Archive for Fringe Five

2018 Fringe Five: Summary and Results and Discussion

Introduction
The Fringe Five is a weekly regular-season exercise (introduced a half-decade ago) conducted by the author with a view to identifying and monitoring the most notable of those rookie-eligible minor leaguers omitted from the preseason prospect lists produced by Baseball Prospectus, MLB.com, John Sickels, and (most importantly!) FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel* — and all their attendant midseason lists, as well. Nearly every week during the minor-league season — except for those during which the vagaries of life have interfered — the author has submitted the names of five “compelling” minor leaguers, each name attended by a brief summary of that prospect’s most relevant credentials.

*Note: Baseball America’s list was excluded this year not due to any complaints with their coverage, but simply because said list is now behind a paywall.

Generally speaking, the word compelling has been used to designate those prospects who possessed some combination of the following:

  1. Promising offensive indicators; and
  2. The ability to play on the more challenging end of the defensive spectrum; and
  3. Youth relative to minor-league level; and
  4. A curious biographical or statistical profile.

With the minor-league regular season having been complete now for over a month, the author has finally escorted his carcass to the keyboard with a view towards presenting this document, a summary and discussion of the Fringe Five for 2018.

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The Fringe Five: Baseball’s Most Compelling Fringe Prospects

Fringe Five Scoreboards: 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013.

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 among the Five) is any rookie-eligible player at High-A or above who (a) was omitted from the preseason prospect lists produced by Baseball Prospectus, MLB.com, John Sickels, and (most importantly) FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel* and also who (b) is currently absent from a major-league roster. Players appearing within Longenhagen and McDaniel’s most recent update — and the updates published by Jeffrey Paternostro of Baseball Prospectus and John Sickels at Minor League Ball — have also been excluded from consideration.

*Note: I’ve excluded Baseball America’s list this year not due to any complaints with their coverage, but simply because said list is now behind a paywall.

For those interested in learning how Fringe Five players have fared at the major-league level, this somewhat recent post offers that kind of information. The short answer: better than a reasonable person would have have expected. In the final analysis, though, the basic idea here is to recognize those prospects who are perhaps receiving less notoriety than their talents or performance might otherwise warrant.

*****

Nicky Lopez, SS, Kansas City (Profile)
Because of his modest power, Lopez hasn’t produced many stretches this year that command attention. Between the most recent edition of the Five and the end of the season, for example, the Royals shortstop recorded a .095 isolated-power mark and 101 wRC+ in 48 plate appearances. That resembles, more or less, his line over 256 plate appearances at Triple-A, as well.

While other players with similarly unassuming minor-league track records (Mookie Betts, Jose Ramirez) have developed power as a major leaguers, one can’t depend on such a transformation. In the case of Lopez, however, that’s of little concern: even in his present incarnation, he’s likely to be an asset at the next level.

Consider, by way of example, Lopez’s work this season compared to an infielder who’s put together a strong major-league career without a real power breakout:

Joe Panik vs. Nicky Lopez at Triple-A
Name Season Age PA BB% K% ISO
Joe Panik 2014 23 326 8.3% 10.1% .126
Nicky Lopez 2018 23 256 10.5% 11.3% .139

As a 23-year-old in the Pacific Coast League, Joe Panik produced an average-or-better walk rate, decidedly better-than-average strikeout rate, and slightly below-average power mark. As a 23-year-old in the PCL, Nicky Lopez has done basically the same thing. Panik has averaged 2.5 WAR per 600 plate appearances in the majors while playing second base exclusively. Reasons suggests that Lopez, who’s made starts both at shortstop and second this season, ought to match — if not surpass — Panik’s defensive contributions, thus putting even less pressure on the bat.

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The Fringe Five: Baseball’s Most Compelling Fringe Prospects

Fringe Five Scoreboards: 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013.

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 among the Five) is any rookie-eligible player at High-A or above who (a) was omitted from the preseason prospect lists produced by Baseball Prospectus, MLB.com, John Sickels, and (most importantly) FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel* and also who (b) is currently absent from a major-league roster. Players appearing within Longenhagen and McDaniel’s most recent update — and the updates published by Jeffrey Paternostro of Baseball Prospectus and John Sickels at Minor League Ball — have also been excluded from consideration.

*Note: I’ve excluded Baseball America’s list this year not due to any complaints with their coverage, but simply because said list is now behind a paywall.

For those interested in learning how Fringe Five players have fared at the major-league level, this somewhat recent post offers that kind of information. The short answer: better than a reasonable person would have have expected. In the final analysis, though, the basic idea here is to recognize those prospects who are perhaps receiving less notoriety than their talents or performance might otherwise warrant.

*****

Cavan Biggio, 2B, Toronto (Profile)
This represents Biggio’s second appearance among the Five proper — and, as in the case of that first appearance, represents an opportunity to appreciate what appears to be his transformation into an actual, legitimate slugger.

