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)
Last week, August Fagerstrom wrote a piece documenting how, in the absence of Michael Brantley, Cleveland’s Jose Ramirez had performed an admirable impression of the injured outfielder. Here’s how he summarized the similarities between the two players:
Brantley never struck out; Ramirez has never struck out. Brantley ran a league-best 92% contact rate; Ramirez this year is 11th, at 88%. Brantley walked enough to turn his elite batting average into an elite on-base percentage; Ramirez has done the same. Brantley suddenly began hitting for more power than folks had expected; Ramirez has 10 dingers.
Now that Ramirez has become Brantley, that leaves the role of Jose Ramirez available to another member of the Cleveland system. The most likely candidate to fill that vacandy? Yandy Diaz. Like Ramirez, he’s always recorded excellent contact rates. Like Ramirez, he’s always recorded above-average walk rates. Like Ramirez, he’s exhibited more power as he’s ascended through the affiliated ranks. And like Ramirez, he’s demonstrated positional flexibility, as well.
This past week has been representative of Diaz at his best. Over 24 plate appearances for Triple-A Columbus, the 25-year-old Cuban has recorded walk and strikeout rates of 8.3% each while also producing a .273 isolated-power figure on the strength of three doubles and home run — this while making starts at third base, left field, and right field.
Corban Joseph, 2B, Baltimore (Profile)
Three of the five most recent posts regarding Corban Joseph at this site have been published by the present author. All the other posts regarding Corban Joseph before those five posts were also — very, very probably — published by the present author. The present post — in part, a celebration of Corban Jospeh — was written by the present author.
In 2012, as a 23-year-old infielder in the International League, Joseph exhibited an unusual combination of contact and power. Following a few years adrift, he’s begun to exhibit that same valuable combination of skills. Regard: in 29 plate appearances since the last edition of this column, Joseph has recorded four walks, just one strikeout, and also three home runs. His strikeout rate this year is fourth best among all Triple-A batters (250 plate appearances or more). And he’s acquitted himself well defensively, too, producing above-average runs-saved marks at second base according to the methodologies used both by Baseball Prospectus and Clay Davenport.
Here’s recent video footage of Joseph which represents probably the first time the reader will have ever watched video footage of Corban Joseph:
Dinelson Lamet, RHP, San Diego (Profile)
This represents Lamet’s second appearance among the Frive proper this season — and second appearance, also, within just the past three weeks. Like most of the pitchers who are featured here, what Lamet had done was to exhibit a combination of arm speed and promising statistical indicators. What he’s done in the meantime is not only to exhibit that combination of arm speed and statistical success — but to exhibit them at a new level. After beginning the season with High-A Lake Elsinore and passing much of the summer with Double-A San Antonio, the 24-year-old right-hander was promoted in the middle of last week to Triple-A El Paso.
Over two starts and 10.2 innings as a member of the Pacific Coast League, Lamet has produced an 18.4-point strikeout- and walk-rate differential (K-BB%), a figure that would represent the second-best mark among all 58 qualified starters across Triple-A. As for the arm speed, that appears to remain roughly the same, as well. Lamet sat roughly 91-93 mph during last night’s start, a range exhibited in these four successive fastballs to Mets minor-leaguer Eric Campbell:
Luis Urias, 2B/SS, San Diego (Profile)
This represents Urias’s third appearance among the Five proper and his first since July, although he’s a perpetual candidate for this weekly column due not only to his profile — which includes youth relative to level, elite contact ability, defensive flexibility — but also for how well that profile has been acquitted by Chris Mitchell’s KATOH projection system, the most recent iteration of which rates Urias as about the 50th-best prospect in the majors. The past week has featured Urias at his best. In 29 plate appearances since last Friday, the Mexican infielder has recorded seven extra bases (three doubles and two triples) and two walks while striking out zero times. Which, it seems necessary to also state that he turned 19 just three months ago.
Brandon Woodruff, RHP, Milwaukee (Profile)
This represents Woodruff’s fourth appearance among the Five proper, which appearance places him now among the top 10 on the abitrarily calculated Scoreboard below — a sentence which, were I to utter it in the presence of my late Italian great-grandparents, who sacrificed nearly everything to immigrate to this country, would cause them to weep all day. “What are these words you’re saying?” they would yell. Except not in English, probably. Because they were poor, is why, and had little access to education of any sort, including language instruction.
None of the author’s personal failings ought to reflect poorly on Brandon Woodruff, however, who struck out 10 of the 26 batters he faced in his most recent start and continues to realize the potential at which his physical tools have always hinted.
The Next Five
These are players on whom the author might potentially become fixated.
Zack Granite, OF, Minnesota (Double-A Southern League)
Domingo Leyba, SS, Arizona (Double-A Southern League)
Max Schrock, 2B, Oakland (Double-A Texas League)
Jordan Stephens, RHP, Chicago AL (High-A Carolina League)
Jesmuel Valentin, 2B, Philadelphia (Triple-A International 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.
Carson Cistulli has published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.