The Fringe Five is a weekly regular-season exercise, introduced a few years ago by the present author, wherein that same author utilizes regressed stats, scouting reports, and also his own fallible intuition to identify and/or continue monitoring the most compelling fringe prospects in all of baseball.
Central to the exercise, of course, is a definition of the word fringe, a term which possesses different connotations for different sorts of readers. For the purposes of the column this year, a fringe prospect (and therefore one eligible for inclusion in the Five) is any rookie-eligible player at High-A or above who (a) received a future value grade of 45 or less from Dan Farnsworth during the course of his organizational lists and who (b) was omitted from the preseason prospect lists produced by Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo, and John Sickels, and also who (c) is currently absent from a major-league roster. Players appearing on a midseason list or, otherwise, selected in the first round of the current season’s amateur draft will also be excluded from eligibility.
In the final analysis, the basic idea is this: to recognize those prospects who are perhaps receiving less notoriety than their talents or performance might otherwise warrant.
*****Daniel Gossett, RHP, Oakland (Profile)
Back in March, ESPN’s Keith Law visited the backfields of Oakland’s complex in Arizona. The result of that visit: a very positive impression of right-hander Daniel Gossett
From the report he filed:
“He looked great Friday, thanks to a new cutter at 86-89 mph with sharp break downward as much as to the side, along with a fastball at 91-96 mph (sitting 94) that he was blowing by hitters. He showed a solid average changeup at 82-85 mph and a power curveball that was kind of slurvy but hard at 82-83 mph”
Gossett has looked great on a number of other days since that Friday in May, it would appear. Originally selected by Oakland in the second round of the 2014 draft out of Clemson, the 23-year-old right-hander was adequate but not dominant during his first extended tour of affiliated baseball last year. This season, however, has been a revelation for him. After producing nearly a 21-point strikeout- and walk-rate differential over nine starts with High-A Stockton, Gossett has nearly replicated that sort of control of the zone in Double-A. He’s been particularly strong of late, recording a 17:2 strikeout-to-walk rate against 49 batters in two starts (13.0 innings) since last week’s edition of the Five.
Here’s footage of Gossett from June, recording a strikeout with a curve and two fastballs, the latter of which was reported at 93 mph:
Domingo Leyba, SS/2B, Arizona (Profile)
Dawel Lugo, 3B/SS, Arizona (Profile)
Ildemaro Vargas, 2B/SS, Arizona (Profile)
This triumvirate appears here together because (a) they’re all employed by the same organization and because (b) whatever differences they possess as ballplayers, said differences are a function more of degree than type. The type in question: a contact-oriented hitter with usable power who’s also likely to produce net-positive defensive value. Regard, by way of illustration, certain numbers recorded by this triumvirate during the present month:
The Arizona Three in August
*Average isolated-power figure in relevant league.
Ildemaro Vargas has been a fixture among the Five this year. Indeed, with his appearance here, the former indy leaguer settles into third place on the arbitrarily calculated Scoreboard one finds at the bottom of this post. Dawel Lugo, for his part, has previously been included among the Next Five. Originally signed out of the Dominican for $1.3 million by Toronto in 2011, he moved to Arizona last August in the deal that sent Cliff Pennington to the Blue Jays. Signed originally as a shortstop, Lugo has moved to third predominantly — partly in deference to Leyba, it would appear, and partly just because it was inevitable. After producing better-than-average contact and power figures with High-A Visalia, he was promoted in early July to the Southern League, where he’s continued to exhibit almost precisely the same profile. He’s succeeded, at 21, in a league for which the average age is 24.0.
Which, this seems to be an opportune moment upon which to note that the third player being discussed here, Domingo Leyba, is still actually just 20, rendering him one of the youngest field players in all of Double-A. Signed originally by the Tigers out of the Dominican for $400,000 in 2012, Leyba was traded to Arizona (along with Robbie Ray) in the deal that sent Didi Gregorius to New York and Shane Greene to Detroit. After passing the entire 2015 season at High-A Visalia, Leyba started the 2016 campaign there, as well. Whether due to real adjustments or greater physical strength oe randomness, his numbers on contact improved by some measure — and, following a mid-July promotion to Mobile (roughly a week after Lugo’s own promotion), he’s both made more contact and drawn more walks while facing more advanced competition.
Max Schrock, 2B, Oakland (Profile)
Schrock appears here less because of his performance over the last week — although he continued to exhibit his customarily excellent contact skills, etc. — and more because of the Breaking News in which he played a part yesterday. A basic summary of that news: Schrock was sent to Oakland from Washington in exchange for left-handed reliever Marc Rzepczynski. The author’s own towering thoughts on the matter appeared in full at the site here yesterday. With a view to repeating myself, however, here’s a passage from that post, on the matter of major leaguers who possess Schrock’s basic skills:
[E]ver since that mid-winter’s post celebrating Schrock’s virtues, he’s acquitted himself almost perfectly, first recording the lowest strikeout rate among all Low-A batters and, more recently, recording almost the lowest strikeout rate among High-A batters — while also producing a roughly league-average isolated-power figure at both levels. That combination of extreme contact and satisfactory power — combined with the capacity to occupy a place on the more challenging end of the defensive spectrum — is a deceptively valuable one. Players who’ve paired those skills at the major-league level have been almost uniformly helpful.
To find major leaguers who possess Schrock’s basic skill set, I identified all the qualified players over the first half of this decade who recorded an elite strikeout rate (under 11%, in this case, which accounts for roughly 10% of batters each year) and exhibited roughly league-average power (.130-.160 ISO) and produced a positive positional adjustment. The results of that search appear below. (Note: catchers have been excluded because their positional adjustment renders them otherly.)
Max Schrock Comparables, 2011-15?
**Also possibly excludes reason.
The Next Five
These are players on whom the author might potentially become fixated.
Greg Allen, OF, Cleveland (Double-A Eastern League)
Austin Davidson, 2B/3B, Washington (High-A Carolina League)
Zack Granite, OF, Minnesota (Double-A Southern League)
Dinelson Lamet, RHP, San Diego (Double-A Texas League)
Pablo Reyes, 2B/SS, Pittsburgh (High-A Florida State League)
Fringe Five Scoreboard
Here is the top-10 list of players who have appeared among either the Fringe Five (FF) or Next Five (NF) so far this season (which is to say, today). For mostly arbitrary reasons, players are assessed three points for each week they’ve appeared among the Fringe Five; a single point, for each week among the Next Five.
Fringe Five Scoreboard, 2016