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September 8, 2013

Overthinking It

The 2013 All-Fringe-Prospect Team

by Ben Lindbergh


The authors of Baseball Prospectus 2014, the 19th edition of our annual book, are a couple weeks away from submitting player lists to the editing team. Generally, it’s pretty easy to compile a complete count of players who deserve to be profiled. Anyone who played for the big club and is still in the organization merits a mention, as do recent top draft picks and other minor leaguers who appear on top prospect lists. But there’s always a player who resists easy assignment—someone whose stats stand out but whose name is unknown.

At BP, we believe in blending stats and scouting information to get the most accurate picture of a player, so when those of us who mainly watch major-league action come across one of these enigmas, we seek out our colleagues on the scouting side. “Is this a prospect?” we ask, and often the answer is, “No.” “But he slugged .600!” our inner triple-slash-line lover says, before being drowned out by the evidence against him: he’s old for his level, or he plays in High Desert, or he has the sort of swing that won’t work well against advanced pitching. Put it all together, and the player’s projection is too fringy for the book.

At some point, the high-wire act falls flat. Take 25-year-old Rockies reliever Kenneth Roberts, who posted a 1.30 ERA and walked 1.5 per nine without allowing a home run in 55 1/3 High-A innings this season. In 16 1/3 innings after a promotion to the Texas League in late July, he walked 13, struck out six, and gave up four homers. The trick is to identify those guys before they fail.

Last September, I drew up the inaugural edition of the All-Fringe-Prospect Team, picking a player at each position whose stats exaggerated his actual abilities. Each of the players had to satisfy three criteria, which I’ll paste in here:

  • The player has to have played in a full-season league (Class A and above). Short-season stats are strange.

  • The player has to be under 30. I don’t have to tell you that a 30-year-old minor leaguer is either A) on a rehab assignment or B) not a prospect. Sure, 34-year-old Mike Hessman hit a career-high 35 homers, bringing his minor-league total to 370, but no one would confuse him with a prospect at this point.

  • The player has to be rookie eligible. For the most part, anyone whose rookie eligibility is up has already had his chance and blown it. Nobody cares what Jeff Clement hit in Indianapolis this season, except for Bill Bavasi, who’s still hoping that third-overall pick pans out.

As I noted last year, many members of this team will one day make the majors, or have already blown a brief call-up. That makes them more accomplished than most minor leaguers, but not necessarily worth any excitement. The names and numbers have changed since 2012—this year, Hessman hit only 25 homers—but the qualifications are still the same. I give you our second annual collection of under-30, rookie-eligible, full-season statistical stars with suspect scouting reports—the 2013 All-Fringe-Prospect Team.

Catcher: Johnny Monell, Giants

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Related Content:  Scouting,  Detroit Tigers,  Minor Leaguers

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article Daily Roundup: Around ... (09/08)
<< Previous Column
Overthinking It: Inter... (09/04)
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Premium Article Overthinking It: Is Ub... (09/10)
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The Week in Quotes: Se... (09/09)

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