Archive for Fringe Five

2018 Fringe Five: Summary and Results and Discussion

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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.

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 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.

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 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.

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 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:

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 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.

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 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:

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 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:

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.

*****

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:

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)
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 »