Express To The Majors

added 8/5/2009 by David Coleman

(Editor's note: From time to time, David Coleman will update our readers on players advancing in the minor leagues. If you'd like more details on how Houston's minor leaguers are doing, visit Coleman's blog, Minor Musings.)

Greetings from the farm! I’ve been asked by this good site to give a quick scouting report on the Astros' two newest members, David "Bud" Norris and Sammy Gervacio. Both were called up from Round Rock last week after injuries and ineffectiveness racked the Houston pitching staff. Gervacio's stay didn't last long as he was sent down Monday so the Astros could bring back Felipe Paulino for Tuesday's start.

Norris has a four-seam fastball that tops out in the mid-90s, a hard slider and a changeup that he’s still refining. In the Arizona Fall League last season, Norris pitched out of the bullpen for the first time in his professional career and was very effective. In 12 appearances with Scottsdale, Norris threw 19 innings, striking out 20 and walking 13 while giving up 14 hits and four earned runs. His ERA of 1.89 was the second lowest in the AFL.

He continued that sterling effort with Round Rock this season, starting 19 games and going 4-9 with 120 innings pitched, 112 strikeouts, 53 walks, an ERA of 2.63 and a WHIP of 1.31. The 24-year old led the Pacific Coast League in both ERA and strikeouts, posting an ERA+ of 162, meaning his ERA was 62% better than the league average of 4.46. To quantify his stats in a different way, Norris created 51.1 runs for the Express over his 19 starts, which is just a hair under the team lead currently held by Mark Saccomanno at 53 runs created.

Gervacio doesn’t have the same pedigree as Norris, but has still put up good numbers this season with the Express. His traditional stats suffered a bit from a few bad games here and there, but his peripheral stats are solid. Gervacio appeared in 34 games this season, throwing 47-2/3rd innings while allowing 43 hits and 28 earned runs. The 24-year old struck out 49 and walked 20 while giving up five home runs and three hit batsmen.

His ERA of 5.29 is higher than most call-ups, but his Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) ERA was at 3.96, in large part due to his K/9 inning rate of 9.25. He is a fly ball pitcher at this point, getting 46 fly ball outs compared to 38 ground ball outs this season. He doesn’t have a lot of speed on his fastball, compared to Norris, but he has a funky delivery that should make it hard for hitters to pick up the ball.

Are there any other prospects the Astros might summon this September? Former pitcher-turned-outfielder Brian Bogusevic is having a very good season. His line of .274/.346/.377 is not impressive right away, but when you factor in that he leads the Express in walks, is second in stolen bases and third in doubles, plus can play all three outfield positions, the 25-year old definitely could be called up. The former Tulane star’s defense has been okay since the switch, with runners testing his arm more often than they should, but Bogusevic does have five outfield assists and started two double plays.

The same logic applies to fellow Round Rock outfielder Yordany Ramirez, who just recently turned 25. Ramirez is hitting about the same as Bogusevic with a line of .272/.286/.427, but has only walked six times. He counter-balances this with only 46 strikeouts in 356 plate appearances. Ramirez also has good speed, stealing 12 bases in 18 attempts and plays exceptional defense. If the Astros want a late-inning defensive replacement, Ramirez will definitely be considered.

J.R. Towles and Felipe Paulino are also possibilities, but they’re known commodities with the big league club. One sleeper to make another appearance in the majors is 28-year old lefthander Casey Daigle. In 34 games and 39-1/3rd innings, Daigle has an ERA of 2.75 with 30 strikeouts and 20 walks. The husband of former Arizona softball player Jenny Finch has pitched in 20 games over two seasons in the majors with the Diamondbacks and could be another lefty out of the bullpen for the Astros down the stretch.