The Fringe Five: Baseball’s Most Compelling Fringe Prospects

The Fringe Five is a weekly regular-season exercise, introduced a couple 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 both (a) absent from the most current iteration of Kiley McDaniel’s top-200 prospect list and (b) not currently playing in the majors. Players appearing on any of McDaniel’s updated prospect lists 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.

*****

Jharel Cotton, RHP, Los Angeles NL (Profile)
This represents Cotton’s third appearance among the Five proper this year — nor does it likely represent his last. After producing excellent fielding-independent numbers during brief intervals both at Class-A and High-A, the 23-year-old has mostly replicated those figures with Double-A Tulsa. Over six starts and 37.2 innings, Cotton has recorded strikeout and walk rates of 28.7% and 5.6%, respectively. Among the six Double-A pitchers who’ve both (a) recorded 30-plus innings and also (b) posted a better strikeout- and walk-rate differential than Cotton, one finds:

  • The Dodgers’ Julio Urias, a consensus top-10 prospect; and
  • the Pirates’ Tyler Glasnow, more or less a consensus top-20 prospect; and
  • the Yankees’ Luis Severino, more or less a consensus top-50 prospect; and
  • the Rays’ Jacob Faria, who also appears on this list; and
  • two 27-year-olds.

Cotton’s most recent start for Tulsa was also his most impressive for that club: over 7.0 innings and 23 batters against Royals affilliate Northwest Arkansas, he produced a 10:0 strikeout-to-walk ratio (box).

Rookie Davis, RHP, New York AL (Profile)
This represents Davis’s fourth appearance this season among the Five proper, now tying him for seventh on the arbitrarily calculated Fringe Five Scoreboard one finds at the bottom of this post. In his only start since last week’s edition of this same exercise — within which he was also included — Davis recorded a 9:0 strikeout-to-walk ratio against 27 batters over 8.0 innings (box). He continues to possess the top strikeout- and walk-rate differential among all qualifiers at High-A.

Broadcast footage of Davis from this season remains unavailable. What it would probably resemble, however, is the following footage of Davis recording a strikeout last season by means of a fastball thrown probably at 95 mph — i.e. generally the velocity of Davis’s fastball:

Jacob Faria, RHP, Tampa Bay (Profile)
Occasionally, it’s a player’s worst and not his best performances which most successfully illustrate his virtues. Consider the case of right-handed Tampa Bay prospect Jacob Faria. His most recent start, this past Monday against Twins affiliate Chattanooga, currently stands as the worst of his five Double-A starts wherein single-game strikeout rate is concerned. That said, his single-game mark of 21.4% against that same Chattanooga club represents a figure more than two percentage points higher than the Southern League average for all pitchers. In other words, en route to producing his least dominant line following a late-June promotion to Montgomery, Faria nevertheless produced an above-average figure relative to his peers. Meanwhile, in his other four starts, he’s recorded 36 strikeouts against 93 opposing batters — a rate of roughly 39%.

Max Kepler, OF, Minnesota (Profile)
Kepler first appeared among the Five on June 17 of this year — largely on the strength, that appearance, of his excellent plate-discipline figures. Over 227 plate appearances up to (and also including) that date, Kepler produced walk and strikeout rates of 9.3% and 12.3%, respectively. Notably, he’s actually improved upon those numbers since his debut here. Regard: in the 97 plate appearances since then, Kepler has recorded walk and strikeout rates of 16.5% and 15.5%, respectively — while also accumulating an isolated-figure mark (.163) substantially higher than the Southern League average (.116). Another positive trend for Kepler: he’s more or less split his time between center and right fields since then after having recorded a number of his starts at first base previous to that while recovering from elbow troubles.

Here’s footage of Kepler from one of the aforementioned outfield appearances, performing a diving catch to end a late-June game:

Tim Locastro, 2B/SS, Los Angeles NL (Profile)
Locastro is a product of Ithaca College, a school more well known for being nestled among the gorges of the eponymous town than for its baseball program. Indeed, one finds that former attendees of Ithaca have recorded just 3,508 major-league plate appearances — for more than 3,400 of which 1970s outfielder Earl Williams alone is responsible. Nevertheless, Locastro exhibited enough as a collegiate for Toronto to select him in the 13th round of the 2013 draft. It’s from those same Blue Jays that Locastro was traded earlier this month to the Dodgers in exchange for international bonus-pool slots. In addition to exhibiting some promise as an infielder, Locastro has demonstrated above-average speed and plate-discipline skills. After a rough beginning to his tenure with High-A Rancho Cucamonga, he’s begun to demonstrate them in the California League, as well: over the last week, for example, he’s produced a 4:3 walk-to-strikeout ratio in 20 plate appearances while also playing shortstop more frequently than he ever did in the Blue Jays system.

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

Matt Boyd, LHP, Toronto (Triple-A International League)
Willson Contreras, C, Chicago NL (Double-A Southern League)
Matthew Strahm, LHP, Kansas City (High-A Carolina League)
Alberto Triunfel, SS, Texas (High-A California League)
Christian Villanueva, 3B, Chicago NL (Triple-A Pacific Coast League)

Fringe Five Scoreboard
Here are the top-10 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
1 Sherman Johnson Angels 2B/3B 7 4 25
2 Jose De Leon* Dodgers RHP 7 1 22
Matt Boyd Blue Jays LHP 6 4 22
4 Ryan Cordell Rangers 3B/OF 5 1 16
5 Gavin Cecchini* Mets SS 3 6 15
Max Kepler Twins OF 4 3 15
7 Junior Guerra White Sox RHP 4 1 13
Rookie Davis Yankees RHP 4 1 13
9 Jharel Cotton Dodgers RHP 3 3 12
10 Austin Barnes* Dodgers C 3 2 11

*Currently ineligible for inclusion among the Five due either to (a) promotion to major leagues, (b) appearance on Kiley McDaniel’s prospect list, or (c) author’s declaration.

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Carson Cistulli has published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.

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Sean
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Sean

Zach Godley completely skipped the fringe 5, didn’t he?