Biggio currently possesses an 18.5% walk rate and .268 isolated-power mark, figures which place him second and first, respectively, among qualified hitters at Double-A. Among that same group, he’s the only batter to record walk and home-run rates at least two standard deviations above the mean (relative to that same qualified population).

Walk and Home-Run Leaders, Double-A
Rk Name Team Age PA BB% HR% zBB% zHR% zAvg
1 Cavan Biggio Blue Jays 23 508 18.5% 5.1% 3.5 2.1 2.8
2 Zack Collins White Sox 23 491 19.8% 2.9% 3.9 0.4 2.2
3 Joey Curletta Mariners 24 505 15.0% 4.6% 2.2 1.7 1.9
4 Josh Ockimey Red Sox 22 376 15.7% 4.0% 2.5 1.3 1.9
5 Bobby Bradley Indians 22 421 10.7% 5.7% 0.7 2.6 1.6
6 Zack Short Cubs 23 479 15.4% 3.3% 2.3 0.8 1.6
7 Isan Diaz Marlins 22 356 14.9% 2.8% 2.2 0.4 1.3
8 Yusniel Diaz LAD/BAL 21 374 15.0% 2.7% 2.2 0.3 1.2
9 Corey Ray Brewers 23 556 10.3% 4.9% 0.5 1.9 1.2
10 Jose Rojas Angels 25 352 10.2% 4.8% 0.5 1.9 1.2
Sample: 151 qualified hitters.

Patience and power aren’t wholly independent traits. Players who swing at better pitches tend to have better results on contact. While Biggio might possess only slightly better than average raw power, he appears — by virtue of his selectivity and also by means of his capacity to get the ball in the air — to have translated much of that raw power into games. In combination with second-base defense that grades out as solidly average by the advanced metrics, the overall profile is a promising one.

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The Fringe Five: Baseball’s Most Compelling Fringe Prospects

Fringe Five Scoreboards: 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013.

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 among the Five) is any rookie-eligible player at High-A or above who (a) was omitted from the preseason prospect lists produced by Baseball Prospectus, MLB.com, John Sickels, and (most importantly) FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel* and also who (b) is currently absent from a major-league roster. Players appearing within Longenhagen and McDaniel’s most recent update — and the updates published by Jeffrey Paternostro of Baseball Prospectus and John Sickels at Minor League Ball — have also been excluded from consideration.

*Note: I’ve excluded Baseball America’s list this year not due to any complaints with their coverage, but simply because said list is now behind a paywall.

For those interested in learning how Fringe Five players have fared at the major-league level, this somewhat recent post offers that kind of information. The short answer: better than a reasonable person would have have expected. In the final analysis, though, the basic idea here is to recognize those prospects who are perhaps receiving less notoriety than their talents or performance might otherwise warrant.

*****

Brock Burke, LHP, Tampa Bay (Profile)
A third-round selection out of a Colorado high school in 2014, Burke has had the capacity to hit 95 mph for much of his professional career but has struggled to consistently hold his velocity from start to start. “I’d be down to 87-90 at times,” he told FanGraphs’ David Laurila in a post from June. “Now I’m more consistent with ranges, and my velo isn’t dropping at the end of games.”

Burke attributes at least part of his development to a Driveline Baseball program in which he participated with other Rays pitchers. “It was definitely beneficial,” said Burke. “It got me in better body shape, which has helped my accuracy and my velo.”

Whatever the cause, Burke has been excellent of late. Following an early-July promotion to Double-A Montgomery, Burke has recorded strikeout and walk rates of 33.6% and 6.2%, respectively, in 36.2 innings. The differential of 27.4 points between those two figures would represent the highest such mark among qualified Double-A pitchers. Burke was characteristically strong in his most recent start, recording an 8:2 strikeout-to-walk ratio against 28 batters over 7.0 innings (box).

Burke seemed to have the most success with his fastball in that start earlier this week. Here, though, is footage of the one his better curveballs:

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The Fringe Five: Baseball’s Most Compelling Fringe Prospects

Fringe Five Scoreboards: 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013.

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 among the Five) is any rookie-eligible player at High-A or above who (a) was omitted from the preseason prospect lists produced by Baseball Prospectus, MLB.com, John Sickels, and (most importantly) FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel* and also who (b) is currently absent from a major-league roster. Players appearing within Longenhagen and McDaniel’s most recent update — and the updates published by Jeffrey Paternostro of Baseball Prospectus and John Sickels at Minor League Ball — have also been excluded from consideration.

*Note: I’ve excluded Baseball America’s list this year not due to any complaints with their coverage, but simply because said list is now behind a paywall.

For those interested in learning how Fringe Five players have fared at the major-league level, this somewhat recent post offers that kind of information. The short answer: better than a reasonable person would have have expected. In the final analysis, though, the basic idea here is to recognize those prospects who are perhaps receiving less notoriety than their talents or performance might otherwise warrant.

