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 current season’s 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.

*****

Leonel Campos, RHP, San Diego (Profile)
There are certain aspects of Campos’s profile which don’t immediately lend themselves to optimism regarding his future as a major leaguer. Like how he turned 27 years old last week, for example. And like how he was demoted to Double-A a couple months ago. These aren’t qualities native to hot prospects of great heat. Campos is old, however, only because he first pursued a soccer career and then missed an entire season (2012) due to Tommy John surgery. And he was demoted, in part, so that he might more ably transition to the rotation. As a starter, Campos has recorded a strikeout rate of 29.5% over 24.1 innings. His command (and lack of it) is decidedly an issue, but he remains a promising talent owing to a fastball that sits at 92-93 mph and an excellent breaking ball.

Here’s an example of the latter pitch from Campos’s July 14th start to strike out Texas minor-leaguer Jim Adduci:

Campos Aducci SS K

And that same exact thing in slower motion:

Campos Aducci SS K Slow

Taylor Cole, RHP, Toronto (Profile)
Younger Blue Jays prospects Matt Boyd and Daniel Norris have both been promoted from High-A Dunedin to Toronto’s Double-A affiliate in New Hampshire, while Cole remains in the Florida State League — this, despite having recorded the best strikeout and walk figures among the triumvirate. In point of fact, Cole has produced the best strikeout rate and walk rates among any pitcher eligible for inclusion in this weekly column.

Regard, by way of illustration, this table featuring the top-five qualified pitchers from High-A and above by kwERA — which ERA estimator utilizes strikeout and walk rate exclusively:

# Name Org Level Age IP K% BB% kwERA
1 Mike Fiers Brewers AAA 29 90.2 31.6% 4.4% 2.14
2 Taylor Cole Blue Jays A+ 24 108.2 30.3% 6.6% 2.55
3 Mark Binford White Sox A+/AA 21 105.2 25.9% 3.3% 2.69
4 Daniel Norris Blue Jays A+/AA 21 86.1 30.2% 7.7% 2.70
5 Luis Severino Yankees A/A+/AA 20 93.1 27.7% 5.9% 2.78

Cole’s most recent start was arguably his best of the season. Over 6.2 innings, the 24-year-old right-hander recorded a 12:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio against 23 batters, conceding also just two hits and zero runs (box).

Taylor Motter, OF, Tampa Bay (Profile)
It’s generally the case that the prospects who appear within this weekly column are the sort who’ve produced encouraging fielding-independent numbers — duly regressed, of course, and relative to position, age, and level — over the course of the entire season. To the extent that he’s recorded walk and strikeout rates of 6.8% and 12.7%, respectively, and 12 home runs over 355 plate appearances, the 24-year-old Motter might be regarded as only a half-candidate for inclusion here. That five of those home runs have been hit over the last six days, however, renders Motter an exception to the normal criteria by which members of the Five are selected. Taken in the 17th round of the 2011 draft by Tampa Bay out of Coastal Carolina, Motter has exhibited promising plate-discipline figures in the past, having entered this season with walk and strikeout rates of 12.9% and 14.9%, respectively, over 838 plate appearances. One finds as well that, despite being listed as an outfielder, that Motter also has made about a quarter of his starts this season at either second base or shortstop.

Here’s footage from Monday’s game of Motter hitting one of the five recent and aforementioned home runs:

Dario Pizzano, OF, Seattle (Profile)
Last week, the author noted with regard to Pizzano that, despite having produced surprising and proficient fielding-independent numbers at Double-A Jackson, that the 23-year-old’s slash line (just .197/.318/.423 at the time) was obscuring his accomplishments. Since then, Pizzano has recorded a home run and 5:1 walk-to-strikeout ratio in 25 plate appearances — which is to say, he’s continued to exhibit excellent fielding-independent skills. What else he’s done, though, is to post is a week-long slash line of .294/.480/.529 — which is to say, more representative of his underlying talents. That seven-game interval has improved Pizzano’s on-base percentage to .338 and his slugging to .434, now 50 games into his Double-A career.

