The Fringe Five: Baseball’s Most Compelling Fringe Prospects

The Fringe Five is a weekly exercise (introduced in April) wherein the author utilizes regressed stats, scouting reports, and also his own heart to identify and/or continue monitoring the most compelling fringe prospects in all of baseball.

Central to this exercise, of course, is a definition of the word fringe. The author recognizes that the word has different connotations for different sorts of readers. For the purposes of this column, however — and for reasons discussed more thoroughly in a recent edition of the Five — the author has considered eligible for the Five any prospect who was absent from all of three notable preseason top-100 prospect lists.

That said, it should also be noted that in cases where the collective enthusiasm regarding a player’s talent becomes very fevered — like how the enthusiasm collectively right now for Philadelphia third-base prospect Maikel Franco is very fevered, for example — that will likely affect said player’s likelihood of appearing among the Five, given that the purpose of the series, at some level, is to identify prospects who are demonstrating promise above what one might expect given their current reputations within the prospect community.

With that said, here are this week’s Fringe Five:

Chad Bettis, RHP, Colorado (Profile)
This marks the second consecutive week in which Bettis has appeared among the Five, and third overall. It’s possible, however, that it will be his last, as he’s scheduled to make his major-league debut on Thursday against Atlanta. Bettis has been excellent for Double-A Tulsa, recording a 68:13 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 63.0 innings. The right-hander has received considerable praise both for his fastball (which sits at 93-95 mph) and slider. As the very dark footage below indicates, however — from a recent start against Angels affiliate Arkansas — his changeup might also be an excellent pitch.

Like this changeup:

Bettis Coward CH SS 4th

And this other one:

Bettis Lindsey CH SS K 6th

Mookie Betts, 2B, Boston (Profile)
Betts made his debut among the Five last week, having made an impression already at High-A Salem following an early July promotion from the Sally League. Despite a slash-line that is less than ideal aesthetically (.235/.284/.412, .226 BABIP), Betts continues to produce defense-independent marks that suggest a sound approach and the likelihood of future success. Since last week, for example, he’s recorded a 3:2 walk-to-strikeout ratio in 24 plate appearances, adding a stolen base on as many attempts. Overall, the 20-year-old has posted a 5:5 walk-to-strikeout ratio and two home runs in 75 plate appearances in the Carolina League — and is 7-for-7 on stolen-base attempts.

Here’s footage, from shortly before his promotion, of Betts hitting a line-drive double off the wall in left-center field for Greenville:

And here’s an animated GIF from said footage which isolates Betts’ swing, specifically:

Betts Double

Zachary Petrick, RHP, St. Louis (Profile)
It’s unlikely for a number of reasons that the St. Louis Cardinals have, like, a computer or machine that assembles talented pitching prospects out of discarded genetic material. The reader is excused, however, for suspecting that the contingency is possible. With regard to Petrick, for example, one finds (courtesy a recent profile by MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch) that he (a) played collegiately at the University of Northwestern Ohio in the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference Tournament, (b) barely threw 90 mph in college, and (c) went undrafted in 2012 following his senior season. One also finds that he was subsequently signed by an enterprising Cardinals scout, sits at 90-93 mph now somehow, and has recorded a 98:16 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 83.2 innings across three levels this season, most recently with Double-A Springfield.

Danny Salazar, RHP, Cleveland (Profile)
Among minor-league pitchers with at least 80 innings thrown, the right-handed Salazar is first in strikeout rate at 34.9% — ahead of Archie Bradley, ahead of Noah Syndergaard, ahead of Taijuan Walker. Nor, as has been documented at some length in these pages, does Salazar succeed merely by deception. His fastball sat at 95 mph during his lone (and very successful) major-league start, and he pairs it with a split-change that features great and sharp depth. Salazar was excellent in his most recent Triple-A start on July 28, recording an 11:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio against just 18 batters over 5.0 innings (box), before being removed for reasons entirely related to how he’s recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Marcus Semien, MI, Chicago AL (Profile)
In every edition of the Five this month, the author has been compelled to note how Semien’s performance over the most recent week is even more impressive than those of all the weeks prior. Nor will this edition of the Five divert at all from that trend. Over 35 plate appearances from July 23rd to 29th, Semien recorded an 11:4 walk-to-strikeout ratio, while also hitting two home runs and adding two stolen bases on as many attempts. That performance, combined with a .556 BABIP over the interval, conspired to give Semien a slash-line of .500/.657/.958 for the week. Defensively, Semien continues to play shortstop (three times this week), second base (twice), and third (also twice).

Semien was featured in the most recent edition of NotGraphs Video Scouting, in which footage of a prospect is paired with amusing audio of some kind:

The Next Five
These are players on whom the author might potentially become fixated.

Tim Cooney, LHP, St. Louis (Double-A Texas League)
Edwin Escobar, LHP, San Francisco (Double-A Eastern League)
Mike O’Neill, OF, St. Louis (Double-A Texas League)
Stephen Piscotty, OF, St. Louis (Double-A Texas League)
Danny Winkler, RHP, Colorado (High-A California League)

Fringe Five Scoreboard
Here are all the players to have appeared among either the Fringe Five (FF) or Next Five (NF) so far this season. For mostly arbitrary reasons, players are assessed three points for each week they’ve appeared among the Fringe Five; a single point, for each week among the Next Five.

Name Team POS FF NF PTS
Mike O’Neill Cardinals OF 10 4 34
Marcus Semien White Sox SS 8 6 30
Wilmer Flores Mets 2B 8 3 27
Danny Salazar Indians RHP 7 5 26
Maikel Franco Phillies 3B 6 1 19
Brian Flynn Marlins LHP 4 3 15
Rafael Montero Mets RHP 3 5 14
Burch Smith Padres RHP 4 1 13
Chad Bettis Rockies RHP 3 2 11
Robbie Ray Nationals LHP 3 2 11
Corban Joseph Yankees 2B 3 1 10
Matthew Bowman Mets RHP 3 1 10
Chase Anderson D-backs RHP 2 2 8
Nick Kingham Pirates RHP 1 5 8
Arismendy Alcantara Cubs SS 2 1 7
Max Muncy Athletics 1B 1 4 7
Cody Martin Atlanta RHP 2 0 6
Joc Pederson Dodgers OF 1 3 6
Mookie Betts Red Sox 2B 2 0 6
Ronald Torreyes Astros 2B 1 3 6
Tim Cooney Cardinals LHP 1 3 6
Jose Ramirez Yankees RHP 1 1 4
Zach Walters Nationals SS 1 1 4
Danny Winkler Rockies RHP 1 0 3
Eddie Butler Rockies RHP 1 0 3
Edwin Escobar Giants RHP 0 3 3
Zachary Petrick Cardinals RHP 1 0 3
Brad Miller Mariners SS 0 2 2
Nolan Fontana Astros SS 0 2 2
Stephen Piscotty Cardinals OF 0 2 2
Taylor Lindsey Angels 2B 0 2 2
Victor Payano Rangers LHP 0 2 2
Chris Heston Giants RHP 0 1 1
Clayton Blackburn Giants RHP 0 1 1
Garin Cecchini Red Sox 3B 0 1 1
Greg Garcia Cardinals SS 0 1 1
John Murphy Yankees C 0 1 1
Josh Vitters Cubs 3B 0 1 1
Nick Delmonico Brewers CIF 0 1 1
R.J. Seidel Brewers RHP 0 1 1


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Carson Cistulli has just published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.


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