*****

Tyler Ivey, RHP, Houston (Profile)
Josh James, RHP, Houston (Profile)
Framber Valdez, LHP, Houston (Profile)
Ivey and James and Valdez all appear here together both because they (a) have been basically the minor leagues’ best pitchers over the past month and (b) are all members of the same organization — namely, the Houston Astros. This seems important for a couple reasons.

First, let’s just consider some data. Here are the top-10 minor-league pitchers (High-A or above) by strikeout rate since July 10th:

Strikeout Leaders, High-A and Above, Last Month
Rk Player Org Level TBF K%
1 Framber Valdez Astros AA 81 43.2%
2 Dylan Cease White Sox AA 87 40.2%
3 Josh James Astros AAA 96 39.6%
4 Tyler Ivey Astros A+ 81 38.3%
5 Brock Burke Rays AA 118 34.7%
6 Michael Kopech White Sox AAA 123 33.3%
7 Darwinzon Hernandez Red Sox A+ 102 33.3%
8 Brandon Bailey Astros A+ 84 32.1%
9 Drew Hutchison Rangers AAA 89 31.5%
10 Matt Hall Tigers AAA 118 31.4%
Min. 75 batters faced since July 10.

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The Fringe Five: Baseball’s Most Compelling Fringe Prospects

Fringe Five Scoreboards: 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013.

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 among the Five) is any rookie-eligible player at High-A or above who (a) was omitted from the preseason prospect lists produced by Baseball Prospectus, MLB.com, John Sickels, and (most importantly) FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel* and also who (b) is currently absent from a major-league roster. Players appearing within Longenhagen and McDaniel’s most recent update — and the updates published by Jeffrey Paternostro of Baseball Prospectus and John Sickels at Minor League Ball — have also been excluded from consideration.

*Note: I’ve excluded Baseball America’s list this year not due to any complaints with their coverage, but simply because said list is now behind a paywall.

For those interested in learning how Fringe Five players have fared at the major-league level, this somewhat recent post offers that kind of information. The short answer: better than a reasonable person would have have expected. In the final analysis, though, the basic idea here is to recognize those prospects who are perhaps receiving less notoriety than their talents or performance might otherwise warrant.

*****

Tony Gonsolin, RHP, Los Angeles NL (Profile)
This represents Gonsolin’s third consecutive appearance in this weekly exercise, and it’s possibly his most deserving. Since last Friday’s edition of the Five, the right-hander has made two starts. In 13.0 innings between them, Gonsolin recorded a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 18:3 against 50 batters.

Gonsolin’s profile isn’t the most common sort for a future major-league starter. He was a two-way player in college, not drafted till the ninth round, and features some traits on the mound (pronounced over-the-top delivery, effort) that are atypical for starters. He’s made it work thus far, however. He’s also continued to exhibit a strategies for contending with left-handed hitters, six of whom he faced in his second-to-last start (box).

Here’s a 92 mph slider to a lefty from that game for a called third strike:

And a curveball at the back foot for a swinging strike:

And a change with splitter-type action, also for a swinging strike:

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The Fringe Five: Baseball’s Most Compelling Fringe Prospects

Fringe Five Scoreboards: 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013.

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 among the Five) is any rookie-eligible player at High-A or above who (a) was omitted from the preseason prospect lists produced by Baseball Prospectus, MLB.com, John Sickels, and (most importantly) FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel* and also who (b) is currently absent from a major-league roster. Players appearing within Longenhagen and McDaniel’s most recent update — and the updates published by Jeffrey Paternostro of Baseball Prospectus and John Sickels at Minor League Ball — have also been excluded from consideration.

*Note: I’ve excluded Baseball America’s list this year not due to any complaints with their coverage, but simply because said list is now behind a paywall.

For those interested in learning how Fringe Five players have fared at the major-league level, this somewhat recent post offers that kind of information. The short answer: better than a reasonable person would have have expected. In the final analysis, though, the basic idea here is to recognize those prospects who are perhaps receiving less notoriety than their talents or performance might otherwise warrant.

*****

Tony Gonsolin, RHP, Los Angeles NL (Profile)
Gonsolin debuted among the Five last week following a series of increasingly impressive starts that culminated in an 11-strikeout effort against just 20 batters on July 10th. While he failed to overwhelm his opponents so decisively in his lone appearance over the past week, his July 16th start was notable for another reason — namely, that it occurred against the Arkansas Travelers of the Texas League and represented the right-hander’s debut at Double-A.

The former ninth-round pick was still quite strong, recording an 8:0 strikeout-to-walk ratio against 26 batters over 6.0 innings (box). One account indicates that Gonsolin touched 98 mph, which is roughly in line with previous reports.

Gonsolin’s slider is naturally effective against same-handed batters, but he appeared to have some strategies for dealing with lefties, as well.

