The Fringe Five: Baseball’s Most Compelling Fringe Prospects

Fringe Five Scoreboards: 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013.

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 among the Five) is any rookie-eligible player at High-A or above who (a) was omitted from the preseason prospect lists produced by Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, MLB.com, John Sickels*, and (most importantly) lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen and also who (b) is currently absent from a major-league roster. Players appearing on any updated list — such as the revised top 100 released last week by Baseball America — will also be excluded from eligibility.

*All 200 names!

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.

*****

Jose Miguel Fernandez, 2B, Los Angeles NL (Profile)
Like every player included among this edition of the Five (with the exception of Zack Granite, who has nowhere to go besides the majors), Fernandez received a promotion this week — in this case, from Double- to Triple-A. It was only temporary (he returned to Tulsa yesterday), but not irrelevant. While it’s almost too obvious even to render into print, these promotions serve as votes of confidence from the organizations to which the players belong. That’s relevant to the author’s decision-making insofar as clubs naturally possess much better information about their prospects than a weblogger sitting at a coffee shop in Maine.

Questions persist about Fernandez’s second-base defense. No questions appear to remain about his offensive profile, however. He possesses the lowest strikeout rate in the Texas League among qualified batters and a better-than-average isolated-power figure.

Here he is taking some pleasure in his work earlier this week:

Zack Granite, OF, Minnesota (Profile)
This represents Granite’s third consecutive appearance among the Five, and his inclusion here is the source of some anxiety for the author. For one, Granite struck out in a quarter of his plate appearances since last Friday. For a player with his skill set, elite contact rates are almost a necessity. And for two, the possibility has recently occurred to me that Granite will follow, more or less, Billy Burns‘ career path. Which, Burns certainly has his virtues — and actually parlayed his talents into a slightly above-average 2015 campaign (555 PA, 2.4 WAR) with Oakland — but the lack of power has placed considerable pressure on his other skills. Granite will need to sustain an isolated-power figure north of .100 in order to remain relevant in the majors.

Here he is, fortunately, recording a 3.000 ISO in a single plate appearance earlier this week:

Austin Hays, OF, Baltimore (Profile)
This is Hays’ second appearance among the Five; however, the occasion of his recent promotion to Double-A suggests that the author might be mistaken for having not included Hays more often in this weekly exercise. The 21-year-old outfielder finished his tenure in the Carolina League having recorded not only a better-than-average strikeout rate but also the second-best isolated-power figure among that league’s 68 qualified batters. For a player who’s recorded above-average defensive marks in center field, that type of production is very encouraging.

What’s more encouraging are the results of Hays’ first week at Double-A. Just 21 years old in a league with an average batter age of 24, he’s basically produced a carbon copy of his High-A numbers, recording a 10.3% strikeout rate and .179 ISO in 29 plate appearances.

Scott Kingery, 2B, Philadelphia (Profile)
Perhaps for those who have experience both with firearms and also aquatic life, the act of shooting fish in a barrel comes naturally. For those like the present author, however, who have thin wrists and a fear of everything, it’s a poor litmus test for the ease of a particular endeavor. What’s much easier, for example, is to select Scott Kingery for this edition of the Fringe Five. After recording nearly a 20-20 season in 317 plate appearances at Double-A, the 23-year-old second baseman earned a promotion at the beginning of this week to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. How did he begin his tenure in the International League? By hitting two home runs, is one way how.

First this home run:

And then this one:

It doesn’t seem reasonable that he remains eligible for this recurring column, and yet there’s nothing to suggest that — by the criteria established above — he isn’t eligible.

Tim Locastro, SS/CF, Los Angeles NL (Profile)
Like Jose Miguel Fernandez above, Locastro was promoted this week from Tulsa to Oklahoma City. Unlike Fernandez, however, Locastro hasn’t been returned to Texas in the meantime. A veteran of the Five and also Cistulli’s Guy on this past offseason’s Dodgers prospect list, the 24-year-old has ascended from relative obscurity to the brink of the majors. A 13th-round pick out of idyllic Ithaca College, Locastro acquitted himself well in the Texas League this year, exhibiting his typically strong contact skills while posting league-average isolated-power figure. His defense at shortstop doesn’t receive particularly strong reviews from the numbers, but it seems quite probable that he could play most other positions with adequacy.

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

Sandy Baez, RHP, Detroit (High-A Florida State League)
Scott Blewett, RHP, Kansas City (High-A Carolina League)
Donnie Dewees, OF, Kansas City (Double-A Texas League)
Michael Kelly, RHP, San Diego (Double-A Texas League)
Will Smith, C/IF, Los Angeles NL (High-A California 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. 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, 2017
Name Team POS FF NF PTS
1 Ildemaro Vargas D-backs 2B/SS 3 4 13
2 Nik Turley Twins LHP 4 0 12
3 Max Schrock Athletics 2B 3 2 11
4 Mike Tauchman Rockies OF 3 1 10
5 Scott Kingery Phillies 2B 3 1 10
6 Brandon Lowe Rays 2B 2 3 9
7 Tim Locastro Dodgers SS/CF 2 3 9
Tzu-Wei Lin Red Sox SS/CF 3 0 9
9 Wilmer Font Dodgers RHP 3 0 9
10 Zack Granite Twins OF 3 0 9
Highlighted rows denote player who was ineligible for selection this week.





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

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Shirtless Bartolo Colon
5 years ago

The Fridge Five: Baseball’s Most Compelling Fridge Prospects:

1. Two cases of Presidente Black
2. Pallet of Varsity Chili Dogs that I was going to give to charity.
3. Tear-stained DFA notice
4. Sherman Johnson
5. Bacon-covered plantains. At least I think they’re plantains.

baltic wolfmember
5 years ago

Bacon covered plantains? I hope you have a good cardiologist, Shirtless. (And please keep your shirt on, thank you.)