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
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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