Here, for example, is a back-foot breaking pitch at which Beau Amaral offered hesitantly:

And a changeup that, despite suboptimal location, nevertheless elicited a swing and miss from Logan Taylor:

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The Fringe Five: Baseball’s Most Compelling Fringe Prospects

Fringe Five Scoreboards: 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013.

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 among the Five) is any rookie-eligible player at High-A or above who (a) was omitted from the preseason prospect lists produced by Baseball Prospectus, MLB.com, John Sickels, and (most importantly) FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel* and also who (b) is currently absent from a major-league roster. Players appearing Longenhagen and McDaniel’s most recent update have also been excluded from consideration.

*Note: I’ve excluded Baseball America’s list this year not due to any complaints with their coverage, but simply because said list is now behind a paywall.

For those interested in learning how Fringe Five players have fared at the major-league level, this somewhat recent post offers that kind of information. The short answer: better than a reasonable person would have have expected. In the final analysis, though, the basic idea here is to recognize those prospects who are perhaps receiving less notoriety than their talents or performance might otherwise warrant.

*****

Austin Davidson, 2B/OF, Washington (Profile)
Davidson first appeared among the Five in August of 2016, at which point he was a 23-year-old producing strong indicators at High-A. Somewhat problematically, though, he passed all of last season as a 24-year-old still at High-A and producing less strong indicators. This is not what one would characterize as a “promising trend”; ideally, as a prospect’s “age in years” increases so does his “ability to play baseball.” Davidson’s 2017 season, quite to the contrary, appeared to suggest that Davidson’s ability to play baseball was declining. Discouraging, that.

When he began the present campaign at High-A once again this year, the implication — if not by the Washington Nationals, then at least the abstract concept of Reason — appeared to be that Davidson was unlikely ever to become something greater than organizational filler. Based on his pedigree (he was a 13th-round pick in 2014), that’s not so surprising. Based on his 2016 campaign, however, it seemed like a missed opportunity.

A path to the majors has become somewhat viable again, though. After hitting very well in the Carolina League to begin the season, Davidson has continued doing that same thing in the Eastern League. So far, for example, he’s produced a .450 isolated-power figure over 22 plate appearances in July while recording walk and strikeout rates of 9.1% each.

Here, in conclusion, is video of Davidson homering either on or around June 29th:

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The Fringe Five: Baseball’s Most Compelling Fringe Prospects

Fringe Five Scoreboards: 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013.

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 among the Five) is any rookie-eligible player at High-A or above who (a) was omitted from the preseason prospect lists produced by Baseball Prospectus, MLB.com, John Sickels, and (most importantly) FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel* and also who (b) is currently absent from a major-league roster. Players appearing Longenhagen and McDaniel’s most recent update have also been excluded from consideration.

*Note: I’ve excluded Baseball America’s list this year not due to any complaints with their coverage, but simply because said list is now behind a paywall.

For those interested in learning how Fringe Five players have fared at the major-league level, this somewhat recent post offers that kind of information. The short answer: better than a reasonable person would have have expected. In the final analysis, though, the basic idea here is to recognize those prospects who are perhaps receiving less notoriety than their talents or performance might otherwise warrant.

*****

Jake Hager, SS, Milwaukee (Profile)
Last week, the author of this post included Hager among the Fringe Five for the first time. Just this morning, meanwhile, Travis Sawchik dedicated some internet words to Minnesota infielder/outfielder/little potato Willians Astudillo. The relevance of those two events? Like Astudillo, Hager appears to be experimenting with a zero-true-outcomes approach. Since last Friday, the Brewers prospect and brief resident of the independent American Association, has compiled 19 plate appearances without recording a walk or strikeout or home run. With a couple doubles and a triple, though, he still managed to produce an isolated-power mark above .200. At a very basic level, players are most successful when they are making meaningful contact. Hager, who continued to make the vast majority of his defensive starts at shortstop, has done that.

Read the rest of this entry »


The Fringe Five: Baseball’s Most Compelling Fringe Prospects

Fringe Five Scoreboards: 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013.

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 among the Five) is any rookie-eligible player at High-A or above who (a) was omitted from the preseason prospect lists produced by Baseball Prospectus, MLB.com, John Sickels, and (most importantly) FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel* and also who (b) is currently absent from a major-league roster. Players appearing Longenhagen and McDaniel’s most recent update have also been excluded from consideration.

*Note: I’ve excluded Baseball America’s list this year not due to any complaints with their coverage, but simply because said list is now behind a paywall.

For those interested in learning how Fringe Five players have fared at the major-league level, this somewhat recent post offers that kind of information. The short answer: better than a reasonable person would have have expected. In the final analysis, though, the basic idea here is to recognize those prospects who are perhaps receiving less notoriety than their talents or performance might otherwise warrant.

