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 second promotion to the major leagues — during the course of which he’s received actual at-bats — Yankees infield prospect Corban Joseph is once again ineligible for this edition of the Five. Likewise, San Diego right-hander Burch Smith, who appeared here last week, remains on the Padres’ 25-man roster following his not-entirely-inspirational major-league debut this past Saturday (box).

Replacing the pair are Miami left-hander Brian Flynn and Chicago Cubs second baseman Ronald Torreyes — about which dynamic pair the reader can learn more below.

All those points having been made, here are this week’s Fringe Five.

Wilmer Flores, 2B/3B, New York NL (Profile)
Flores continues to do things at Triple-A — or, at least, continues to do things offensively at Triple-A — that are rarely done by 21-year-olds. Like, for example, here’s Flores’ line since he appeared among The Five last week: 30 PA, 2 HR, 3 BB, 3 K. And here’s his line overall this season, at least in terms of the truest possible outcomes: 159 PA, 3 HR, 12 BB, 16 K. And, by comparison, here’s other talented 21-year-old Oscar Taveras‘s season line in the same Pacific Coast League: 127 PA, 4 HR, 6 BB, 17 K. He continues to produce evidence that he’s an entirely promising future hitter, is the point one derives from all this information.

Brian Flynn, LHP, Miami (Profile)
Flynn has appeared among the Next Five twice previously. This, however, is the first time he’s been included among the Fringe Five proper. Originally drafted by Detroit out of Wichita State in the seventh round of the 2011 draft, the 6-foot-7 and (maybe) 240-pound left-hander was traded to Miami last season (along with catcher Rob Brantly and more prized pitching prospect Jacob Turner) in the deal that sent Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez to the Tigers. He was excellent at Double-A Jacksonville (23.0 IP, 25:3 K:BB) to begin the season, earning a promotion to Triple-A. After some imperfect appearances with New Orleans, he posted a nine-strikeout and zero-walk effort in his most recent start with his new club.

While the camera angles for all of Flynn’s Triple-A starts have been less than ideal, he did pitch at Cincinnati’s Double-A affiliate Pensacola before his promotion — which park features a useful outfield camera.

Here’s footage of Flynn throwing his fastball past Reds prospect Devin Lohman, for example:

BF Lohman 1

And here’s footage of Flynn doing the same exact thing later in the same at-bat, for other example:

Mike O’Neill, COF, St. Louis (Profile)
There are only two batters in all of the minors who both (a) have recorded exactly zero major-league plate appearances and (b) have a higher projected major-league wOBA than O’Neill. Both of those players (outfielder Mike Zuanich and other outfielder Corey Dickerson), however, are part of the Colorado organization, meaning their raw offensive projections are calibrated for Coors Field. O’Neill’s projected raw .338 wOBA is actually probably deflated, considering Busch Stadium’s typical park effects. Here’s what O’Neill has done over the past week: 27 PA, 6 BB, 0 K, 1 HR.

Danny Salazar, RHP, Cleveland (Profile)
Literally within hours of his name appearing within this very hallowed column last week, Salazar’s handlers, the Cleveland Indians, announced the promotion of the right-hander from Double-A Akron to Triple-A Columbus. Coincidence? Almost certainly. In closely related news, here’s Salazar’s line from his Triple-A debut: 5.0 IP, 20 TBF, 5 K, 3 BB, 0 HR, 2 H, 0 R.

Ronald Torreyes, 2B, Chicago NL (Profile)
The author has been tempted to include Torreyes among the Fringe Five previously. He hasn’t, though. Because of circumstance, probably. And because of cowardice, also probably. In just his age-20 season, though, Torreyes has walked more than twice as often as he’s struck out (14:6 BB:K) in 108 plate appearances at Double-A Tennessee. Both the lack of power (he’s hit zero home runs) and lack of physicality (Torreyes is listed at just 5-foot-10 and 150 pounds) have given the author pause. What’s given the author less pause, however, is this video below of Torreyes — from last year and courtesy Baseball Instinct. In particular, what’s impressed the author is the way Torreyes has barreled the pitches at the 1:22 and 2:11 marks.

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

Chad Bettis, RHP, Colorado (Double-A Texas League)
Clayton Blackburn, RHP, San Francisco (High-A California League)
Garin Cecchini, 3B, Boston (High-A Carolina League)
Nolan Fontana, SS, Houston (High-A California 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.

Wilmer Flores Mets 2B 5 0 15
Mike O’Neill Cardinals OF 4 0 12
Marcus Semien White Sox SS 3 2 11
Corban Joseph Yankees 2B 3 0 9
Chase Anderson Diamondbacks RHP 2 2 8
Burch Smith Padres RHP 2 1 7
Danny Salazar Indians RHP 2 0 6
Brian Flynn Marlins LHP 1 2 5
Chad Bettis Rockies RHP 1 2 5
Joc Pederson Dodgers OF 1 2 5
Ronald Torreyes Cubs 2B 1 0 3
Max Muncy Athletics 1B 0 2 2
Nicholas Kingham Pirates RHP 0 2 2
Nolan Fontana Astros SS 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
Rafael Montero Mets RHP 0 1 1
Zach Walters Nationals SS 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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