Last week, the author published the final results of this year’s weekly Fringe Five column, which column is designed to identify the most compelling of those rookie-eligible minor leaguers excluded from notable preseason top-100 prospect lists. To what degree it does that (i.e. identify compelling prospects) is a matter of some debate, probably. With a view to assessing the efficacy of the project, however — or, at least, to producing internet content — what follows is a review of the top finishers from the 2013 series of weekly Fringe Five posts. Players ordered alphabetically according to surname.
Wilmer Flores, 3B/SS, New York NL (Profile)
Much of what the author is compelled to say about Wilmer Flores, he’s already said within the last 24 hours via a combo package of two posts regarding the 23-year-old’s surprisingly adequate shortstop defense. What’s omitted from those posts, however, is any mention of Flores’s offensive acumen — which acumen the Venezuelan native exhibited considerably during Tuesday night’s Mets game, during which he hit two home runs and produced a single-game 836 wRC+ over four plate appearances. Over the last two weeks now, Flores has recorded the highest isolated-power mark (.429) among 156 qualified batters while simultaneously posting the fourth-lowest strikeout rate among that same group.
Maikel Franco, 1B/3B, Philadelphia (Profile)
That Franco appeared among the top-five finishers on the arbitrarily calculated end-of-season 2013 Fringe Five Scoreboard deserves some note — insofar, that is, as he (i.e. Franco) last appeared within that weekly column at some point in or around July, his inclusion on multiple mid-season prospect lists having disqualified him from consideration as a “fringe” prospect. Though he continued to exhibit an excellent combination of power and contact ability following a promotion to Double-A last year, that same package of skills didn’t translate entirely to Triple-A this season, where he homered at only about half the rate as in 2013. That he recorded a league-average line there as just a 21-year-old, however, bodes well for his future.
Mike O’Neill, OF, St. Louis (Profile)
Given the limits both of his power and also his defensive skills, O’Neill’s ceiling is necessarily rather low. In 2013, however, he produced such considerably anomalous walk and strikeout rates (16.0% and 6.5%, respectively) at Double- and Triple-A that he became a fixture among those prospects included weekly in the Fringe Five. While still better than average, O’Neill’s rates haven’t scaled the heights of incredulity like last year. In 477 plate appearances between Double- and Triple-A this season, O’Neill has produced marks of 10.3% and 8.8%, respectively. That he’s employed by an organization boasting a surplus of outfielders offers no great hope to his chances of earning any kind of playing time.
Danny Salazar, RHP, Cleveland (Profile)
Salazar began last season as a Tommy John survivor never to have appeared on a top-100 prospect list and ended it starting the Cleveland Clevelanders’ literally most important game of the year. What he did in the meantime was exhibit both a 96 mph fastball and also split-changeup, the latter of which offering provoked a non-zero number of religious experiences throughout Cuyahoga County. In terms of run prevention, Salazar’s 2014 season hasn’t been as excellent; indeed, he’s produced a league- and park-adjusted ERA 13% worse than average. In terms of his fielding-independent performance, however, Salazar has continued to pitch like an above-average major-league starter — if with perhaps slightly less electricity than during his 10-start run with the parent club last year.
Marcus Semien, 2B/3B (Profile)
As one notes from his stat lines here, Semien has produced very different offensive numbers this season at the minor- and major-league levels, exhibiting excellent plate discipline and contact skills in the former and much less of those things in the latter. That said, Semien’s walk and strikeout rates in 2014 represent a substantial improvement over his brief time with the White Sox last year, when he produced a 1:22 walk-to-strikeout ratio in 71 plate appearances. Both Steamer and ZiPS regard him as a nearly a league-average true-talent hitter.
The Next Five
Here are the players who finished sixth through tenth on last year’s Fringe Five scoreboard.
Boston infielder/outfielder/wunderkind Mookie Betts wasn’t even eligible for the Five until a mid-July promotion to High-A Salem, but still produced enough there to finish sixth overall on the mostly arbitrary Scoreboard. His 2014 season has been mostly a study is excellence … Miami left-hander Brian Flynn appeared within a number of early season editions of the Five, but was less effective following a promotion to Triple-A New Orleans. He made just two major-league appearances this season… Somewhat surprisingly, it’s been Mets right-hander Rafael Montero‘s command that has made his transition to the majors difficult. He’s produced a walk rate of 12.3% over 39.0 innings in the majors this season after walking only 5.8% of batters in over 400 minor-league innings… St. Louis’s Stephen Piscotty didn’t exhibit any more power this year than last — of some concern, that, if he’s to play a corner-outfield spot. Still, he continued to record excellent plate-discipline marks this season, posting walk and strikeout rates of 7.7% and 11.0%, respectively, with Triple-A Memphis… Following a promising record in the minor’s last season, Burch Smith‘s 2014 was a nothing: he pitched only 5.1 innings for San Diego’s Triple-A affiliate while dealing with a forearm injury.