips (which it will, but he is a lifetime .300+ hitter as a pro), you can expect the runs to eventually be produced given these situations.
Also worthy of note is if Bourgeois bats second in the lineup, who has 8 steals on the year as a reserve, Pence will have another speedster in front of him in the lineup. Already on pace for 122 RBIs on the year, Pence will have yet another player capable of generating his own offense with his feet in front of him. Pence is bound for a big year, but he is already 100% owned in ESPN fantasy leagues. If you can snatch him in a “buy low” trade, do it.
In short, Bud Norris and Brett Wallace are producing early this year, and it appears to be a sign of much more to come. If you can acquire Norris in a ML format or Wallace in a NL or deep ML format, go for it. These two players are on the cusp of success, and 2011 is looking like a big year.