Peripheral Prospects, Ep. 1.15

Anyone within arm’s reach of my Twitter account is so. bleeping. tired. of me talking about Mike Tauchman.

But I have to bring him up. Tauchman was literally the first Peripheral Prospect. He led off the inaugural post. It’s imperative we revisit our old friend, because guess what? He is the 7th-best fantasy hitter the last 30 days, per ESPN’s Player Rater.

Seventh-best. Not out of just Yankees, not out of just outfielders — out of all hitters. His recent success alone has made this entire series worth it.

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This is Peripheral Prospects. We seek to identify obscure future fantasy contributors (before they contribute).

Joshua Rojas | 25 | ARI | 1B/2B/SS/3B (AAA)

Third appearance

Last you heard about Rojas (the most recent edition of Peripheral Prospects, in fact), he was a high-quality fringetastic prospect buried in the depths of Houston’s stacked farm system. The trade that sent Zack Greinke to the Astros might be the “Seth Beer trade,” but, honestly, it’s Rojas who could end up making the biggest impact. Dan Szymborski (of ZiPS) told me Rojas has had the biggest glow-up of any player in terms of 2020 projection:

Josh Rojas’ 2020 ZiPS Projection
Time of Projection BA OBP SLG AB R H 2B HR RBI BB SO SB WAR
Preseason .220 .291 .345 446 53 98 22 8 44 46 112 20 -0.3
August 1st .267 .332 .443 469 68 125 32 13 59 48 84 24 1.6

A 2.0-WAR swing, a 50-point jump in batting average, a 50-point jump in isolated power (ISO), and a 6-to-7-percentage point improvement in strikeout rate (K%). Prorate those numbers to a full season, and Rojas looks like a 20-30-.265 hitter. That’s incredible.

I’ve begun to stockpile fringe prospect hitters for whom I vouched hard: Tauchman, Jose Ramirez (in my 2015 and 2016 bold predictions), Jeff McNeil (2019 bold predictions) — heck, even Garrett Cooper, who has embraced the Marlins’ cleanup role the way I hoped he might last year before getting injured (2018 bold prediction).

I feel really, really good about Rojas, and his situation is suddenly so much better. Keep an eye out for him in September and expect a legit tryout next spring to earn a full-time role.

Ty France | 24 | SDP | 1B/2B/3B (AAA)

Second appearance

I’m pissed because I can’t find the article I read. I would like to cross-check the claim I’m about to make, but I can’t find it. So, with a grain of salt, here’s what it effectively said: MLB has no plans to reevaluate the ball until, like, 2021 (or maybe even after 2021), which means we should expect the juiced ball is here to stay in the short term.

With that in mind, we’d probably be wise to embrace the fringe hitters most likely to benefit. France, the Padres’ 26th-best prospect heading into 2019 with a future value (FV) grade of 40, has hit 26 home runs in 321 Triple-A plate appearances. His 196 wRC+ paces the upper minors by a country mile (Gavin Lux’s 176 wRC+ ranks second).

Most impressively, as always, is France’s ability to limit strikeouts while launching long bombs away. The combination of a 10.1% swinging strike rate (SwStr%), 15.0% strikeout rate (K%), and 8.1% walk rate (BB%) suggests he’s not exactly the most contact-oriented hitter but is probably very aggressive, keeping in check any damage self-inflicted by selling out for power. The Padres have a lot going on down on the farm, but France could force the Padres’ hand as the team feels out its core as it emerges from its rebuild.

Mark Payton | 27 | OAK | OF (AAA)

First appearance

It’s possible Payton is the byproduct of the juiced ball. More optimistically, the Athletics saw something in Payton that the Yankees didn’t (which, given how well the Yankees have fared with fringe prospects of their own — Tauchman included — would be a curious development). Payton went from demonstrating decent contact skills and posting feeble power numbers to trailing only France, Jared Walsh, and Aristides Aquino in ISO (.336).

Of course, Payton intrigues me because, while suddenly hitting more home runs in 90-or-so games than he did in his three previous seasons combined, he kept intact his modest contact skills. The result: a .339/.405/.674 line (152 wRC+) with 23 home runs, a 16.2% strikeout rate, and a 10.3% walk rate.

Oakland’s left field situation is, for all intents and purposes, a ramshackle mess, Frankensteining together Robbie Grossman, Chad Pinder, Nick Martini — in other words, leaving the job ripe for the usurping by a 28-year-old nobody in 2020.

Randy Dobnak | 24 | MIN | SP (AAA)

First appearance

What do you get when you combine a 13.5% swinging strike rate, a 58.7% ground ball rate (GB%), a computer-generated last name, and a FanGraphs profile with literally no information about how the Twins acquired him (the draft, I assume???) or mentions or news items whatsoever? You get a Peripheral Prospect.

I already gave you the meaty part of Dobnak’s allure: he leads the upper minors in ground ball rate and ranks sixth in whiff rate (among 133 qualified arms). No one comes close to boasting similar numbers except the Mets’ David Peterson (52.0% and 13.1%, respectively). More alluring yet: he finished his Double-A stint with more than 11 times as many strikeouts (61) as walks (6). You know I love guys like this.

Dobnak began the year in High-A and is now in Triple-A, illustrating the Twins’ faith and interest in his development. Between him and Devin Smeltzer (who debuted in Peripheral Prospects Ep 1.09 and boasts a 2.28 ERA in nearly 28 MLB innings), Minnesota has some interesting fringy-ass arms rising up the ranks. If I’m not mistaken, all of Kyle Gibson, Jake Odorizzi, Michael Pineda, and (I think) Martín Pérez are free agents next year, leaving the rotation wide open for José Berríos, Smeltzer, Lewis Thorpe, and — presumably — our boy Dobnak.

