The Fringe Five: Baseball’s Most Compelling Fringe Prospects

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 in the Five) is any rookie-eligible player at High-A or above who (a) received a future value grade of 45 or less from lead prospect analyst Dan Farnsworth during the course of his organizational lists and who (b) was omitted from the preseason prospect lists produced by Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, and John Sickels, and also who (c) is currently absent from a major-league roster. Players appearing on an updated prospect list 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.

*****

Joan Gregorio, RHP, San Francisco (Profile)
The right-handed Gregorio is listed at 6-foot-7 and 180 pounds at FanGraphs and Baseball Reference and MiLB.com and a number of other notable reference sites. It’s almost certain that those dimensions have been accurate. In the past, that is. The latter figure is much closer to 250 now, however, according to a recent piece by Tim Pearrell of the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Whatever the precise effects of his added mass, Gregorio has nevertheless produced an impressive start to his 2016 campaign, recording a strikeout- and walk-rate differential of 27.2 points — i.e. the best such figure among all qualified Double-A pitchers, ahead of Edwin Diaz and Joe Musgrove and Josh Hader and David Paulino and other names one might find closer to the top of prospect lists. Not only does the 24-year-old possess above-average arm speed — sitting at 92-94 mph in a starting role, according to Baseball America — but he almost certainly benefits from added perceived velocity by virtue of his high height and long length.

Here’s choppy, poorly captured footage from his most recent start of Gregorio exhibiting both his slider and fastball, recording velocities of 94 and 95 mph with the latter pitch:

Sherman Johnson, 2B/3B, Los Angeles AL (Profile)
Occasionally, a group of strangers — with a view to becoming more well acquainted with each other — will participate in a game called Two Truths and a Lie. As part of this game, each member shares with the rest of the group (in no particular order) two statements that are true and a third that isn’t. It’s then the group’s task to identify which of the aforementioned statements is a fabrication. For example, the present author might say something like, “My name is Carson Cistulli, I’m 35 years old, and my life is a waking nightmare.” Immediately, one would note that the author is actually 36 years old. “Too easy!” he or she would likely add, laughing the way people laugh. In any case, with regard to Sherman Johnson, one can play a slightly different game — in this case, called One Truth and a Lie. Because, regard: it’s both true and false to say that Sherman Johnson is the top hitter among all qualified Texas League batters. On the one hand, it’s true: Johnson’s name appears at the top of the Texas League batting leaderboard. On the other hand, it’s false: Johnson no longer belongs to a Texas League club. Since last week’s edition of the Five, he’s been promoted to Triple-A Salt Lake. He remains the talisman of this weekly column.

Tim Locastro, 2B/SS, Los Angeles NL (Profile)
Locastro made his first appearance among the Five last July, shortly after having been traded by the Blue Jays to the Dodgers — which transaction also led to his debut at High-A, thus rendering him eligible for consideration here. Here were Locastro’s credentials at that time: he’d carried a strikeout rate below 10%, exhibited at least average power on contact, posted impressive base-running numbers, and recorded the majority of his defensive starts at either second base or shortstop. A month through the 2016 season, here are some statements one might employ to characterize the 23-year-old now: he’s got a strikeout rate below 10%, is exhibiting at least average power on contact, is posting impressive base-running numbers, and has recorded the majority of his starts at either second base or shortstop. He’s been particularly impressive of late. Regard: in 28 plate appearances from April 28 through May 3, Locastro recorded a 5:1 walk-to-strikeout ratio and five extra-base hits, including a home run. None of which is to recognize how he was drafted out of Division III Ithaca College.

In conclusion, here’s a live stream overlooking Locastro’s alma mater:

Cam Perkins, COF, Philadelphia (Profile)
Perkins is an anomaly among the players who generally appear within this weekly exercise, in that he occupies a spot towards the less valuable end of the defensive spectrum. The offensive production required of a major-league first baseman or corner outfielder is substantial, and most age-appropriate minor leaguers who possess that sort of offensive potential tend also to appear at the top of prospect lists. While he’s recorded four starts in center field this year for Triple-A Lehigh Valley, Perkins has also made 11 other starts in either left or right — and his track record leads one to expect more of the latter than the former. What else he’s done, however, is to record unusually strong contact numbers relative to his power. As of Thursday, International League batters had produced on average a 20.6% strikeout rate and .108 isolated-power figure. For Perkins, those marks were 7.9% and .167, respectively. One assumes also that, at 6-foot-5 and 195 pounds, Perkins’ possesses greater potential for power than most.

Here he is exhibiting the exact right amount of power during a game this past April:

Jaime Schultz, RHP, Tampa Bay (Profile)
This represents Schultz’s second appearance in as many weeks among the Five proper. The 24-year-old was featured here last week on the strength of what seemed to be improved command — to complement his already considerable arm speed, that is. Why Schultz is featured here now is because he continued, this past week, to exhibit those same improvements wherein command is concerned. Starting for Triple-A Durham against Reds affiliate Louisville, the right-hander produced a 6:2 strikeout-to-walk ratio against 21 batters over 6.0 innings, conceding just two hits and no runs (box). At some level, the inclusion of Schultz feels like cheating. For a couple years, the prevailing sentiment regarding him has been, “If his command improves, he’ll be effective.” Now — for a month, at least — his command has improved. And he’s been effective.

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

Bubby Derby, RHP, Milwaukee (High-A Florida State League)
Yandy Diaz, 3B, Cleveland (Double-A Eastern League)
Adam Frazier, SS/OF, Pittsburg (Triple-A International League)
Chih-Wei Hu, RHP, Tampa Bay (Double-A Southern League)
Chesny Young, 2B, Chicago NL (Double-A Southern 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 (which is to say, today). 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.

Fringe Five Scoreboard, 2016
Name Team POS FF NF PTS
1 Sherman Johnson Angels 2B/3B 5 0 15
2 Tim Locastro Dodgers 2B/SS 2 2 8
3 Aaron Wilkerson Red Sox RHP 2 1 7
Edison Frias Astros RHP 2 1 7
5 Ildemaro Vargas D-backs SS 2 0 6
Jaime Schultz Rays RHP 2 0 6
7 Willians Astudillo Braves C 1 2 5
8 Adam Frazier Pirates SS/CF 1 1 4
Chesny Young Cubs 2B 1 1 4
Chih-Wei Hu Rays RHP 1 1 4
Jharel Cotton Dodgers RHP 1 1 4
Junior Guerra Brewers RHP 1 1 4





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

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dl80
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dl80

Is a “Bubby Derby” a race between Jewish grandmothers?

baltic wolf
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baltic wolf

No, it’s a race between two rednecks from the Deep South, lol, presumably involving an urgent need for fried pork rinds or making the tailgate party before an SEC football game.

baltic wolf
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baltic wolf

In case you’re wondering why I made this silly joke, in Dan Farnsworth’s piece about the Milwaukee Brewers prospects he apparently lists his name incorrectly as Bubba Derby.

Bootjosh
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Bootjosh

Bubba is actually correct (though his actual name is Bowdien and Bubba is just a nickname)