*****

Jake Hager, SS, Milwaukee (Profile)
Despite having been selected out of high school in the first round of a relatively recent draft — or, as recent as one is prepared to consider 2011 — Hager isn’t really a prospect. After contending with a knee injury that forced him to miss all of the 2015 season and then stumbling through his 2016 and -17 campaigns, Hager was not only granted minor-league free agency this past winter but was sufficiently pessimistic about his chances of finding work in affiliated baseball that he signed with the St. Paul Saints of the independent American Association.

Eventually, though, the 25-year-old received a minor-league deal with the Brewers. The results thus far have been very promising: in roughly 250 plate appearances with Biloxi, he produced the equivalent of the second-best WAR in the Southern League. His performance over the past month, in particular, has been exceptional: since May 30th, he’s produced a .310 isolated-power mark but just 13.1% strikeout rate in 99 plate appearances — and has also, meanwhile, recorded every defensive start this season at shortstop, where the defensive numbers suggest he’s been totally fine. Hager was promoted to Triple-A Colorado Springs last week. He’s on the old side, certainly, but could have some value in the majors if he’s able to translate any of his Double-A success to higher levels.

Read the rest of this entry »


The Fringe Five: Baseball’s Most Compelling Fringe Prospects

Fringe Five Scoreboards: 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013.

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 among the Five) is any rookie-eligible player at High-A or above who (a) was omitted from the preseason prospect lists produced by Baseball Prospectus, MLB.com, John Sickels, and (most importantly) FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel* and also who (b) is currently absent from a major-league roster. Players appearing Longenhagen and McDaniel’s most recent update have also been excluded from consideration.

*Note: I’ve excluded Baseball America’s list this year not due to any complaints with their coverage, but simply because said list is now behind a paywall.

For those interested in learning how Fringe Five players have fared at the major-league level, this somewhat recent post offers that kind of information. The short answer: better than a reasonable person would have have expected. In the final analysis, though, the basic idea here is to recognize those prospects who are perhaps receiving less notoriety than their talents or performance might otherwise warrant.

*****

Josh James, RHP, Houston (Profile)
Every time James produces a strong start — an event that has occurred with considerable frequency this season — FanGraphs contributor and traveler within the world of ideas Travis Sawchik sends a note to the present author that reads, “His name is JOSH JAMES.” While I can’t argue with the literal sense of Sawchik’s message — namely, that this right-hander’s given name literally is Josh James — I suspect that my colleague is attempting to communicate something more profound than a single datum from James’s biography. Have I pursued the topic? No. Not because I’m afraid to, either — but rather because I am infested by indifference.

James made one start this week, recording an 11:2 strikeout-to-walk ratio against 23 batters while facing Houston’s affiliate in Fresno (box).

Read the rest of this entry »


The Fringe Five: Baseball’s Most Compelling Fringe Prospects

Fringe Five Scoreboards: 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013.

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 among the Five) is any rookie-eligible player at High-A or above who (a) was omitted from the preseason prospect lists produced by Baseball Prospectus, MLB.com, John Sickels, and (most importantly) FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel* and also who (b) is currently absent from a major-league roster. Players appearing on any updated, midseason-type list will also be excluded from eligibility.

*Note: I’ve excluded Baseball America’s list this year not due to any complaints with their coverage, but simply because said list is now behind a paywall.

For those interested in learning how Fringe Five players have fared at the major-league level, this somewhat recent post offers that kind of information. The short answer: better than a reasonable person would have have expected. In the final analysis, though, the basic idea here is to recognize those prospects who are perhaps receiving less notoriety than their talents or performance might otherwise warrant.

*****

Josh James, RHP, Houston (Profile)
This marks James’ seventh appearance among the Five proper, and he continues to occupy the top spot on the arbitrarily calculated Scoreboard found at the bottom of this post. Of note regarding James’ season isn’t simply how well he’s performed on the whole but also how little decay his rates have experienced following the right-hander’s promotion to the Pacific Coast League.

As the table below reveals, the differential between his strikeout and walk rates is almost precisely the same at Triple-A as it was in a similar sample at Double-A.

Josh James, Double-A vs. Triple-A
Level G BF IP K% BB% K-BB%
AA 6 93 21.2 40.9% 10.8% 30.1%
AAA 5 110 28.1 38.2% 8.2% 30.0%

James’ lone appearance from the past week is included in that second line. Facing Milwaukee’s affiliate in Colorado Springs, he produced a 13:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio against 25 batters over 7.0 innings (box). The most recent reports on his velocity continue to place his fastball in the mid-90s.

Read the rest of this entry »


The Fringe Five: Baseball’s Most Compelling Fringe Prospects

Fringe Five Scoreboards: 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013.

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 among the Five) is any rookie-eligible player at High-A or above who (a) was omitted from the preseason prospect lists produced by Baseball Prospectus, MLB.com, John Sickels, and (most importantly) FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel* and also who (b) is currently absent from a major-league roster. Players appearing on any updated, midseason-type list will also be excluded from eligibility.

