The Fringe Five is a weekly regular-season exercise, introduced last April by the present author, wherein that same ridiculous 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 the exercise, of course, is a definition of the word fringe, a term which possesses different connotations for different sorts of readers. For the purposes of the column this year, a fringe prospect (and therefore one eligible for inclusion in the Five) is any rookie-eligible player at High-A or above both (a) absent from all of three notable preseason top-100 prospect lists* and also (b) not currently playing in the majors. Players appearing on the midseason prospect lists produced by those same notable sources or, otherwise, selected in the first round of the amateur draft will also be excluded from eligibility.
In the final analysis, the basic idea is this: to recognize those prospects who are perhaps receiving less notoriety than their talents or performance might otherwise warrant.
Taylor Cole, RHP, Toronto (Profile)
Photographic evidence suggests that right-handed Toronto prospect Taylor Cole is not an actual white whale. For the purposes of this weekly column, however, he is a figurative one — insofar, that is, as he’s recorded perhaps the best strikeout and walk figures among all qualified minor-league pitchers (31.3% and 6.0%, respectively, in 59.1 innings) and yet there appear to be zero reports concerning his repertoire specifically. One finds that Cole threw 95 mph as a high-school student in Las Vegas and only 87-88 mph last year at around this same time. One finds more recent pieces that suggest Cole has found some success in throwing his fastball more often and also snarling while he throws it. With regard to the velocity or shape of his pitches, however, this is a mystery. What’s not a mystery is the stat line from his most recent start, which is this stat line (box): 6.2 IP, 24 TBF, 10 K, 1 BB, 6:1 GO:FO.
Seth Mejias-Brean, 3B, Cincinnati (Profile)
An eighth-round selection by Cincinnati in 2012 out of the University of Arizona, Mejias-Brean produced a walk rate of about 10% and strikeout rate of about 15% during each of his first two minor-league seasons. In this, his third, he’s retained almost that identical strikeout rate while simultaneously drawing more walks. Those two basic skills — i.e. avoiding strikeouts while collecting walks — are valuable in concert. Moreover, players who possess both also tend to swing at the right pitches, which allows them to avoid terrible contact. A reasonable concern regarding Mejias-Brean is his age (23) relative to level. That concern is mitigated in part, however, by the fact that he’s always produced wherever he’s played.
For the pleasure of the reader, here’s nearly relevant footage of Mejia-Brean hitting a home run last July in Dayton:
Francellis Montas, RHP, Chicago AL (Profile)
One of the prospects acquired by the White Sox in the trade that sent Jake Peavy to Boston last summer, Montas was ranked 29th by Baseball America this offseason within a system that itself was ranked 24th among the league’s 30 organizations in terms of future talent. That typically isn’t the case for prospects, like Montas, who’ve touched 100 mph (while sitting in the mid-90s) during the last calendar year. The problem with Montas, it seems, has been one of command. Command at this point, however, doesn’t seem to be an issue for that giant, young man. The 21-year-old right-hander has recorded a 30:5 strikeout-to-walk ratio over five starts and 30.0 innings with High-A Winston-Salem. Most intelligent things that could be said about him have been said about him by Nathaniel Stolz about three weeks ago.
In the meantime, here’s a breaking ball from his most recent game:
Jace Peterson, SS, San Diego (Profile)
While his slash stats (.357/.455/.607) have been excellent in 34 plate appearances since then, Peterson’s (probably more telling) defense-independent numbers haven’t been as impressive since the most recent edition of the Five as they had been the week prior. At this point, however, Peterson’s inclusion within the present column remains less informed by the precise content of his weekly production and more by his membership to a club identified by the present, idiot author about two months ago. The club: those players who, since 2005, have been named the top-hitting, most-disciplined, best-fielding prospects in their respective organizations by Baseball America. The discovery: that those prospects, regardless of rank on preseason lists, have almost uniformly become above-average major leaguers. This offseason, Peterson joined Michael Bourn as the only two players to have earned all three aforementioned distinctions within their respective organizations, and yet to have been omitted from Baseball America’s overall top-100 prospect list.
Here are the 2014 stats for Peterson, along with the two other newest members of the club in question — all of whom appear to be producing admirable numbers:
|Jace Peterson||Padres||AA, AAA||24||163||14.1%||15.3%||3||.321||.420||.482||.373||150|
Tommy Shirley, LHP, Houston (Profile)
It’s perhaps true that all one needs is love. Two things that aren’t so awful to have in addition to love, however, are a fastball that reaches 95 mph and a changeup that serves as an outpitch. Internet coverage of Houston prospect Tommy Shirley cited within previous edition of this column reveals that the aforementioned left-hander possesses both of those things (i.e. the hard fastball and effective changeup). Footage of Shirley’s fastball has appeared elsewhere in the Five. What hasn’t appeared, though, is footage of the changeup — which omission the author has taken steps to rectify post-haste.
Like by means of this GIF, for example, in which Shirley is striking out Brian Bixler:
And by means of this other GIF, too, in which Shirley is also striking out out Austin Hedges:
The Next Five
These are players on whom the author might potentially become fixated.
Robert Kral, C, San Diego (Double-A Texas League)
Billy McKinney, OF, Oakland (High-A California League)
Bryan Mitchell, RHP, New York AL (Double-A Eastern League)
Wesley Parsons, RHP, Atlanta (High-A Carolina League)
Jose Ramirez, MI, Cleveland (Triple-A International 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.
|Taylor Cole||Blue Jays||RHP||2||0||6|
|Francellis Montas||White Sox||RHP||1||0||3|
|Brian Johnson||Red Sox||LHP||0||2||2|
|Tommy La Stella||Braves||2B||0||2||2|
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