The Fringe Five: Baseball’s Most Compelling Fringe Prospects

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 this case, those produced by Baseball America, ESPN’s Keith Law, and our own Marc Hulet.

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.

Peterson E on Featherston

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:

Wada Scruggs SS Change

But here’s Wada somehow throwing a fastball by Scott Moore, who has recorded hundreds of major-league plate appearances:

Wade Moore FA K Swinging

And also somehow by Greg Garcia, who has routinely posted strikeout rates below 17% in the minors:

Wada Garcia FA K Swinging

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.

Name Team POS FF NF PTS
Jace Peterson Padres SS 2 0 6
Josh Hader Astros LHP 2 0 6
Robert Kral Padres C 2 0 6
Aaron West Astros RHP 1 1 4
Adam Duvall Giants 3B 1 0 3
Cameron Rupp Phillies C 1 0 3
Tsuyoshi Wada Cubs LHP 1 0 3
Andrew Aplin Astros OF 0 1 1
Billy Burns Athletics OF 0 1 1
Brett Eibner Royals OF 0 1 1
Bryan Mitchell Yankees RHP 0 1 1
Chris Taylor Mariners SS 0 1 1
Darnell Sweeney Dodgers MI 0 1 1
Edwar Cabrera Rangers LHP 0 1 1
Tim Cooney Cardinals LHP 0 1 1
Tommy La Stella Braves 2B 0 1 1



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Carson Cistulli occasionally publishes spirited ejaculations at The New Enthusiast.


21 Responses to “The Fringe Five: Baseball’s Most Compelling Fringe Prospects”

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  1. MissionValleyMafia says:

    What are the odds Wada gets called up fairly quickly? Villanueva continues to struggle and doesn’t have much upside.

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    • CubsFanInNC says:

      Or he could replace Edwin Jackson.

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    • Jason says:

      Zero odds on that one. Villanueva may make 1 more start, Jake Arrieta is making his final rehab start tonight in Daytona, and will likely be starting for the big club this weekend.

      Wada will need a few more solid starts before he got a chance. Hammel is pitching well, Samardzija is pitching well, Wood is pitching well, and Edwin Jackson is making more money than anyone on the Cubs roster so none of those guys are going to be on a short leash. If Arrieta struggles, Wada may be next in line, but Chris Rusin, Kyle Hendricks, or Eric Jokisch could also get the call.

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  2. cnote66 says:

    great stuff, always a favorite read — I like your style, Carson.

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  3. John says:

    Always love reading this column. Thanks.

    I think Jacob DeGrom (Mets) deserves consideration, unless he’s on Law’s list (which I don’t have access to). He’s been pitching really well at AAA in a hitter’s park.

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  4. LaLoosh says:

    Kral has played only 3 games… it’s hard to tell what the criteria is for this list aside from personal feelings.

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  5. Plucky says:

    He may have whiffed on that change, but Xavier Scruggs will always have an incredible name

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  6. MLB Rainmaker says:

    TIM COONEY alert!!! Joe Kelly just performed one of the most painful renditions of “pulling up lame trying to run out a single” I’ve ever witnessed, needing to be carried down the dugout steps.

    Do we get to see Cooney this time, or will we just be beaten over the head with more Tyler Lyons?

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  7. Shankbone says:

    Duvall in the Sally: feasting on inferior pitching.
    Duvall in the CA: hitters league, college bat.
    Duvall in the Eastern: Got hurt early, torn ligament left thumb, still hit 17 HRs and 23 2Bs.
    Duvall in the PCL: another hitters league, old… his throws still need work from 3B.

    If he was in the Cardinals system it’d be “where do they get all these guys”… He’s not in the Cardinals system. He hits 2Bs and HRs everywhere he goes, including the VWL.

    Thanks for highlighting him. Don’t know if the italics are needed, but that’s alright, talk about that later.

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    • Scott says:

      Yeah, Duvall is interesting. At the very least, he’s a backup plan if the Giants don’t re-sign Sandoval this offseason, and I’m sure he’ll get a September call-up this year. With all of the money tied up in long-term contracts, the Giants could use another low-cost position player, even if he’s a low-OBP, high-SLG 3B with questionable defense.

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  8. rusty says:

    Kyle Parker has provoked some argument about the few internet people interested in Rockies prospects — he, like Jace Peterson, played college football, and so has never been young-for-his-level. Could this be a systematic undervaluation of multi-sport college draftees?

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  9. baltic fox says:

    Love this column.

    Can anybody explain why there are no stats for Greg Bird, Yankees 1B prospect? He had a pretty good year last year at what I believe is a pitcher’s park (Charleston). Is he hurt?

    Josh Hader. I know the Orioles didn’t want to let that guy go. I guess they thought Bud Norris was going to make a difference in the WC chase. Or that with Bundy, Gausman and Harvey they were in good shape for the future. We’ll see in a couple of years how that turned out.

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    • n0exit says:

      Bird has a back issue, he is rehabbing in extended ST but isn’t too far away. Will probably report to Hi A Tampa Yankees next weekish.

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  10. Confucius Jackson says:

    I have an irrational fondness of this series.

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    • Balthazar says:

      Agreed. The concept is so good I read up just to see who bobbed to the surface. There are so many guys in the minors short one tool or one skill whom the media of any kind _never_ gets behind—but they’re there and playing and developing every day. It’s like some kind of alternate reality where people, y’know, play baseball for a living, without ever getting famous. Except just a few of them get through the cellophane ceiling and into the major league bright lights. I think it’s great for someone besides professional scouts to give some of these guys a shout out and some sober consideration both.

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  11. Josh M says:

    Gotta love seeing not one but two former Orioles on this list. They didn’t pick up the option on Wada and Hader was more or less a throw in in the bud Norris trade.

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  12. Mac B Dog says:

    Enjoyable read, as always. OK, difficult too, but that enhances the enjoyment. Anyhoo, istre a chance a certain Joey Wendle could make an appearance in here at some point? Seems to qualify based upon the prequalifiers listed above (low tools, good numbers, tugs at the heart strings). I just think his moxie, grit, and sticktoitiveness are off the Moxie, Grit, and Sticktoitiveness charts.

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  13. Colbert says:

    This roast thingy is so weird

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