*Note: I’ve excluded Baseball America’s list this year not due to any complaints with their coverage, but simply because said list is now behind a paywall.

For those interested in learning how Fringe Five players have fared at the major-league level, this somewhat recent post offers that kind of information. The short answer: better than a reasonable person would have have expected. In the final analysis, though, the basic idea here is to recognize those prospects who are perhaps receiving less notoriety than their talents or performance might otherwise warrant.

*****

Jonathan Hernandez, RHP, Texas (Profile)
Hernandez appeared here last week among that group designated as the Next Five. In his lone start since then, the right-hander recorded 11 strikeouts and just one walk while facing 27 batters in 8.0 innings for High-A Down East (box). Over his last three appearances now, Hernandez has produced strikeout and walk rates of 44.4% and 5.6%, respectively, in 20.0 innings.

Signed originally out of the Dominican Republic for $300,000 during the 2012-13 international signing period, Hernandez looked more like a “pitchability righty” in his first exposure to professional ball, according to Eric Longenhagen. More recently, however, the 21-year-old has developed greater arm speed, sitting 93-96 mph during a recent start.

There’s some concern, also according to Longenhagen, that Hernandez’s arm slot might leave him vulnerable to left-handed batters. Thus far this season, he’s actually been quite strong on that account, recording better strikeout and walk figures against left-handed batters (40.0-point K-BB%) than right-handed ones (19.8).

Here’s footage from a recent start of Hernandez striking out a left-handed batter on three pitches — what appears to be a pair of breaking balls follows by a stiff, but effective changeup:

And here’s slow-motion footage of that final pitch, with what appears to be the sort of pronation typical of a changeup:

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The Fringe Five: Baseball’s Most Compelling Fringe Prospects

Fringe Five Scoreboards: 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013.

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 among the Five) is any rookie-eligible player at High-A or above who (a) was omitted from the preseason prospect lists produced by Baseball Prospectus, MLB.com, John Sickels, and (most importantly) FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel* and also who (b) is currently absent from a major-league roster. Players appearing on any updated, midseason-type list will also be excluded from eligibility.

*Note: I’ve excluded Baseball America’s list this year not due to any complaints with their coverage, but simply because said list is now behind a paywall.

For those interested in learning how Fringe Five players have fared at the major-league level, this somewhat recent post offers that kind of information. The short answer: better than a reasonable person would have have expected. In the final analysis, though, the basic idea here is to recognize those prospects who are perhaps receiving less notoriety than their talents or performance might otherwise warrant.

*****

Cavan Biggio, 2B, Toronto (Profile)
Much of Cavan Biggio’s season thus far has been marked by an unprecedented display of power. With 12 home runs, the 23-year-old not only shares the Eastern League lead by that measure but has already surpassed the career total of homers with which he entered the season (in over 800 plate appearances).

Cavan Biggio’s past week-plus has been marked less by homers, however, and more by a different sort of true outcome, as the following video footage illustrates.

Those five walks are a product merely of Biggio’s last three games. Since last week’s edition of the Five, Biggio has recorded nine free passes in 30 plate appearances, recording walk and strikeout rates of 30.0% and 16.7%, respectively, during that interval. Walks themselves are not a great indicator of major-league success. In this particular case, though, it quite possibly represents an effort among Double-A pitchers to avoid Biggio’s barrel, as well as Biggio’s capacity to pass on pitches he can’t drive.

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The Fringe Five: Baseball’s Most Compelling Fringe Prospects

Fringe Five Scoreboards: 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013.

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 among the Five) is any rookie-eligible player at High-A or above who (a) was omitted from the preseason prospect lists produced by Baseball Prospectus, MLB.com, John Sickels, and (most importantly) FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel* and also who (b) is currently absent from a major-league roster. Players appearing on any updated, midseason-type list will also be excluded from eligibility.

*Note: I’ve excluded Baseball America’s list this year not due to any complaints with their coverage, but simply because said list is now behind a paywall.

For those interested in learning how Fringe Five players have fared at the major-league level, this somewhat recent post offers that kind of information. The short answer: better than a reasonable person would have have expected. In the final analysis, though, the basic idea here is to recognize those prospects who are perhaps receiving less notoriety than their talents or performance might otherwise warrant.

*****

Austin Dean, OF, Miami (Profile)
Selected by Miami in the fourth round of the 2012 draft out of a Texas high school, Dean appeared — when Eric Longenhagen published the Marlins list in February of 2017 — to have fallen into a sort of prospect netherspace, possessing too little footspeed and athleticism for center field but too little offensive ability to sustain a corner-outfield role. The Marlins’ assignments appeared to indicate a lack of enthusiasm, as well: after passing all of the 2016 and -17 seasons at Double-A, Dean began the present campaign there, as well.

