First off, I would be remiss to not credit clack with the awesome Airplane! reference.
We naturally tend to focus on the top 10 rated prospects, but the development and success of "fringe prospects" could have a huge positive impact on the big league team's success down the line. Again, the Luhnow connection to the St. Louis Cardinals provides a great example. Although you would not find Allen Craig, Matt Carpenter, or Matt Adams on a national Top 100 Prospect list, they were integral players on a World Series-winning team. With the impressive depth of the Houston Astros' current minor league system, I am hoping to find more than a handful of solid prospects who can provide solid contributions at the major league level.
And judging by this article on Fangraphs by Carson Cistulli, it looks like Thomas Shirley can be one of those fringe prospects that end up providing surprisingly good contributions at the big league level.
With his appearance here this week, the left-handed Shirley now sits atop the arbitrarily calculated Fringe Five Scoreboard. Since the most recent edition of the Five, Shirley has made two starts, recording an 11:0 strikeout-to-walk ratio against 41 batters over 10.0 innings. That strikeout-walk differential (26.8 percentage points) would be the best ever in all of baseball history, the author is willing to assert - albeit without referencing the actual data.
I know we have discussed Thomas Shirley here before, but he continues to get more and more intriguing. He is a LHP that was drafted in the 9th round in 2010. Prior to the season, we had this short blurb on our Underrated Prospects Not to Ignore. Add the stellar season he is having thus far with a 1.81 ERA, a WHIP of 0.89, and a 67/14 strikeout to walk ratio in just under 70 innings pitched, and we could have a real nice player on our hands. As his numbers continue to impress, I find my intrigue turning slowly but Shirley (pun intended) into expectations. Even if his floor ultimately is a LOOGY, there is certainly value in that. We have noticed the vast improvement of the bullpen, aided by the emergence of Tony Sipp.
Shirley's consistent success also explains why he has been listed on the Fangraphs Fringe Five numerous times this year. Another positive sign is the sheer number of Astros representatives in this series. In this entry alone, both Conrad Gregor and Kyle Smith are listed in the Next Five category. In fact, the Astros have at least twice as many players that have appeared in this series with six, than all but one other team, as the Mariners have four representatives. The six Astros that have made at least one appearance are: Josh Hader, Andrew Aplin, Aaron West, Conrad Gregor, and Kyle Smith. The Astros will be in serious business if they managed to hit on just one or two of these players.
In any case, this should not be news to any, but it feels really good to have such a deep and talented farm system. The fact that Thomas Shirley can so easily be overlooked is a testament to that.