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The Fringe Five: Baseball’s Most Compelling Fringe Prospects

The Fringe Five is a weekly exercise (introduced last month) 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 working definition of fringe. Currently, for the purposes of this column, it’s any prospect who was absent from all of three notable preseason top-100 prospect lists. (A more robust meditation on the idea of fringe can be found here.)

Since last week’s edition, there have been four total changes to The Fringe Five. Following his promotion to the majors, Corban Joseph was omitted from consideration last week. In the wake of his recent demotion, however, he’s become eligible again for inclusion here, per the author’s mostly arbitrary rules governing the matter. New to The Five is Cleveland right-handed prospect Danny Salazar, who, following an eight-strikeout performance on Tuesday, now has 38 strikeouts in his last four Double-A starts.

Demoted from The Five — for reasons that require no elaboration, declares the present author — are right-handed Rockies prospect Chad Bettis and White Sox middle infielder Marcus Semien.

Those caveats made, let’s proceed to this week’s Fringe Five.

Wilmer Flores, 2B/3B, New York NL (Profile)
Only two qualified Pacific Coast League batters are younger than Flores: uber-prospect Jurickson Profar and other uber-prospect Oscar Taveras. Nor are Flores’ present offensive indicators considerably different than either of theirs. Regard, Profar’s line as of Tuesday: 117 PA, 2 HR, 17 BB, 19 K. And also Taveras’s: 99 PA, 3 HR, 6 BB, 11 K. And now Flores’s: 129 PA, 1 HR, 9 BB, 13 K.

Corban Joseph, 2B, New York AL (Profile)
As noted above, Joseph was promoted to the major leagues last week. As not noted, he made precisely zero plate appearances at the level before being sent back down. Joseph did make 17 Triple-A plate appearances over the past week, however, recording a 3:3 walk-to-strikeout ratio.

Mike O’Neill, COF, St. Louis (Profile)
O’Neil has posted a 6:2 walk-to-strikeout ratio since the last edition of The Five and is now — as of Tuesday night, at least — batting .308/.466/.352 (.329 BABIP) with a 27:6 walk-to-strikeout ratio in 118 plate appearances.

Here’s representative footage of a Mike O’Neill plate appearance — in this case, from a May 6th game against Colorado Double-A affiliate Tulsa:

O'Neill Walk

Danny Salazar, RHP, Cleveland (Profile)
A 2006 free-agent international signing out of the Dominican, the 23-year-old Salazar has been dominant to begin the season — especially in his four most recent starts, over the course of which he’s posted a 38:5 strikeout-to-walk ratio in just 21.0 innings. Like Burch Smith below, Salazar’s fastball has touched 98 mph — and was siting at 96-98 on Tuesday night, provided the Akron gun is somewhat accurate.

Here’s footage of a fastball at 98 mph from Salazar’s Tuesday night start to strike out Double-A Erie catcher James McCann:

Salazar to McCann

And here’s a changeup for a swinging strike to first baseman James Robbins:

Salazar to Robbins CH

Burch Smith, RHP, San Diego (Profile)
Since his first appearance among The Fringe Five last week, Smith has made one start, and it seems to have been excellent. In 5.1 innings, Smith posted this line: 20 TBF, 6 K, 2 BB, 0 HR, 1 H. Reports seem almost unanimously to suggest that he’s at least touching 98 mph. As Bill Center of the Union-Tribune notes, the Padres will need a fifth starter later in May. Smith is a candidate for promotion at that point.

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

Chase Anderson, RHP, Arizona (Triple-A Pacific Coast League)
Chad Bettis, RHP, Colorado (Double-A Texas League)
Nolan Fontana, SS, Houston (High-A California League)
Nicholas Kingham, RHP, Pittsburgh (High-A Florida State League)
Marcus Semien, SS/2B, Chicago AL (Double-A Southern 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
Wilmer Flores Mets 2B 4 0 12
Marcus Semien White Sox SS 3 1 10
Corban Joseph Yankees 2B 3 0 9
Mike O’Neill Cardinals OF 3 0 9
Chase Anderson Diamondbacks RHP 2 2 8
Burch Smith Padres RHP 2 1 7
Joc Pederson Dodgers OF 1 2 5
Chad Bettis Rockies RHP 1 1 4
Danny Salazar Indians RHP 1 0 3
Brian Flynn Marlins LHP 0 2 2
Max Muncy Athletics 1B 0 2 2
Nicholas Kingham Pirates RHP 0 2 2
Victor Payano Rangers LHP 0 2 2
Chris Heston Giants RHP 0 1 1
Greg Garcia Cardinals SS 0 1 1
Nolan Fontana Astros SS 0 1 1
Rafael Montero Mets RHP 0 1 1
Zach Walters Nationals SS 0 1 1