In this case, however, Dean quickly earned a promotion, producing a strikeout rate and isolated-power mark that still rank second and sixth, respectively, among the 97 total Southern League batters to record at least 80 plate appearances. The early returns at Triple-A have been promising for a player in his first exposure to a new level. In particular, Dean’s contact skills have translated well: among batters with 50 or more plate appearances, Dean’s strikeout and swinging-strike rates place in the 91st and 97th percentile. Meanwhile, he’s produced roughly league-average power numbers. While the offensive burden of a corner-outfield role remains high, Dean could probably survive with slightly less power on contact than most given his bat-to-ball skills.

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The Fringe Five: Baseball’s Most Compelling Fringe Prospects

Fringe Five Scoreboards: 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013.

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 among the Five) is any rookie-eligible player at High-A or above who (a) was omitted from the preseason prospect lists produced by Baseball Prospectus, MLB.com, John Sickels, and (most importantly) FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel* and also who (b) is currently absent from a major-league roster. Players appearing on any updated, midseason-type list will also be excluded from eligibility.

*Note: I’ve excluded Baseball America’s list this year not due to any complaints with their coverage, but simply because said list is now behind a paywall.

For those interested in learning how Fringe Five players have fared at the major-league level, this somewhat recent post offers that kind of information. The short answer: better than a reasonable person would have have expected. In the final analysis, though, the basic idea here is to recognize those prospects who are perhaps receiving less notoriety than their talents or performance might otherwise warrant.

*****

Jalen Beeks, LHP, Boston (Profile)
Beeks is here because his body of work over the first month of the season is impossible to ignore. In six starts for Triple-A Pawtucket, the left-hander has recorded strikeout and walk rates of 40.9% and 6.3%, respectively, the former of those representing the highest mark among all qualified minor-league pitchers. He’s basically the Josh Hader or Andrew Miller of the International League, except in a starting capacity.

One reason Beeks is unlikely to replicate that sort of performance in the majors is because no one has every replicated that sort of performance in the majors. Another, though, is because Beeks — for all his strikeouts — doesn’t actually possess much in the way of swing-and-miss stuff. Consider, for example, all six of the strikeouts from his most recent appearance (box):

All but one of Beeks’ strikeouts was recorded by means of a rather ordinary fastball; the sixth, a short breaking ball on a called third strike. Nor does this pattern appear to be anomalous. An examination of Beeks’ last three starts seems to reveal an inordinately high ratio of strikeouts by way of the fastball and/or the called third strike. And while, as noted, he has the top strikeout rate among all minor-league qualifiers, his swinging-strike rate ranks 61st among that same population. Of course, this doesn’t render his present achievement any less remarkable. It merely suggests that it’s unlikely to translate directly to the majors.

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The Fringe Five: Baseball’s Most Compelling Fringe Prospects

Fringe Five Scoreboards: 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013.

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 among the Five) is any rookie-eligible player at High-A or above who (a) was omitted from the preseason prospect lists produced by Baseball Prospectus, MLB.com, John Sickels, and (most importantly) FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel* and also who (b) is currently absent from a major-league roster. Players appearing on any updated, midseason-type list will also be excluded from eligibility.

*Note: I’ve excluded Baseball America’s list this year not due to any complaints with their coverage, but simply because said list is now behind a paywall.

For those interested in learning how Fringe Five players have fared at the major-league level, this somewhat recent post offers that kind of information. The short answer: better than a reasonable person would have have expected. In the final analysis, though, the basic idea here is to recognize those prospects who are perhaps receiving less notoriety than their talents or performance might otherwise warrant.

*****

Austin Davidson, 2B, Washington (Profile)
For some time, Davidson has been among that class of players perpetually in contention for a place among the Five. He earned a couple of appearances here back in 2016 on the strength of some impressive batting indicators and, it seemed, sufficient defensive skill to remain on the infield. He was absent all last year, though — not because his profile changed (it didn’t) but because his own organization seemed reluctant to advance him through the system. Indeed, Davidson passed the entirety of his 2017 campaign as a 24-year-old in the Carolina League. That is not typically line item found on the resumes of major leaguers.

In an even less inspiring development, Davidson opened this year at High-A Potomac, as well. An impressive start to the season, however, earned him a promotion to Double-A, where he has recorded walk and strikeout rates of 13.9% and 16.7%, respectively, while producing a .290 isolated-power mark — or more than double the league average of .128.

Here’s what a home run by Davidson looks like on a dreary day in Trenton and also you got seats just to the third-base side of home plate:

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The Fringe Five: Baseball’s Most Compelling Fringe Prospects

Fringe Five Scoreboards: 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013.

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 among the Five) is any rookie-eligible player at High-A or above who (a) was omitted from the preseason prospect lists produced by Baseball Prospectus, MLB.com, John Sickels, and (most importantly) FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel* and also who (b) is currently absent from a major-league roster. Players appearing on any updated, midseason-type list will also be excluded from eligibility.

