This is the Fantasy Fringe Five, but is no longer named as such. This is the last time you’ll see Brad or me use that alliterative phrase to describe this series. And that’s it! Keepin’ it cryptic. This is now, until or unless we come up with something better, Peripheral Prospects. (We welcome recommendations! Leave a comment.)
That said, we might start steering this ship more deliberately in our own direction. In the spirit of Carson Cistulli’s series after which this is now loosely modeled, we will sometimes follow its self-imposed restrictions and other times elect to deviate from them — most probably, the one underlined below:
In light of same, eligibility for The Fringe Five will require (for the present, at least) the following:
- Rookie-eligibility (i.e. fewer than 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched), and
- Absence from a 25-man roster (i.e. not in the major leagues currently), and
- Absence from any of noted top-100 prospect lists (Baseball America’s, etc.), and
- The capacity to stir something within the author’s manly bosom.
Mostly because there’s a high probability a future featuree might get the call before Brad or I can feature him. Ideally, we’ll follow up as soon as possible after his call; in some instances, like with a Seattle Mariners pitcher featured below, he will get the call and be optioned back to Triple-A all before one of us can put digital pen to digital paper.
We need a table, so I made a table. It’s not here, though. These are words. It’s at the bottom. By the time the season concludes, I imagine it will be very long. From a design and readability standpoint, that’d just be bad business to feature a several-inch table at the heart of a post.
Also, given the re-brand, we may or may not feature five players in any given weekly installment. This week, I’m compelled to feature five players. In others, I may feature only four. Maybe only three. Sometimes six. It will depend on my, and probably Brad’s, magnitude of inspiration. This is yet another constraint we’ll loosen for the sake of flexibility as we find our wheelhouse.
I will say: I love the lattermost three names I’ve featured here. They have, indeed, stirred something within me, more so than some other names listed prior to them.
Jake Cronenworth | 25 | TBR | SS (AAA)
Brad featured Cronenworth last week. For the sake of running up a scoreboard, I chose to feature him, too, as he had already cracked my shortlist of players to feature in the near-term. Cronenworth caught my eye with his microscopic 3.9% swinging strike rate (SwStr%) at Double-A last year. His fairly robust strikeout and walk rates (14.7% and 9.1%, respectively) suggest to me he pairs his elite contact skills with a passive plate approach — think, if it were more aggressive, it might look something akin to Willians Astudillo’s batting line. Cronenworth runs enough to be interesting, collecting 21 stolen bases in 470 plate appearances. He’s an unequivocal minus in the power department, and his paltry .254/.323/.344 further illustrates lackluster batted ball authority for a slappy, speedy fella. Should everything break right — low-teens strikeout rates and walk rates, a decently above-average batting average on balls in play (BABIP), maybe half a dozen home runs — he can make himself a worthwhile regular middle infielder in deeper formats.
Frank Schwindel | 27 | KCR | 1B (AAA)
Again, Brad’s adoration of Schwindel should not preclude my own adoration. (It’s not as if Brad won’t feature his man-crush Luis Rengifo soon!) Unfortunately, Schwindel was recently optioned to Triple-A. He caught my eye with decent power, running isolated power (ISO) marks north of .200 in consecutive seasons at Triple-A while striking out just 14.4% of 962 PAs. His healthy slash line (.302/.338/.516) lays bare his one flaw that, I argue, makes him a tenable hitter. He walks very infrequently — less than 5% of the time — all but guaranteeing him an on-base percentage liability. However, it’s his aggression that masks subpar contact skills, as evidenced by his 11.5% whiff rate, which is neither awful nor particularly good. A Schwindel who, say, at the MLB level, strikes out 18% and walks 5% of the time strikes me as superior to a Schwindel who, say, strikes out 25% and walks 8% of the time. It’s hard to say. Ideally, we’ll have more opportunities to find out.
Erik Swanson | 25 | SEA | SP (AAA/MLB)
(Previously featured by Cistulli)
(Swanson has gotten the call, been optioned, and gotten the call again. By the time this publishes, he may have been optioned yet again. Shrug.)
