The Fringe Five: Baseball’s Most Compelling Fringe Prospects

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 this case, those produced by Baseball America, ESPN’s Keith Law, and our own Marc Hulet.

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:

Montas SL Miller SS K 2nd

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:

Name Org Lev Age PA BB% K% HR AVG OBP SLG BABIP wRC+
J.P. Crawford Phillies A 19 187 13.4% 12.8% 3 .344 .435 .488 .391 164
Jace Peterson Padres AA, AAA 24 163 14.1% 15.3% 3 .321 .420 .482 .373 150
Francisco Lindor Indians AA 20 206 11.2% 15.5% 4 .289 .371 .417 .331 123
Average 185 12.9% 14.5% 3 .318 .409 .462 .365 146

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:

Shirley CH Bixler SS

And by means of this other GIF, too, in which Shirley is also striking out out Austin Hedges:

Shirley CH Hedges SS K

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.

Name Team POS FF NF PTS
Jace Peterson Padres SS 5 1 16
Thomas Shirley Astros LHP 5 0 15
Robert Kral Padres C 3 5 14
Josh Hader Astros LHP 4 1 13
Ben Lively Reds RHP 3 1 10
Billy Mckinney Athletics OF 2 3 9
Jose Ramirez Indians 2B/SS 2 1 7
Andrew Aplin Astros OF 1 3 6
Bryan Mitchell Yankees RHP 1 3 6
Michael Reed Brewers OF 2 0 6
Taylor Cole Blue Jays RHP 2 0 6
Aaron West Astros RHP 1 2 5
Adam Duvall Giants 3B 1 2 5
Wesley Parsons Braves RHP 1 2 5
Seth Mejias-Brean Reds 3B 1 1 4
Cameron Rupp Phillies C 1 0 3
Dario Pizzano Mariners OF 1 0 3
Francellis Montas White Sox RHP 1 0 3
Kyle Hendricks Cubs RHP 1 0 3
Ryan Rua Rangers 3B 1 0 3
Tsuyoshi Wada Cubs LHP 1 0 3
Brian Johnson Red Sox LHP 0 2 2
Roberto Perez Indians C 0 2 2
Tommy La Stella Braves 2B 0 2 2
Billy Burns Athletics OF 0 1 1
Brett Eibner Royals OF 0 1 1
Chris Taylor Mariners SS 0 1 1
Danny Winkler Rockies RHP 0 1 1
Darnell Sweeney Dodgers MI 0 1 1
Edwar Cabrera Rangers LHP 0 1 1
Stephen Landazuri Mariners RHP 0 1 1
Tim Cooney Cardinals LHP 0 1 1
Tyler Goeddel Rays 3B 0 1 1



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Carson Cistulli occasionally publishes spirited ejaculations at The New Enthusiast.


12 Responses to “The Fringe Five: Baseball’s Most Compelling Fringe Prospects”

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  1. Spa City says:

    One day, probably soon, Stetson Allie will make his Fringe Five debut. And regardless whether my suggestion had anything to do with it, I will claim full credit for bringing him to Carson’s attention.

    Stetson currently sports a 13.4 BB% and an ISO of .244 in AA. He produced at roughly the same level last year at the A and A+ levels. He can hit and he draws a ton of walks. Obviously he has tremendous arm strength as a former pitcher.

    He strikes out a LOT, and he has little defensive value. But those flaws are what make him a “fringe” prospect rather then a “top” prospect.

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    • DetroitMichael says:

      It would be difficult for me to consider anyone who got over $2M as a draft bonus as “fringe”.

      I know, I know, that was as a HS pitcher instead of a position player, but I feel like Allie’s wacky journey through the minors is much more well known than most….although Jace Peterson WAS a first rounder….and Brett Eibner got way over slot and $1M+.

      I take back everything I just said. ALLIE FOR THE F5!

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  2. Peter says:

    Danny Winkler, perhaps?

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  3. Dick Schofield says:

    It’d be cool to host a fringe prospects all-star game. Kinda like Notgraphs hosts fringy baseball writers.

    (Zinger from love and affection)

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  4. Teams with 0 points on the Fringe Prospect board this year: Nationals, Diamondbacks, Pirates, Marlins, Mets, Orioles, Twins, Angels, Tigers. I’m probably missing one or two.

    The Astros are in a clear lead with 39 points.

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  5. Alan says:

    Odrisamer Despaigne should be in on name alone.

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  6. Mike says:

    TJ House had a nice outing for the Indians yesterday. Could be a fringe type guy in the future.

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  7. Jeremy says:

    What about Taylor Cole’s teammate, Daniel Norris? 10.73 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 0.72 ERA, 1.64 FIP in 50.1 IP.

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  8. Spa City says:

    One day, probably soon, Gift Ngoepe will make his Fringe Five debut. And regardless whether my suggestion had anything to do with it, I will claim full credit for bringing him to Carson’s attention.

    Ngoepe is a talented defensive shortstop. He is a switch hitter. He draws walks (13.6 BB% this year at AA Altoona, in line with his track record in the lower minors). He is a fast and effective base runner. He strikes out frequently (28% at AA), but that is what makes him a fringe prospect rather than a top prospect. He should at least have a future as a utility infielder.

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