This is Peripheral Prospects, née Fantasy Fringe Five which in turn was an adaptation of Carson Cistulli’s superb Fringe Five series. When Alex Chamberlain and I took over the column, we did so because the Fringe Five filled an important and woefully unrepresented nook of the dynasty baseball experience – finding fringe prospects with the potential to become more. What’s more, Carson was massively successful at identifying good and even very good talents.
Carson had some basic rules he followed for determining eligibility to be included in the column. I, without consulting Alex, am going to suggest it’s time to throw those out. I propose the following mission statement. Alex can rebut next week.
Mission Statement: Peripheral Prospects seeks to identify obscure future fantasy contributors.
To that end, I’m not automatically excluding players who have lost rookie eligibility or are presently on 25-man rosters. I will continue to focus most of my effort on players in the upper minors. I may extend my vision to High-A on occasion. The purpose of this column is not to identify the next Wander Franco. Speaking for myself, statistically evaluating 16-year-olds is not something I can do with confidence.
Before continuing, let’s discuss a few programming notes. First, Alex made a table last week. I’m running behind so I’m going to skip it. It’s very early in the season, and the table won’t tell you much/anything.
Second, I went to my first Durham Bulls game of the season. I got a glimpse of Jake Cronenworth, a player who has twice appeared within the previous five episodes of this column. As I feared, Cronenworth’s bat appears to be line drive oriented in the worst possible way. From what I saw, there’s almost no growth potential for power. While four plate appearances is hardly representative of a player’s ability – especially to the eyes of a very amateur scout like me – I would be shocked if there are multiple videos of Cronenworth hitting the ball over an outfielder. Then again, he does have eight doubles and a triple. He’s at least hitting the ball past outfielders.
Third, and related to the second point – the game I attended featured four of the five biggest home runs I’ve ever seen at Goodmon Field. Adam Duvall, Nate Lowe, Dashenko Ricardo, Rafael Ortega, and Jake Smolinski were among the hitters to put a massive charge into a baseball. Based on this one game, it’s going to be a very “juicy” Triple-A season.
Rhett Wiseman | 24 | WAS | OF (AA)
Wiseman leads all minor leaguers in hitting. His 296 wRC+ is as ridiculous as it is unsustainable. He’s also old for a Double-A slugger – he’s in his age 25 season. Those hunting for a reason to ignore 60 shiny plate appearances need look no farther than a 16.9 percent swinging strike rate. A few mutant athletes (Javy Baez, Joey Gallo) make a similar whiff rate work in the majors. Most mid-20s batters who whiff this often in Double-A have little hope of holding their own in the majors.
Having focused on the negatives, let’s recall what brings him to this column – eight home runs and six doubles (and six singles) in 51 at bats. His batted ball profile shifted in 2018 from relatively balanced to a pulled, fly ball orientation. This year, he’s continued the trend with a 41 percent line drive, 51.3 percent fly ball, and 61.5 percent pulled contact rates. While doomed for regression, there’s no reason to rule out a 50 percent fly ball rate with sufficient hard contact. By outcomes, we’re basically talking about potential to be a slightly more patient and whifftastic Eddie Rosario.
When I asked McDongenhagen about Wiseman, they seemed to believe the contact had improved but weren’t yet sure it was supported by a “relevant mechanical change.” In other words, it smells like he’s made an as-yet-unconfirmed adjustment. Recent changes to minor league baseball video clip policy have made it harder to quick-scout players like Wiseman.
Jacob Wilson | 28 | WAS | 2B (AAA)
One of the purposes of this column is to allow superb performers to announce themselves with a flourish. In his fourth attempt at Triple-A, Wilson is demonstrating traits which belong in the majors – frequent contact, high walk rates, and hard, pulled fly ball contact. He’s batting .389/.460/.907 with eight home runs, eight walks, and eight strikeouts in 64 plate appearances. Numerologists and conspiracy theorists will note that eight times eight equals sixty-four.
