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.

*****

Yonny Chirinos, RHP, Tampa Bay (Profile)
This represents Chirinos’s third consecutive appearance among the Five. His start this week, on Wednesday against Pirates affiliate Indianapolis, was consistent with the others he’s produced over the past month or so. Against 26 batters over 6.0 innings, the 23-year-old right-hander recorded an 8:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and conceded his lone earned run on a homer (box).

Chirinos continues to exhibit impressive comfort with his secondary pitches, showing a willingness to throw them in all counts. Indeed, he began his most recent appearance with three different pitches, all for strikes, to dispatch swiftly of Indy leadoff hitter Eury Perez.

This video footage documents that sequence:

Kyle Farmer, C/3B, Los Angeles NL (Profile)
Now at Triple-A Oklahoma City, Farmer almost certainly should have appeared among the Five earlier this season, when he was slashing .339/.411/.468 at Tulsa and walking more than he was striking out. That said, Farmer’s profile is also a pretty weird one. He’s less than a month from his 27th birthday, for example, and yet this is the third consecutive season during which he’s recorded significant time at Double-A. Also, he’s a catcher who nevertheless plays third base regularly. And for however good he’s been with the bat this year, his track record isn’t flawless.

An examination of the most relevant facts reveals promise, however. For one, Farmer’s statistical indicators remain strong at Triple-A. Moreover, the publicly available fielding data suggests that his receiving has been a real positive this year.

As for that receiving, here’s an example of Farmer getting a strike on a somewhat borderline pitch:

And here’s bonus footage of Farmer exhibiting the proper amount of concern for a pitch that’s nowhere near the plate:

Ryan Helsley, RHP, St. Louis (Profile)
Helsley has been included here a couple of times this year on the merits both of his 100 mph and also his fielding-independent numbers. He’s included here this time on the merits of his 100 mph fastball and also his fielding-independent numbers.

In his lone start since last week’s appearance among the Five, the 23-year-old right-hander recorded a 7:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio versus 20 batters over 5.0 innings against Detroit affiliate Lakeland (box). He now has a 1.72 ERA and 2.42 FIP and 21.1-point strikeout- and walk-rate differential (K-BB%) over his last nine starts. And still has a 100 mph fastball, too. There are few, if any, pitchers absent from industry prospect lists who possess this combination of production and arm speed.

CJ Hinojosa, SS/3B, San Francisco (Profile)
Last September, Jeff Sullivan found that the home-run spike in baseball “seems to have most strongly benefited the middle class of would-be power hitters.” In other words: the marginal value of a few extra feet of batted-ball distance is more important to those hitters who’d be flying out to the warning track than those who are already producing no-doubters.

It stands to reason that player who already possess other elite traits — contact skills, defensive ability — have the most to gain from the home-run spike. That seems to be the case with the current Giants second baseman, for example. After having never recorded an isolated-power figure better than .126 in the minors, Joe Panik currently possesses a .125 ISO across more than 1,600 major-league plate appearances.

Hinojosa possesses a profile pretty similar to Panik’s. While not certain to remain at shortstop, the former 11th-round pick likely has the ability to play an above-average third base. And offensively, the two are quite similar. Consider their respective age-22 seasons at Double-A Richmond.

Hinojosa vs. Panik, Age 22 at Double-A
Player Year PA K% BB% wRC+
Hinojosa 2017 252 8.3% 7.9% 114
Panik 2013 599 9.7% 11.4% 92

Given the contact skills and defense, it appears as though Hinojosa — who was given 50 future raw-power grade by Eric Longenhagen this winter — has a reasonable chance of approximating Panik’s output in the majors.

Mike Tauchman, OF, Colorado (Profile)
Tauchman was ineligible from this weekly column for a while thanks to a promotion to Colorado’s major-league roster. Since his return to Triple-A Albuquerque, however, he’s produced even better numbers than the sort that earned him the promotion in the first place — and the sort that have consistently merited his appearances among the Five. In 47 plate appearances since July 8th, the versatile outfielder has recorded walk and strikeout rates of 6.4% and 8.5%, respectively, plus also .333 isolated-power figure. Aided by a .432 BABIP, as well, Tauchman now possesses a line of .452/.468/.786 since his return to the Pacific Coast League.

In light of the established players who occupy Colorado’s outfield currently, Tauchman possess no clear path to major-league at-bats without an injury. With some regular playing time, however, he seems capable of parlaying his modest tools into actual on-field value.

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

J.T. Brubaker, RHP, Pittsburgh (Double-A Eastern League)
Nate Orf, 2B, Milwaukee (Triple-A Pacific Coast League)
Lucas Sims, RHP, Atlanta (Triple-A International League)
LaMonte Wade, OF, Minnesota (Double-A Southern League)
Jason Vosler, 3B, Chicago NL (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. 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 Mike Tauchman Rockies OF 4 1 13
4 Nik Turley Twins LHP 4 0 12
5 Tim Locastro Dodgers SS/CF 3 3 12
6 Danny Mendick White Sox 2B/SS 3 2 11
7 Nicky Lopez Royals SS 2 5 11
8 Ryan Helsley Cardinals RHP 3 2 11
9 Jose Miguel Fernandez Dodgers 2B 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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kk808
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kk808

Watched Chirinos in Durham and was instantly wowed. Loved his change.