Here’s undersized and grainy footage of Pizzano’s most recent hit in all of baseball, a double against Huntsville on Monday:

Pizzano Double

Austin Voth, RHP, Washington (Profile)
The right-handed Voth made his debut among the Five in the most recent edition of same — only four starts into his High-A career, that, and thus only four starts into his eligibility for inclusion within this column. A week later, Voth appears here again — in this case on the strength of his most recent start, in which he recorded an 8:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio against 23 batters over 7.0 innings (box). In retrospect, it appears more and more curious that Voth remained available for the Nationals until the fifth round of last year’s draft — insofar, that is as he (a) recorded above-average college numbers and (b) possesses slightly above-average fastball velocity. Over five starts now and 33.0 innings in the Carolina League, Voth has strikeout and walk rates of 31.6% and 4.4%, respectively.

The Next Five
These are players on whom the author might potentially become fixated.

James Dykstra, RHP, Chicago AL (High-A Carolina League)
Ty Kelly, 2B/3B, Seattle (Triple-A Pacific Coast League)
Tony Kemp, 2B, Houston (Double-A Texas League)
Michael Reed, OF, Milwaukee (High-A Florida State League)
Chris Taylor, SS, Seattle (Triple-A Pacific Coast 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
Thomas Shirley Astros LHP 6 1 19
Jace Peterson Padres SS 5 2 17
Jose Ramirez Indians 2B 5 1 16
Taylor Cole Blue Jays RHP 5 1 16
Ben Lively Reds RHP 4 2 14
Billy Mckinney Cubs OF 3 5 14
Josh Hader Astros LHP 4 2 14
Robert Kral Padres C 3 5 14
Seth Mejias-Brean Reds 3B 4 2 14
Daniel Norris Blue Jays LHP 4 0 12
Dario Pizzano Mariners OF 3 3 12
Andrew Aplin Astros OF 1 5 8
Michael Reed Brewers OF 2 1 7
Robert Refsnyder Yankees 2B 2 1 7
Austin Voth Nationals RHP 2 0 6
Bryan Mitchell Yankees RHP 1 3 6
David Rollins Astros LHP 2 0 6
Francellis Montas White Sox RHP 2 0 6
Wesley Parsons Braves RHP 1 3 6
Aaron West Astros RHP 1 2 5
Adam Duvall Giants 3B 1 2 5
Kyle Smith Astros RHP 1 2 5
Luigi Rodriguez Indians OF 1 1 4
Shawn Zarraga Brewers C 1 1 4
Steven Souza Nationals OF 1 1 4
Alexander Claudio Rangers LHP 1 0 3
Blake Treinen Nationals RHP 1 0 3
Cameron Rupp Phillies C 1 0 3
Chris Taylor Mariners SS 0 3 3
Kyle Hendricks Cubs RHP 1 0 3
Leonel Campos Padres RHP 1 0 3
Marco Gonzales Cardinals LHP 1 0 3
Mike Tauchman Rockies OF 1 0 3
Ryan Rua Rangers 3B 1 0 3
Steven Wright Red Sox RHP 1 0 3
Taylor Motter Rays OF 1 0 3
Tsuyoshi Wada Cubs LHP 1 0 3
Brian Johnson Red Sox LHP 0 2 2
Darnell Sweeney Dodgers 2B/SS 0 2 2
Roberto Perez Indians C 0 2 2
Tommy La Stella Braves 2B 0 2 2
Tony Kemp Astros 2B 0 2 2
Ty Kelly Mariners 2B/3B 0 2 2
Aaron Blair D-backs RHP 0 1 1
Billy Burns Athletics OF 0 1 1
Brett Eibner Royals OF 0 1 1
Conrad Gregor Astros 1B 0 1 1
Danny Winkler Rockies RHP 0 1 1
Edwar Cabrera Rangers LHP 0 1 1
Eric Jokisch Cubs LHP 0 1 1
James Dykstra White Sox RHP 0 1 1
Jesse Winker Reds OF 0 1 1
Rob Zastryzny Cubs LHP 0 1 1
Stephen Landazuri Mariners RHP 0 1 1
Tim Cooney Cardinals LHP 0 1 1
Tyler Goeddel Rays 3B 0 1 1


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