The Fringe Five is a weekly regular-season exercise, introduced last April by the present author, wherein that same ridiculous author utilizes regressed stats, scouting reports, and also his own heart 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 both (a) absent from all of three notable preseason top-100 prospect lists* and also (b) not currently playing in the majors. Players appearing on the midseason prospect lists produced by those same notable sources or, otherwise, selected in the first round of the 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.
Adam Duvall, 3B, San Francisco (Profile)
One is compelled to liken Adam’s Duvall’s defense-independent numbers at this point in the PCL season — if not either bananas or coconuts — then at least to some other manner of tropical fruit. After 54 plate appearances (through Tuesday), the third baseman has recorded a 6:6 walk-to-strikeout ratio whilst also hitting six home runs — which is to say, the most home runs (by two) of all PCL hitters. It should be noted, none of the skills which Duvall has demonstrated thus far is very unprecedented: since beginning his professional career in 2010, he’s generally made contact and generally exhibited some manner of plate discipline and certainly produced impressive home-run totals. Never, of course, has he done all those things at once and to such a considerable degree. He’s not a prospect-prospect, Duvall, because of his age (25) and also probably concerns about his defensive skills. Still, demonstrating every batting skill while simultaneously playing a reasonably difficult position — this has value.
Josh Hader, LHP, Houston (Profile)
Hader appeared last week on the season debut of the Five owing to a four-inning start over the course of which he produced a 10:0 strikeout-to-walk ratio against just 17 batters. Since then, the 20-year-old has recorded two more appearances, and, while he’s failed to scale the same high heights, the results have been also impressive. Regard, for example, how many batters he faced during those two appearances: 33. And now regard how many of those batters he struck out: 10. Finally, consider this third number, which is how many opponents he walked: 1. Unfortunately, a thing that one can’t regard or consider at the moment appears to be footage of Josh Hader from any of this first three appearances. In lieu of that, the author has embedded below video of Bill Hader as the President of Hollywood — which video, if nothing else, should help the reader distract him- or herself momentarily from life’s manifest futility.
Robert Kral, C, San Diego (Profile)
A thing that always happens in literature is, first, an author writes a novel or whatever that receives almost no critical or popular attention and then, second, that same author dies without money and covered in dirt before, third, that same novel or whatever he wrote becomes a critical and popular success following his death. The modern reader, years later, thinks to himself, “Unfortunate, isn’t it, that this fellow — so talented and ahead of his time — died without money and also covered in dirt like that.” Yes, it is unfortunate. Robert Kral is not unlike this impoverished, filthy author-genius. A recipient of one of Steamer’s most optimistic preseason projections, Kral has recorded only nine plate appearances (through Tuesday) despite what appears to be satisfactory health. Or, satisfactory for now, that is. Someday, he’ll be dead, however, with probably only, like, an Atlantic League MVP award to show for it.
Jace Peterson, SS, San Diego (Profile)
The prospects who fall outside the notable preseason top-100 lists tend to belong to one or the other category. They either (a) have produced compelling numbers but exhibit a lack of physical tools, or (b) possess those same physical tools but have failed to translate them into on-field success. (There is, of course, a third category of prospect: one noted neither for his production nor his tools. This is the sort who, for example, becomes a weblogger.) Curiously, Jace Peterson belongs to neither of those categories, and yet was absent from the aforementioned preseason prospect lists. Age relative to level, is probably one reason for that omission. That he split time at college between baseball and football, is perhaps another. In either case, he’s been excellent since his debut last week among the Five, recording a 5:1 walk-to-strikeout ratio in 23 plate appearances during that interval.
Because the author will likely only be showering praise upon Peterson in future editions of this column, below is a GIF of the latter making an error on Tuesday. “Probably make fewer errors,” is sound advice for Jace Peterson.
Tsuyoshi Wada, LHP, Chicago NL (Profile)
Last week, the author included Philadelphia minor-leauge catcher Cameron Rupp among the Five, accompanied by the caveat that, insofar as he (a) was already 25 and (b) had never exhibited anything even approximating the sort of numbers he’d produced through the first week of the Triple-A season, that Rupp was unlikely to appear on future editions of the Five. One observes, in fact, that Rupp’s second week was decidedly less impressive and that his name is absent from the present document. A similar disclaimer applies to Tsuyoshi Wada’s appearance this week among the Five. Originally signed to a two-year deal out of Japan by Baltimore before the 2012 season, Wada almost immediately required Tommy John surgery. Upon his return, he recorded competent, but not excellent, numbers at Triple-A Norfolk. Signed by the Cubs to a minor-league deal this offseason, however, the 33-year-old Wada has been excellent over his first two PCL starts, producing an 18:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio over just 13.1 innings. Nor is it entirely clear how he’s done it.
This, for example, is Wada at is best, inducing a swinging strike by means of the changeup against Memphis’s Xavier Scruggs:
But here’s Wada somehow throwing a fastball by Scott Moore, who has recorded hundreds of major-league plate appearances:
And also somehow by Greg Garcia, who has routinely posted strikeout rates below 17% in the minors:
The Next Five
These are players on whom the author might potentially become fixated.
Andrew Aplin, OF, Houston (Double-A Texas League)
Brett Eibner, OF, Kansas City (Triple-A Pacific Coast League)
Bryan Mitchell, RHP, New York AL (Double-A Eastern League)
Darnell Sweeney, MI, Los Angeles NL (Double-A Southern League)
Aaron West, RHP, Houston (Double-A Texas League)
Fringe Five Scoreboard
Here are all the players to have appeared among either the Fringe Five (FF) or Next Five (NF) so far this season. 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.
|Tommy La Stella||Braves||2B||0||1||1|
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