Ernie Clement | 23 | CLE | SS (AA)

First appearance

Cleveland, as a result of its self-imposed rebuild, has become fertile grounds for fringe prospects to eventually blossom in 2020 and beyond. Clement is fascinating by virtue of his very-single-digit strikeout and walk rates (7.7% and 6.0%, respectively) courtesy of the upper minors’ 2nd-best whiff rate (3.9%).

Lots of balls in play does not a hitter make; he can account for only three home runs his entire professional career (more than 1,000 PA), good for a whopping .074 ISO. However, what he has begun to exhibit this year — something his scouting report suggests he possesses — is speed. His 70-grade speed has resulted in a meager-but-certainly-not-nothing 14 stolen bases in 364 PA. It is, by no means, a jaw-dropping pace, but it’s enough to make Clement interesting, especially with David Fletcheresque ball-in-play skills.

I’ll just say one thing: once upon a time, Jose Ramirez paced the minors in whiff rate. He was consistently among the best at every level at a young age — why I liked him, in addition to the fact he ran. Is Clement like Ramirez? Realistically, no. Clement doesn’t have a body like a little bag of flour. Ramirez ran more and had better batted ball efficacy. Clement isn’t there, but maybe, one day, he will be. (Not to be confused with maybe, one day, being a unanimous fantasy baseball 1st-rounder, as Ramirez was this year. Just… look. Look. If you’re gonna fringe, fringe in moderation.)

* * *

The Table

2019 Peripheral Prospects
Name Age Team Pos Highest Level Weeks Points
Zac Gallen 23 MIA SP MLB W4, W6, W8 3
Jacob Wilson 28 WAS 2B MLB W6, W7, W8 3
Jake Cronenworth 25 TBR SS AAA W4, W5, W12 3
Joshua Rojas 25 ARI 1B/2B AAA W7, W14, W15 3
Cavan Biggio 23 TOR 2B MLB W3, W4 2
Frank Schwindel 27 DET 1B MLB W2, W5 2
Ljay Newsome 22 SEA SP AAA W9, W11 2
Ty France 24 SDP 3B MLB W12, W15 2
Mike Tauchman 28 NYY OF MLB W1 1
Zack Granite 26 TEX OF MLB W1 1
Myles Straw 24 HOU OF MLB W1 1
Nick Neidert 22 MIA SP AAA W1 1
Matt Swarmer 25 CHC SP MLB W1 1
Ildemaro Vargas 27 ARI 3B MLB W2 1
Drew Jackson 25 BAL OF AAA W2 1
Spencer Turnbull 26 DET SP MLB W2 1
Drew Anderson 25 PHI SP MLB W2 1
Garrett Cooper 28 MIA 1B/OF MLB W3 1
Ryan Hartman 24 HOU SP AAA W3 1
Luis Rengifo 22 LAA 2B/SS MLB W3 1
Brett Sullivan 25 TBR C AAA W3 1
Enyel De Los Santos 23 PHI SP AAA W4 1
Luis Barrera 23 OAK OF AA W4 1
Erik Swanson 25 SEA SP MLB W5 1
Denyi Reyes 22 BOS SP AA W5 1
Nick Solak 24 TBR 2B AAA W5 1
Rhett Wiseman 24 WAS OF AA W6 1
Tyler Beede 25 SFG SP MLB W6 1
Lucas Sims 24 CIN SP MLB W6 1
Josh Naylor 22 SDP 1B/OF MLB W7 1
Matt Beaty 25 LAD 1B MLB W7 1
Eli Morgan 22 CLE SP AA W7 1
Rylan Bannon 23 BAL 2B/3B AA W8 1
Jorge Ona 22 SDP OF AA W8 1
Zach Plesac 24 CLE SP MLB W8 1
Devin Smeltzer 23 MIN SP MLB W9 1
Parker Markel 28 SEA RP AAA W9 1
Garrett Whitlock 22 NYY SP AA W9 1
Danny Mendick 25 CHW 2B/SS AAA W9 1
Vince Fernandez 23 COL OF AA W10 1
Jake Rogers 24 DET C MLB W10 1
Kevin Cron 26 ARI 1B MLB W10 1
Daniel Palka 27 CWS OF MLB W10 1
Austin Allen 25 SDP C MLB W11 1
Will Craig 24 PIT 1B MLB W11 1
Luis Arraez 22 MIN 2B MLB W11 1
Jack Mayfield 28 HOU 2B/SS MLB W11 1
D.J. Stewart 25 BAL OF MLB W12 1
Ashton Goudeau 26 COL SP AA W12 1
Jose Urquidy 24 HOU SP MLB W12 1
Jake Fraley 24 SEA OF AAA W13 1
Yonathan Daza 25 COL OF MLB W13 1
Bobby Dalbec 24 BOS 3B AA W13 1
Alec Bettinger 23 MIL SP AA W13 1
Alex Faedo 23 DET SP AA W13 1
Nabil Crismatt 24 SEA SP AAA W14 1
Mitch Nay 25 CIN 3B AA W14 1
Chas McCormick 24 HOU OF AAA W14 1
Mark Payton 27 OAK OF AAA W15 1
Randy Dobnak 24 MIN SP AAA W15 1
Ernie Clement 23 CLE SS AA W15 1

Currently investigating the relationship between pitcher effectiveness and beard density. Two-time FSWA award winner, including 2018 Baseball Writer of the Year, and 8-time award finalist. Featured in Lindy's magazine (2018, 2019), Rotowire magazine (2021), and Baseball Prospectus (2022). Tout Wars competitor. Biased toward a nicely rolled baseball pant.

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3 years ago

Jake Rogers is MLB now.