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)
Last week, right-handed Toronto prospect Taylor Cole was among the five players selected as part of this recurring exercise. Since that time, he’s made a single start — May 29th, it would appear, at Charlotte — over the course of which he recorded a 9:0 strikeout-to-walk ratio against 23 batters over 7.0 innings (box). To the extent those numbers are excellent, the author is compelled once again to include Cole among the Five. Meanwhile, precious new information exists with regard to Cole’s arm speed and/or repertoire. He remains old (24) relative to his level. Another thing he remains is basically the best pitcher at High-A or above by kwREA — which fact the table below illustrates.

This table, that is:

# Name Team Age IP TBF K% BB% kwERA
1 Mike Fiers Brewers 29 67.2 267 34.5% 3.4% 1.67
2 Taylor Cole Blue Jays 24 66.1 256 32.0% 5.5% 2.21
3 Ben Lively Reds 22 74.0 277 31.0% 4.7% 2.24
4 Mark Binford Royals 21 57.0 232 28.9% 4.7% 2.50
5 Daniel Norris Blue Jays 21 56.1 225 29.3% 6.2% 2.63
6 Josh Hader Astros 20 55.1 217 31.8% 8.8% 2.64
7 Eric Surkamp White Sox 26 55.1 252 25.8% 4.4% 2.83
8 Danny Winkler Rockies 24 66.1 249 27.3% 6.4% 2.89
9 Michael Recchia White Sox 25 58.1 226 26.1% 5.3% 2.90
10 Jose Berrios Twins 20 56.1 235 27.7% 7.2% 2.95

Seth Mejias-Brean, 3B, Cincinnati (Profile)
Is Reds third-base prospect Mejias-Brean the offensive complement to Taylor Cole? Not precisely, no. For the sake of a tidy narrative, however, the author is prepared to exaggerate the similarities between the two. For example: like Cole, Mejias-Brean appeared on last week’s installment of the Five. Also like Cole, he’s produced a wholly admirable line since that point. (To wit: 36 PA, 7:5 BB:K, 1 HR, .483/.583/.690, .565 BABIP.) Finally, one finds that Mejias-Brean is also slightly older (23, in this case) than a real prospect at High-A ought to be. What he hasn’t done is produce the second-best defense-independent line among all prospects at High-A or above. By the hitter’s equivalent to kwERA, Mejias-Brean is about 20th or 30th among all minor-league batters, probably. His basic skills set remains one that tends to translate well to the majors — which is to say, it consists of contact skills, the ability to draw a walk, and also average-or-better defensive play at a difficult position.

Francellis Montas, RHP, Chicago AL (Profile)
Because his season only began on May 5th, the right-handed Montas was omitted from the earliest editions of this column. At the moment, however, it’s difficult to conceive of a scenario in which he wouldn’t appear with some regularity henceforth. After his debut last week among the Five, the 21-year-old proceeded to face other frequent MoF*, Wesley Parsons, in a Carolina League game on June 1st. Montas produced the better line of the two, recording a 6:0 strikeout-to-walk ratio against 27 batters over 7.0 innings (box). The most encouraging development for Montas remains his control. After having posted a 10.9% walk rate in 191.2 professional innings before this season, he’s walked batters at about only a third of that rate in 2014 so far.

Another encouraging development probably is Montas’s changeup, recent footage of which one can find here — specifically, to Atlanta prospect Levi Hyams:

Montas CH Hyams SS

And here, as well, except much slower to Hyams:

Montas CH Hyams SS Slow

*Member of the Five.

Daniel Norris, LHP, Toronto (Profile)
Many real-life acquaintances of the author — and even more virtual ones — have suggested that he (i.e. that same author) is either “probably a moron” or “definitely a super moron.” The latest case for the verity of these simulatenously wicked and true aspersions is how left-handed Blue Jays prospect Daniel Norris has been omitted from every edition of Five to date — despite, for example, (a) producing one of the best kwERA figures (see the entry for Taylor Cole) among all qualified pitchers at High-A or above and also (b) possessing what Marc Hulet regards as a entirely promising repertoire.