According to his player page, Wilson was last relevant in 2017 when Chris Mitchell thought he’d might be a Rule 5 pick. Prior to that, Kiley, Carson, and Chris hadn’t paid him any attention since 2015. The ancient scouting report read average bat, average pop, and passable up-the-middle defense.
Now a second baseman who can probably fake it at shortstop, Wilson is struggling to find daylight on the 25-man roster around Wilmer Difo and Howie Kendrick. He better keep hitting or else a returning Trea Turner and surging Carter Kieboom will shut the door on any future opportunities.
Tyler Beede | 25 | SFG | SP/RP (AAA)
Earlier this spring, the whole FanGraphs crew took in a game between the Athletics and Giants. There, we observed Beede working in the upper-90s. And actually throwing strikes. Supposedly, the soon-to-be 26-year-old went through an offseason of Driveline-like training. I assumed he would immediately parlay the improvements into a relief role.
Instead, a cacophony of closers forced San Francisco to option Beede despite more than earning a big league role. He returned to the Triple-A rotation where he’s recorded 28 strikeouts in 17.2 innings. Over the last week, he’s pitched 10 innings with five hits, three walks, one hit batter and 15 strikeouts. Beede is consistently facing about 18 batters, a sign he’ll either eventually return to a relief role or perhaps be used as part of an Opener/Follower strategy.
Those with long memories will recall I Boldly Predicted Beede would become 12-team mixed league relevant this season. He’s off to a good start.
Lucas Sims | 24 | CIN | SP/RP (AAA)
Perhaps this name rings a bell. Once a top prospect in the Braves system, the soon-to-be 25-year-old Sims is off to a brilliant start in 2019. In two appearances over the past calendar week, he recorded 23 strikeouts against 11 hits, one walk, and two hit batters in 11.2 innings. In a February post about post-hype prospects, Eric Longenhagen noted important mechanical changes made by Sims. These seem to have unlocked a consistent release which, as you can probably intuit, is kind of important for pitch tunneling. It could also help with the rampant control issues he’s experienced the majors.
Acquired by the Reds in the Adam Duvall trade, Sims will have to contend with an icky home park. However, the Cincinnati rotation is seemingly fragile, meaning he should receive an opportunity sooner rather than later – especially if he keeps posting double-digit strikeout totals.
Zac Gallen | 23 | MIA | SP
Gallen appears in every way to be the first true success story of the Peripheral Prospects column. Just five months ago, McDongenhagen ranked Gallen 12th in a merely decent Marlins farm system. They slapped a 40+ FV on him, saying:
Viewed as a low-ceiling pitchability arm in college, Gallen reached Double-A just one calendar year after he was drafted by St. Louis, which traded him to Miami in the Marcel Ozuna deal the following winter. Last year he experienced an uptick in velocity and his four-seamer now sits in the low-90s and touches 94. It helped Gallen miss more bats, and he struck out a batter per inning at Triple-A New Orleans. Realistically, Gallen will pitch at the back of a rotation as a No. 4 or 5 starter because nothing he throws is plus and it’s hard to envision him striking out many major league hitters. But if the velo bump last year was just the start of a trend that continues into the future, there might be a bit more here.
Fast-forward three starts into 2019, and it’s suddenly much easier to envision those strikeouts. He’s recorded 25 in 18.2 innings along with a total of five hits, one walk, and one run. Gallen is due to make his fourth start either today or tomorrow. Another gem could put him on the fast track to a major league call up.
UPDATE: Gallen threw 6.2 innings, allowing seven hits, three walks, and one unearned run with six strikeouts. Let’s call it a gem-adjacent outing. Encouragingly, he faced a season-high 27 batters.
While there are no shortage of sites hyping his recent performance, two important detail are missing: fastball velocity and pitch usage. We’re still very much in the dark as to why Gallen is succeeding. We only know it’s happening. To that end, I’ve set FanGraphs resident prospect hounds on the trail. We’ll report our findings soon!
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