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 and midseason lists released by Baseball America or BP’s recent midseason top-50 list — 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.

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Yonny Chirinos, RHP, Tampa Bay (Profile)
The right-handed Chirinos made his debut among the Five last Friday. That evening, he started for Triple-A Durham and exhibited all the same traits that led to his first appearance here, recording a 6:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio against 29 total batters over 8.0 innings in a game against the Tigers’ Triple-A affiliate (box). To the extent that one can tell merely by observing game footage, he also appeared to demonstrate even more impressive velocity than in earlier contests.

Consider, by way of example, this three-pitch sequence to Detroit prospect Jason Krizan — a collection of fastballs at 95 and 95 and then 96 mph, ending in a strikeout:

Ryan Helsley, RHP, St. Louis (Profile)
Both Helsley and right-handed Tigers prospect Beau Burrows possess plus arm speed and both have recorded promising statistical indicators this year. Both have also appeared among the Five before this week. Only the former is included in this edition of the column, however, because the latter was rendered ineligible for consideration following his appearance on Baseball America’s midseason top-100 list.

Nor is it surprising that Burrows would be selected for such a thing. What’s maybe more surprising is that Helsley hasn’t been yet. Whatever the reason, he still features a 100-mph fastball and has still begun July by producing a 14:4 strikeout-to-walk ratio against 47 batters in 12.1 innings for High-A Palm Beach.

Jose Miguel Fernandez, 2B, Los Angeles NL (Profile)
On the one hand, Fernandez has recorded just a 97 wRC+ in 51 plate appearances since returning to Double-A at the end of June. On the other hand, he’s produced that roughly average batting line despite posting a .108 BABIP over that same interval. More importantly, what’s he done is to record both a 7.8% strikeout rate and .267 isolated-power figure in that same span. Those marks would rank first and first, respectively, among the Texas League’s 50 qualified hitters.

There remain legitimate questions about Fernandez’s defensive value. He’s recorded below-average fielding-run marks according both to Baseball Prospectus and Clay Davenport’s translated figures — plus the Dodgers have used him more frequently at first base recently.

Tim Locastro, SS/CF, Los Angeles NL (Profile)
Like Fernandez, Locastro also made a brief trip to Oklahoma City recently and, like Fernandez, he’s been excellent since returning to Tulsa. In 27 plate appearances, he’s hit two home runs while also striking out just four times. All told, he’s recorded a line of .304/.370/.696 with just a .278 BABIP in that period. That’s impressive.

Defensively, Locastro has concerns, as well, but they’re of a different degree than Fernandez’s. While the latter might ultimately not amount to a net positive on defense, the question for Locastro is how much of a positive he’ll be. His numbers at shortstop haven’t been great, but he seems pretty capable either at second or center, the latter of which he’s been playing with considerable frequency in Tulsa.

In any case, here’s video footage of Locastro making at least one strong defensive play over the past two months:

Garrett Stubbs, C, Houston (Profile)
Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes appeared among the top-10 players both on the 2014 and 2015 end-of-season editions of the arbitrarily calculated Fringe Five Scoreboard. Barnes is relevant to Stubbs for at least a ew reasons. Like Stubbs, he was omitted for some time from top-prospect lists. Like Stubbs, he lacks the physicality commonly associated with the catcher postion. And also like Stubbs, his offensive game was and is marked primarily by an above-average capacity for making contact.

Because he’s a few years older, Barnes has had the opportunity now to test his skill set at the major-league level. The results, particularly in 2017, have been positive. Over 126 plate appearances this year, Barnes has recorded a 149 wRC+ and 1.3 WAR for the National League’s best team. Stubbs, for his part, is unlikely to earn a role with the American League’s best team in the near future. For the moment, however, he’s making a case for a long-term role. In 34 plate appearances this month, he’s produced walk and strikeout rates of 8.8% and 14.7%, respectively, plus a .258 isolated-power figure.

Here’s video of Stubbs from a few days ago, recording a double due largely to his foot speed:

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

Randy Arozarena, OF, St. Louis (Double-A Texas League)
Garrett Hampson, SS, Colorado (High-A California League)
CJ Hinojosa, SS/3B, San Francisco (Double-A Eastern League)
Freddy Peralta, RHP, Milwaukee (Double-A Southern League)
Wes Rogers, OF, Colorado (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 Max Schrock Athletics 2B 4 2 14
2 Ildemaro Vargas D-backs 2B/SS 3 4 13
3 Nik Turley Twins LHP 4 0 12
4 Tim Locastro Dodgers SS/CF 3 3 12
5 Danny Mendick White Sox 2B/SS 3 2 11
6 Nicky Lopez Royals SS 2 5 11
7 Jose Miguel Fernandez Dodgers 2B 3 1 10
8 Mike Tauchman Rockies OF 3 1 10
Scott Kingery Phillies 2B 3 1 10
Zack Granite Twins OF 3 1 10
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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waitzsauce
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waitzsauce

Trampoline boy making the list!

CamdenWarehouse
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CamdenWarehouse

Proof that you can in fact have a productive life after being traumatized by a trampoline.