*Note: I’ve excluded Baseball America’s list this year not due to any complaints with their coverage, but simply because said list is now behind a paywall.

For those interested in learning how Fringe Five players have fared at the major-league level, this recent post offers that kind of information. The short answer: better than a reasonable person would have have expected. In the final analysis, though, the basic idea here is to recognize those prospects who are perhaps receiving less notoriety than their talents or performance might otherwise warrant.

*****

David Fletcher, 2B/SS, Los Angeles AL (Profile)
As noted in last week’s edition of this same column, David Fletcher has only ever once produced an isolated-power figure above .080 in a professional season during which he’s also compiled more than 100 plate appearances. As things currently stand with Triple-A Salt Lake City, however, Fletcher could fail to record an extra-base hit in any of his next 106 at-bats and he’d still post something slightly better than an .080 ISO.*

*As of Thursday afternoon, at least. Fletcher actually added a stupid double and stupid homer last night, meaning his extra-base drought could extend even longer.

Incredibly, Fletcher has produced these unprecedented power numbers while also striking out at a much lower rate than usual. Which, actually, that’s not entirely accurate: Fletcher isn’t just striking out less often, he’s striking out almost never. In 86 plate appearances entering yesterday, he’d recorded just one strikeout, a figure in close proximity to — some would say the closest proximity to — zero strikeouts.

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The Fringe Five: Baseball’s Most Compelling Fringe Prospects

Fringe Five Scoreboards: 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013.

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 among the Five) is any rookie-eligible player at High-A or above who (a) was omitted from the preseason prospect lists produced by Baseball Prospectus, MLB.com, John Sickels, and (most importantly) FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel* and also who (b) is currently absent from a major-league roster. Players appearing on any updated, midseason-type list will also be excluded from eligibility.

*Note: I’ve excluded Baseball America’s list this year not due to any complaints with their coverage, but simply because said list is now behind a paywall.

For those interested in learning how Fringe Five players have fared at the major-league level, this recent post offers that kind of information. The short answer: better than a reasonable person would have have expected. In the final analysis, though, the basic idea here is to recognize those prospects who are perhaps receiving less notoriety than their talents or performance might otherwise warrant.

*****

JT Brubaker, RHP, Pittsburgh (Profile)
After twice appearing among the Next Five portion of this weekly exercise last year, Brubaker returned to that space in last week’s dispatch, as well. That was on the strength of his first two starts, during which he struck out 13 of 45 batters faced (or just under 30%). Brubaker was even better this past Wednesday, recording a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 8:1 against 23 batters while facing Cleveland’s Double-A affiliate (box).

Nor is Brubaker well acquitted merely by the numbers. The 24-year-old right-hander sat at 93-97 mph with his fastball during the Fall League, according to lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen, who also suggests that Brubaker possesses “late-blooming traits.”

Brubaker appeared to throw two different breaking pitches against Akron, first this shorter-breaking (and typically less effective) slider/cutter type pitch…

… and then a more vertically oriented pitch with which he got multiple whiffs below the zone (like the two featured here):

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The Fringe Five: Baseball’s Most Compelling Fringe Prospects

Fringe Five Scoreboards: 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013.

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 among the Five) is any rookie-eligible player at High-A or above who (a) was omitted from the preseason prospect lists produced by Baseball Prospectus, MLB.com, John Sickels, and (most importantly) FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel* and also who (b) is currently absent from a major-league roster. Players appearing on any updated, midseason-type list will also be excluded from eligibility.

*Note: I’ve excluded Baseball America’s list this year not due to any complaints with their coverage, but simply because said list is now behind a paywall.

For those interested in learning how Fringe Five players have fared at the major-league level, this recent post offers that kind of information. The short answer: better than a reasonable person would have have expected. In the final analysis, though, the basic idea here is to recognize those prospects who are perhaps receiving less notoriety than their talents or performance might otherwise warrant.

*****
Sandy Baez, RHP, Detroit (Profile)
The right-handed Baez appeared among the Five on a couple of occasions last year. Signed for just $49,000 out of the Dominican in 2011, Baez features arm speed atypical of such modest pedigree.

Nor is he necessarily what colleague Eric Longenhagen would characterize as an “arm-strength lottery ticket”: Baez exhibited sufficient polish last season to record one of the better strikeout- and walk-rate differentials at High-A last season. He then struck out nearly a third of the batters he faced in a late-season two-start stay with Double-A Erie.

Baez was assigned to the Eastern League to begin the 2018 season, as well, and was excellent in his debut against Reading, striking out 10 of 17 batters faced while walking just one (box). A second start — in this case, against Bowie (box) — was more modest (20 TBF, 3 K, 1 BB), but the overall result after a week is strong.

Here’s a sequence from Baez’s first start, featuring a breaking ball, a slightly more impressive breaking ball, and then a high fastball for the strikeout:

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