Here’s that GIF everyone requested of Norris striking out Raph Rhymes via an inside fastball from last August 15th:

Norris FA Rhymes SS K

And the second GIF about which everyone was inquiring — in this case of Norris throwing probably his curveball for a strikeout against Jared Reaves from that same game:

Norris CU Reaves SS K

Jose Ramirez, 2B, Cleveland (Profile)
Elsewhere within these electronic pages, the author has almost certainly produced a brief study of players who recorded the majority of their plate appearances as 21-year-olds at Triple-A — and almost just as certainly found that those same players go on to become, with startling regularity, above-average major leaguers. The precise whereabouts of that study are a mystery, it appears. What’s less of a mystery is how good Jose Ramirez both is and will be. He’s excluded from all the relevant top-100 prospect lists on the basis of his size, probably. He’s way young, though, and controls the strike zone super well and switch-hits and has the ability to play second base well and shortstop almost well.

Minimal effort by the author reveals this footage of Ramirez making some manner of diving play:

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

Josh Hader, LHP, Houston (High-A California League)
Billy McKinney, OF, Oakland (High-A California League)
Wesley Parsons, RHP, Atlanta (High-A Carolina League)
Jace Peterson, SS, San Diego (Triple-A Pacific Coast League)
Thomas Shirley, LHP, Houston (Double-A Texas 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 2 17
Thomas Shirley Astros LHP 5 1 16
Josh Hader Astros LHP 4 2 14
Robert Kral Padres C 3 5 14
Ben Lively Reds RHP 3 1 10
Billy Mckinney Athletics OF 2 4 10
Jose Ramirez Indians 2B/SS 3 1 10
Taylor Cole Blue Jays RHP 3 0 9
Seth Mejias-Brean Reds 3B 2 1 7
Andrew Aplin Astros OF 1 3 6
Bryan Mitchell Yankees RHP 1 3 6
Francellis Montas White Sox RHP 2 0 6
Michael Reed Brewers OF 2 0 6
Wesley Parsons Braves RHP 1 3 6
Aaron West Astros RHP 1 2 5
Adam Duvall Giants 3B 1 2 5
Cameron Rupp Phillies C 1 0 3
Daniel Norris Blue Jays LHP 1 0 3
Dario Pizzano Mariners OF 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.


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

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  1. MaineSkin says:

    Have you considered removing Jace, Hader and Montahs from the fringe category of prospects? Jace has 30SB Spd at SS with a hit tool and only the 27yr old Everth in front who’s back to the non-HR .250 player he is w/o PEDs. Hader is a classic high floor kid every org wants like Os Eduardo Rodriguez. Montahs floor #orioles a closer from recent reports considering the plus 2 pitches.

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  2. Alex says:

    I really want the Padres to just give Jace the SS job and see if he can run with it.

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  3. Cicero says:

    Why don’t you love Danny Winkler the way you once did? Isn’t a 1.49ERA with a 4.25K/BB more impressive at AA than a 2.97ERA and 4.11ERA in high A? this is a guy who has not sniffed a top 100, and didn’t even crack the BP top 200

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  4. FredWilponzi says:

    Whuh?? No Robert Kral?! Go back and re-write this column immediately.

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  5. BJ Birdie says:

    Thank you for the Norris inclusion! Now I will call you a super-moron for not one mention of Dalton Pompey! 164 wRC+, 21:2 SB/CS ratio, oh ya and he won gold glove for all of the minor leagues last year. Oh ya and he plays CF.

    http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=sa549230&position=OF

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    • gabrielthursday says:

      I think I’ll just be happy with the pair of Blue Jays currently on the list. I think the entirety of last year’s fringe five had zero Blue Jay inclusions (even on the “next five”).

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  6. Aaron Trammell says:

    No mention of the recent matriculation of former Fringe Five darling Tommy LaStella? For shame, Carson….

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  7. M W says:

    Mejias has to prove that the power he is showing (in Bakersfield – a short fenced CF) is legit. If not his career ceiling is that of Jack Hannahan / Jeff Keppinger type.

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