The Fringe Five: Baseball’s Most Compelling Fringe Prospects

Two notes regarding his edition of the Five. Firstly, on account of the bulk of it was composed hastily and at a hotel room, no video footage has been included. Secondly, the author has also included Jonathan May’s top-100 list for MLB.com as one of those which determines eligibility for the Five. The reason, mostly: Mayo included Mets shortstop prospect Gavin Cecchini among this top-100 prospects. Given his first-round pedigree and rapid ascent through the minors, Cecchini really oughtn’t be eligible for this weekly exercise. Mayo’s list precludes him from eligibility.

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 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, MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo, 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.

*****

Chance Adams, RHP, New York AL (Profile)
Adams appeared among the Next Five last week on the strength both of strong fielding-independeng numbers and promising reports. Since then, he’s actually improved his credentials for inclusion here. First, facing Pirates affiliate Bradenton last Friday, the 21-year-old right-hander recorded a 10:0 strikeout-to-walk ratio against just 17 batters over 5.0 no-hit innings. Then, in the middle of this past week, he earned a promotion to Double-A Trenton, where he debuted on Thursday. The results of that start (5.1 IP, 3 K, 1 BB) were more modest, but still indicate that Adams is unlikely to be overwhelmed by the level.

Selected by the Yankees out of Dallas Baptist University in the fifth round of the 2015 draft, Adams has worked mostly in a relief capacity in recent years — both as a collegiate and also in the Yankees system. He’s made all 12 of his appearances this season as a starter, however, and has flourished in the role, recording the best strikeout- and walk-rate differential among over 200 qualified pitchers at the High-A level. Nor is that the product merely of a polished college player facing inferior competition: Adams features plus arm speed, sitting at 92-95 mph, for example, during a recent appearance observed by 2080’s James Chipman.

Greg Allen, CF, Cleveland (Profile)
This represents Allen’s fourth straight week among the Five proper, dating back to May 27th. Up till that point, Allen had exhibited a collection of encouraging traits: better-than-average contact skills, selectivity at the plate, excellent speed-related numbers — all of which, paired with center-field defense and promising scouting reports, conspired to produce a strong profile. In the meantime, Allen has actually improved upon his statistical indicators in basically every possible way.

Regard:

Greg Allen, Before and Since Appearing Here
Range PA BB% K% ISO Spd
4/07 to 5/26 209 12.0% 13.4% .081 8.4
5/27 to 6/14 75 21.3% 13.3% .189 9.1

Since that first appearance among the Five, the 23-year-old outfielder has walked more often, struck out (very slightly) less often, and created more runs on contact. The outcomes have been promising, too: by StatCorner’s sort of proto-WAR for minor leaguers, Allen has produced the most overall runs (including base-running and positional adjustment) of every Carolina League player except Yoan Moncada, which Cuban émigré received a signing bonus of over $30 million. Allen, meanwhile, signed for a decidedly more modest $200,000 out of San Diego State.

Jharel Cotton, RHP, Los Angeles NL (Profile)
Were one to find him- or herself tasked, for some reason, with identifying certain notable differences between Dodgers prospect Jharel Cotton and 17th century Puritan minister Cotton Mather — it seems as though such a task wouldn’t actually represent much of a challenge. While the former is a living person, for example, the latter is a dead one. This is an important distinction to make in any matter. Moreover, while the record suggests that Jharel Cotton is a professional ballplayer, Cotton Mather seems to have passed much of his time by way of aggrieving mentally ill women in the greater Salem area. Among the most striking difference between the two, however, is this: while Mather was well known, Cotton remains largely obscure. And yet everything about Cotton suggests he oughtn’t be: the numbers, the above-average fastball velocity, the plus changeup. All of that. He recorded one start since appearing among the Five last week. The result: a 7:2 strikeout-to-walk ratio against 26 batters over 7.0 innings. Strong, in other words.

Sherman Johnson, 2B/3B, Los Angeles AL (Profile)
Last night, at home against Mariners affiliate Tacoma, Sherman Johnson reached base three times in five plate appearances. The night before that, also against Tacoma, Sherman Johnson reached base three times. Also in five plate appearances, again. Since last week’s edition of the Five, Sherman Johnson has recorded 31 plate appearances. The data suggest he’s reached base on 14 occasions. It’s improbable that Sherman Johnson would describe getting on base as his devoir, which term Marcel Proust employs to denote something like one’s cosmis obligation to obey oneself. It’s improbable that Johnson would use that particular word, but not impossible. One should never the improbable with the impossible. In any case, what’s neither impossible nor improbable is that Sherman Johnson has adjusted well to Triple-A pitching. Over the last month, an interval which includes more than 100 plate appearances, Johnson has recorded a strikeout rate just below 12%.

Aaron Wilkerson, RHP, Boston (Profile)
By virtue of his appearance among the Five this week, Wilkerson assumes fourth place on the arbitrarily calculated Scoreboard one finds below. Among the players on same, Wilkerson’s presence is the least probable. To recapitulate what has been capitulated before: Wilkerson’s the product of an NAIA school, has endured Tommy John surgery and the attendant recovery, and is an alumnus of no fewer than three different independent leagues. This season, though, he’s already produced one of the top strikeout- and walk-rate figures in all of Double-A. Following a promotion to Triple-A Pawtucket, he’s actually improved upon that mark. His most recent start resembled his previous ones, so far as “quality” is concerned. Facing Reds affiliate Louisville, Wilkerson recorded a 7:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio against 22 batters over 6.0 innings.

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

Adam Frazier, OF, Pittsburgh (Triple-A International League)
Daniel Gossett, RHP, Oakland (Double-A Texas League)
Zack Granite, OF, Minnesota (Double-A Southern League)
Yohander Mendez, LHP, Texas (Double-A Texas League)
Ildemaro Vargas, SS, Arizona (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 11 0 33
2 Greg Allen Indians CF 4 2 14
3 Jharel Cotton Dodgers RHP 4 2 14
4 Aaron Wilkerson Red Sox RHP 4 1 13
5 Jaime Schultz Rays RHP 3 2 11
6 Tim Locastro Dodgers 2B/SS 3 2 11
7 Joan Gregorio Giants RHP 3 1 10
8 Yandy Diaz Indians 3B 2 2 8
9 Chih-Wei Hu Rays RHP 2 1 7
10 Edison Frias Astros RHP 2 1 7
11 Ildemaro Vargas D-backs SS 2 1 7





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

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Domingo Ayala
6 years ago

Joe Jimenez!

Jake13r
6 years ago
Reply to  Domingo Ayala

He’s not really a fringe prospect though, he might be the best relief prospect in all of baseball