Since the start of 2017, Swanson (henceforth “Swanny”) has made a habit of handing out scarcely any walks. To attest: he walked just 3.4% of hitters in 100-plus innings at high-A in 2017 and 4.8% of hitters at Triple-A last year. When his walk rate spiked at Double-A last year, so, too, did his strikeouts, jumping to an enormous 34.8% mark. Despite a lack of ground ball efficacy, he allows few home runs. It appears Swanny’s primary debit as a minor leaguer has been the high BABIPs he allows — an indictment of his defense or, perhaps, his fastball. Per FanGraphs’ prospect report, the fastball aforementioned grades out 60/60 and was once described by our Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel as “the archetypal modern fastball” that “exhibits several of the nuanced traits that aid velocity in missing bats.” They concluded by saying “it’s possible the secondary fastball characteristics are so strong that we’re underselling him a bit.” Their primary concern was Swanny’s command; I’m optimistic past outcomes might foreshadow future outcomes of similar baserunner prohibition.
Denyi Reyes | 22 | BOS | SP (AA)
If I applaud Swanson’s walk prevention, I must laud Reyes’ absolute walk aversion. In 333-ish professional innings, he has walked just 2.6% of hitters, good for a 0.92 walks per nine innings (BB/9) and, coupled with modest strikeout ability, a 8.53 strikeout-to-walk ratio (K/BB). Not more but at least equally impressive is his ability to consistently suppress opponent BABIPs despite evidently living in the zone, allowing a combined .270 mark to date and no higher than .280 at any level and/or in any season since the start of 2016. The result is a pleasing-to-the-eye career 2.11 ERA and 2.70 FIP. McDongenhagen have foretold of Reyes’ “super long arms that help him generate big extension, which help his upper-80s fastball play like one in the low-90s.” To them, he profiles “as an efficient backend starter.” This kind of polish leaves me hoping for something slightly more.
Nick Solak | 24 | TBR | 2B (AAA)
Fewer fruits could be lower-hanging, yet Solak has yet to grace any prominent top-100 prospects list. (He came dang close in FanGraphs’ version, clocking in at 111th, and ranking 9th among Rays exclusively.) Be still, my heart: a power-speed threat with above-average contact skills and a line-drive stroke. By the time Solak debuts, the Rays may have squandered the best of his baserunning days. Still, a 20-homer, 10-steal second baseman who hits for average plays in all formats. McDongenhagen say Solak has “drawn some of the most vociferous makeup raves from scouts of any of the players in the minors,” which, again, makes it feel like I’m practically cheating (he was a 2nd-round draft pick, after all). The full scouting report is an absolute must-read. His biggest problem: that Tampa Bay’s farm is simply too good. Fear not: cream (not always, but often) rises to the top.
Here’s that table.
Players who actively reside on Major League 25-man rosters but have not permanently exhausted their eligibility (and could therefore be featured in future iterations of this series) are highlighted yellow. Players who have exhausted their eligibility by cracking a top-100 prospect list, accruing 60 innings or 130 plate appearances, or otherwise making it impossible to not be ineligible in the future, are highlighted some other color. I have yet to pick the color because no one has yet become permanently ineligible.
|Cavan Biggio||23||TOR||2B||AAA||W3, W4||2|
|Jake Cronenworth||25||TBR||SS||AAA||W4, W5||2|
|Frank Schwindel||27||KCR||1B||AAA||W2, W5||2||Optioned 4/11|
|Mike Tauchman||28||NYY||OF||MLB||W1||1||Acquired from COL 3/23|
|Zack Granite||26||TEX||OF||AAA||W1||1||Acquired from MIN 3/3|
|Ildemaro Vargas||27||ARI||3B||MLB||W2||1||Recalled 4/5|
|Drew Anderson||25||PHI||SP||MLB||W2||1||Promoted 4/15|
|Garrett Cooper||28||MIA||1B/OF||MLB||W3||1||Injured List 4/1|
|Enyel De Los Santos||23||PHI||SP||AAA||W4||1|
|Erik Swanson||25||SEA||SP||AAA||W5||1||Optioned 4/12|