The Fringe Five is a weekly exercise (introduced in April) wherein the author utilizes regressed stats, scouting reports, and also his own heart to identify and/or continue monitoring the most compelling fringe prospects in all of baseball.
Central to this exercise, of course, is a definition of the word fringe. The author recognizes that the word has different connotations for different sorts of readers. For the purposes of this column, however — and for reasons discussed more thoroughly in a recent edition of the Five — the author has considered eligible for the Five any prospect who was absent from all of three notable preseason top-100 prospect lists.
That said, it should also be noted that in cases where the collective enthusiasm regarding a player’s talent becomes very fevered — like how the enthusiasm collectively right now for Philadelphia third-base prospect Maikel Franco is very fevered, for example — that will likely affect said player’s likelihood of appearing among the Five, given that the purpose of the series, at some level, is to identify prospects who are demonstrating promise above what one might expect given their current reputations within the prospect community.
With that said, here are this week’s Fringe Five:
Mookie Betts, 2B, Boston (Profile)
If Mookie Betts were literally on fire, that would both (a) be terrible and (b) require the immediate attention of emergency services. Fortunately — for all of us, for Betts himself — he’s just figuratively on fire. By way of illustration, consider: in 28 plate appearances since last week’s edition of the Five, Betts has recorded two home runs, a 6:2 walk-to-strikeout ratio, and six stolen bases on as many attempts. Overall, Betts has posted walk and strikeout rates of 10.6% and 11.4%, respectively, four home runs, and a 100% success rate on his 15 stolen-base attempts over 32 games and 132 plate appearances — this, from what appears to the 11th-youngest player in the High-A Carolina league.
Eddie Butler, RHP, Colorado (Profile)
One would be excused, based on Butler’s performance in the Futures Game last month, for assuming that the right-hander had recorded a strikeout rate in the minor leagues of either 100% or pretty close to 100%. In fact, that appears not to be the case, at all, despite a fastball that sits in the mid-90s and excellent changeup. Butler struck out actually fewer than a quarter of batters faced through High-A. Following a recent promotion to Double-A, however, the 22-year-old seems intent on addressing this situation. Through two starts with Tulsa now, Butler has recorded a 12:0 strikeout-to-walk ratio against just 34 batters in 10.0 innings.
Here’s footage of Butler’s changeup from his Double-A debut — in this case, against catcher Mitch Canham of Kansas City affiliate Northwest Arkansas:
Edwin Escobar, LHP, San Francisco (Profile)
Owing to family obligations, the present author was unable to attend Escobar’s most recent start a mere 15 minutes away in Manchester, NH, against Toronto affiliate the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. A compelling argument against filial piety, that. Escobar’s defense-independent performance in that game (4.0 IP, 20 TBF, 4 K, 1 BB) was entirely fine. It’s illustrative of Escobar’s record thus far with Richmond, however, that the author would have considered his New Hampshire appearance a disappointment. Over six starts now, the 21-year-old left-hander has recorded strikeout and walk rates of 25.7% and 4.3%, respectively, in 35.0 innings — this, after pitching excellently in the California League to begin the season.
Stephen Piscotty, OF, St. Louis (Profile)
Tuesday, whilst examining in some depth a pair of San Francisco prospects, the author took the (likely inadvisable) liberty of attempting to identify player-seasons from the last 10 years that might most resemble Future Joe Panik’s major-league line. Today (Wednesday), the author proposes to perform a similar (and equally irresponsible) exercise with Piscotty. Regarding the outfielder, who has generally been young relative to his levels, one finds that he’s recorded (a) minor-league walk rates in the range of 7-10%, (b) strikeout rates of ca. 9% to 11%, and (c) isolated power figures of about .140 to .190.
What follows is a table of all the major-league batters (sorted by wRC+) from the past five years who’ve produced numbers within the ranges noted above:
|Dustin Pedroia||Red Sox||2012||623||7.7%||9.6%||.290||.347||.449||.160||.300||113||11.7||4.3||4.1|
|Average||– – –||– – –||556||8.3%||9.9%||.284||.351||.444||.160||.294||114||2.7||3.1||3.3|
As in that Tuesday post, the defensive figure here (Def) isn’t merely UZR, but also includes WAR’s positional adjustment. For a right-fielder, that’s -7.5 runs over the course of a season. For a third baseman (i.e. Piscotty’s original position), it’s +2.5 runs. It wouldn’t be surprising to find that Piscotty, posts a true-talent defensive figure of something like -5 runs — or something like what Norichika Aoki and Shane Victorino recorded in 2012 and -09, respectively.
Marcus Semien, MI, Chicago AL (Profile)
The list of players younger than Semien in the Triple-A International League is rather a short one, and is populated largely by players (Xander Bogaerts, Nick Castellanos, Jameson Taillon) whose names have appeared on top-prospect lists for multiple years now. Since his promotion to that level/league at the beginning of August, Semien has recorded defense-indepedent marks (54 PA, 2 HR, 5 BB, 9 K) that suggest slightly above-average production, according to SCOUT, the author’s likely flawed and poorly regressed metric. After making numerous starts at second, third, and short with Double-A Birmingham, Semien has played shortstop exclusively with Charlotte now.
The Next Five
These are players on whom the author might potentially become fixated.
Ryan Brett, 2B, Tampa Bay (Double-A Southern League)
Ji-Man Choi, 1B, Seattle (Double-A Southern League)
C.J. Edwards, RHP, Chicago NL (High-A Florida State League)
Mike O’Neill, OF, St. Louis (Triple-A Pacific Coast League)
Juan Oramas, LHP, San Diego (Double-A Texas League)
Fringe Five Scoreboard
Here are all 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.
|Marcus Semien||White Sox||SS||10||6||36|
|Mookie Betts||Red Sox||2B||3||1||10|
|Juan Oramas||San Diego||LHP||0||2||2|
|Garin Cecchini||Red Sox||3B||0||1||1|
Carson Cistulli has published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.