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 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 a midseason 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.

*****

Yandy Diaz, 3B/OF, Cleveland (Profile)
Diaz possesses a number of traits common to many of the prospects who appear in this weekly column. Like above-average contact ability, for example. And like developing power. And like defensive tools that should allow him to produce runs in the field, as well. After exhibiting all those skills at Double-A, he’s continued to exhibit them at Triple-A Columbus, too, after receiving a promotion to that level in mid-May. He exhibited them all even harder this past week, over the course of which he produced a 3:2 walk-to-strikeout ratio and .238 isolated-power mark (on the strength of a triple and home run) in 25 plate appearances.

What else Diaz exhibited this week was an avant-garde approach to the sort of celebration one conducts following a game-winning hit. Indeed, rather than allowing himself to be mobbed by teammates, Diaz instead hoisted the leading member of that mob onto his own shoulder, as the following video footage reveals.

Zack Granite, OF, Minnesota (Profile)
When Chris Mitchell released the first edition of his KATOH projection system, the author’s reaction was to sort the list by future WAR, identify the first unfamiliar name, and accost Mitchell about the significance of that player’s presence near the top of KATOH’s projections. The player in that particular case has justified the work of Mitchell’s computer math: San Diego middle-infield prospect Luis Urias. Just 19 now, Urias has recorded one of the top league-adjusted lines across all High-A — and even acquitted himself well during a temporary assignment to Triple-A El Paso.

Over the last year and a half, Mitchell has provided some updated versions of KATOH, the most recent of which appeared at FanGraphs this past week. Like before, I employed the highly technical method of identifying the least familiar player with the best projection. The result of this newest effort: Twins outfield prospect Zack Granite. Granite actually appeared here about a month ago, among that portion of this weekly column designated as the Next Five — in that case, owing to a combination of excellent contact skills, real production by way of base-running, and strong defensive numbers. He appears here once again for those reasons plus for the endorsement by Mitchell’s prospect alchemy.

Guillermo Heredia, OF, Seattle (Profile)
Heredia has been among the last players “cut,” as it were, from multiple past editions of this weekly column. Signed at the end of February to a $500,000 bonus after defecting from Cuba the previous year, Heredia has been excellent both at Double-A and, over the last month, with Triple-A Tacoma. Praised by the Mariners front office for his speed and defense, he’s also exhibited considerable promise offensively, distinguishing himself as one of merely 13 qualified batters both (a) at High-A or above and (b) younger than 30 to record more walks than strikeouts. The combination of a league-average bat (a level at which his Steamer projection suggests he’s capable of producing) and center-field defense already suggests the presence of a slightly above-average overall profile. A minor shoulder injury seems not to have prevented Heredia’s major-league debut but merely postponed it.

Max Schrock, 2B, Washington (Profile)
The purpose of this entry regarding Max Schrock is not to dwell his credentials for inclusion here — because those are evident. Since his promotion to High-A about a month ago, Schrock has produced a strikeout rate of 9.7% — a figure that would represent only one of three below the 10% threshold among all those recorded by qualified batters. He’s also posted an isolated-power figure (.150) about 25 points greater than league average. He’s also played second base exclusively.

Rather, the main purpose of this entry regarding Max Schrock is for readers to estimate — or, alternatively, not estimate — the launch angle of this home run by Max Schrock last night:

Brandon Woodruff, RHP, Milwaukee (Profile)
Two weeks ago, Woodruff debuted among the Five on the strength of a statistical profile that, for the first tme in his career, reflected the considerable promise of his physical tools. Last week, he appeared here again — in this case, among those players designated as the Next Five — despite, however, not actually having appeared in a game over the previous seven days. This is because his absence from the field was precipitated not by the vagaries of scheduling or injury but rather the horror of reality. This is sufficient grounds for reserving one’s spot in a dumb weekly baseball column.

In any case, the 23-year-old right-hander returned this past Sunday and was excellent against Reds affiliate Pensacola, recording a 9:0 strikeout-to-walk ratio and conceding just a single hit while facing 19 batters over 6.0 innings (box). The most recent publicly available report suggests that Woodruff is touching 98 mph with his fastball.

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

Greg Allen, OF, Cleveland (Double-A Eastern League)
Jharel Cotton, RHP, Los Angeles NL (Triple-A Pacific Coast League)
Sherman Johnson, 2B/3B, Los Angeles AL (Triple-A Pacific Coast League)
Tim Locastro, SS, Los Angeles NL (Double-A Texas League)
Jesmuel Valentin, 2B, Philadelphia (Triple-A International 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 12 5 41
2 Greg Allen Indians OF 6 6 24
3 Aaron Wilkerson BOS/MIL RHP 5 2 17
Jharel Cotton Dodgers RHP 4 5 17
5 Tim Locastro Dodgers SS 4 3 15
Yandy Diaz Indians 3B/OF 4 3 15
7 Ildemaro Vargas D-backs SS 4 2 14
8 Max Schrock Nationals 2B 4 1 13
9 Chad Green Yankees RHP 4 0 12
10 Jaime Schultz Rays RHP 3 2 11

We hoped you liked reading The Fringe Five: Baseball’s Most Compelling Fringe Prospects by Carson Cistulli!

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

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