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.
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