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.

*****

Zack Granite, OF, Minnesota (Profile)
There are real indications that Granite is an asset in the field. Per the methodology employed by Baseball Prospectus, for example, he’s saved roughly seven runs defensively this season after recording a 12-run mark in 2015 — in both cases with a positional adjustment right around zero. Per Clay Davenport’s model, meanwhile, Granite has saved 10 runs in center this year — over roughly a half-season’s worth of games. Those minor-league fielding metrics are supported by other signs that Granite both has excellent speed and uses it well. Like how he’s recorded the fourth-most stolen-base runs in all of Double-A, for example. And like how’s produced the third-highest speed score among the 150 qualified batters across that same level.

Nor does this acknowledge Granite’s promise as a hitter, which he continued to exhibit this past week. Regard: in 29 plate appearances since the last edition of the Five, the 23-year-old struck out just once while also drawing two walks and hitting three triples. He continues to possess one of the very lowest strikeout rates across all Double-A.

Here’s footage from one of Granite’s recent triples:

Dinelson Lamet, RHP, San Diego (Profile)
The circumstances of Lamet’s signing were a bit unorthodox. Unlike most top international prospects, who sign as teenagers, Lamet didn’t receive a contract with a major-league organization until about a month before his 22nd birthday, signing with the Padres out of the Dominican for $100,000 at the end of the 2013-14 free-agency window. Lamet began the following year in the Low-A Midwest League and experienced success almost immediately, exhibiting both plus velocity and the capacity to miss bats.

He’s been particularly excellent of late, recording no fewer than seven strikeouts in each of his last five starts for Double-A San Antonio, producing strikeout and walk rates of 37.6% and 6.4%, respectively, in 27.0 innings over that interval. As for the repertoire, it remains encouraging, including a fastball that sat at 92-94 mph for Baseball America’s Kyle Glaser in May — a start during which Lamet appears to have paired an improving changeup with his already useful slider.

Here’s a footage of that slider from Lamet’s most recent start, if one were to have viewed that start through some manner of funhouse mirror:

German Marquez, RHP, Colorado (Profile)
“Who, precisely, is German Marquez?” appears to be a question to which the author should have known the answer before this week — because, for example, the most immediate answer is “a 21-year-old right-hander who’s struck out nearly 30% of the batters he’s faced over his first two Triple-A starts.” Young pitchers who dominate older competition in menacing run environments — these are instantly notable sorts of pitchers.

Here are some other relevant answers to the question of German Marquez’s identity:

  • A former international free agent signed by Tampa Bay out of Venezuela in 2011 for $225,000.
  • Part of the compensation received by Colorado from the Rays in exchange for Corey Dickerson.
  • The owner of a fastball that “touch[es] 98 mph” and also a “plus curveball.”
  • The 79th-best prospect according to one version of Chris Mitchell’s newest iteration of KATOH.
  • Not German. Seemingly not even a little bit.

Max Schrock, 2B, Washington (Profile)
This represents Schrock’s fifth appearance among the Five proper, moving him up to sixth place on the arbitrarily calculated Scoreboard that appears at the bottom of this post. Regarding the precise implications of that achievement — this will ultimately be for posterity to decide, if and when posterity finds itself with almost nothing else to do. What’s notable about it for the moment, however, is that Schrock has only been eligible for the Five since the end of June, when he was promoted to High-A Potomac.

Schrock’s numbers over the past week weren’t particularly impressive on the surface. In 35 plate appearances, he produced a line of .250/.314/.406 — not substantively different, that, than the Carolina League average of .258/.333/.385. Schrock did it while striking out just twice, however — or in less than 6% of his plate appearances — and adding two doubles and a home run (recording a .156 ISO). This combination of elite contact skill and average-or-better power continues to define Schrock’s minor-league career.

Jaime Schultz, RHP, Tampa Bay (Profile)
While certain players have appeared among the Five more often than reason might dictate — owing to some manner of intoxicating power they exert over the author’s spiritual intellect — the case is quite the opposite for Schultz: he appears here almost against the author’s will. Indeed, there is a pretty solid argument to be made for the improbability of Schutlz’s success — or, at least his success as a starter — in the majors. Like the systematic lack of command he’s exhibited at basically every level, for example. And also like how the Rays have neglected to promote him even once despite the fact that he’s a 25-year-old who’s now recorded over 250 pretty strong innings between Double- and Triple-A.

But here one finds Schultz, nevertheless — in this case, on the strength (generally) of the arm speed he continues to possess and (specifically) of his two most recent starts. Which, here are the three most relevant figures from those starts:

  • Innings: 13.2
  • Batters: 53
  • Strikeouts: 21

For those without a calculator at hand, what one finds here is about a 40% strikeout rate for Schultz. The 9% walk rate that accompanies it also represents a strong mark in the context of Schultz’s pitching oeuvre.

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

Dawel Lugo, 3B/SS, Arizona (Double-A Southern League)
Nathan Orf, 2B/3B, Milwaukee (Triple-A Pacific Coast League)
Fernando Romero, RHP, Minnesota (High-A Florida State League)
Ildemaro Vargas, 2B/SS, Arizona (Triple-A Pacific Coast League)
Brandon Woodruff, RHP, Milwaukee (Double-A Southern League)

Fringe Five Scoreboard
Here is the top-10 list of players who 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 8 6 30
3 Ildemaro Vargas D-backs 2B/SS 6 3 21
Jharel Cotton LAN/OAK RHP 5 6 21
5 Aaron Wilkerson BOS/MIL RHP 5 2 17
6 Max Schrock Nationals 2B 5 1 16
7 Tim Locastro Dodgers SS 4 3 15
Yandy Diaz Indians 3B/OF 4 3 15
9 Jaime Schultz Rays RHP 4 2 14
10 Chad Green Yankees RHP 4 1 13





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

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Pretty Tony
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Pretty Tony

Former Fringe Fiver Matt Boyd pitching real well lately