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 current season’s 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.


Seth Mejias-Brean, 3B, Cincinnati (Profile)
Either owing to his multiple appearance within this important weekly column or for some other, less likely reason, Mejias-Brean was promoted by the Reds to Double-A last week after recording walk and strikeout rates of 14.1% and 15.7%, respectively — plus also 11 home runs — over 313 plate appearances in the California League. A brief inspection of the internet reveals that the 23-year-old’s first week in Double-A has been a shockingly promising one. Through 26 PAs now with the Pensacola Blue Wahoos, Mejias-Brean has produced an 8:1 walk-to-strikeout ratio and also a home run.

Unfortunately, footage of that home run doesn’t appear readily available. In its place, is this still of Mejias-Brean just before facing his first Double-A pitch:


And then a disappointing GIF of that same prospect drawing a walk moments later:

MB Walk

Daniel Norris, LHP, Toronto (Profile)
One could pretty reasonably dispute the notion that Norris is a fringe prospect. Indeed, the left-hander was drafted originally in the second round and appeared before the 2012 season on Baseball America’s top-100 list and has advanced through Toronto’s system with a celerity typical of more promising younger players. That said, he appeared on none of the relevant top-100 lists prior to this season — and, as a result, has perhaps received less of the attention of late that his recent achievement probably merits. As with Seth Mejias-Brean (above), Norris made his debut at Double-A last week after a promising half-season at High-A. Also like Mejias-Brean, Norris has produced startlingly proficient fielding-independent numbers so far, having recorded now a 19:4 strikeout-to-walk ratio after just two starts and 11.1 innings with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.

Luigi Rodriguez, OF, Cleveland (Profile)
Of Luigi Rodriguez the editors of Baseball America write in their most recent Prospect Handbook both that “home runs won’t be his forte” and also that “place discipline has been an issue.” It is appropriately encouraging, therefore, that he has both improved upon his established home-run rates and also recorded decidedly more promising walk and strikeout rates (14.7% and 19.5%, respectively) over his 190 plate appearances at High-A Carolina. His last six games have been of particular note, during which interval the 21-year-old outfielder has produced a 5:2 walk-to-strikeout ratio and two home runs in 27 plate appearances. The emergence of either power or plate-discipline would complement the athleticism and footspeed for which Rodriguez has been already been praised.

David Rollins, LHP, Houston (Profile)
The author did not purposely set out this season to dedicate the largest part of these weekly Fringe Five pieces to pitchers within the Houston system; one could reasonably claim, however, that such a thing has happened. Josh Hader, Thomas Shirley, Kyle Smith, and Aaron West have all previously made appearances — in many cases, multiple appearances — among the Five. This week, a fifth Houston pitching prospect appears in the person of left-hander David Rollins. A 24th-round selection by Toronto in 2011 draft, Rollins was one of seven players acquired by Houston in a trade that sent David Carpenter, J.A. Happ, and Brandon Lyon to the Blue Jays in 2012. Through eight starts and 11 appearances within the Astros’ tandem system, Rollins has produced strikeout and walk rats of 25.8% and 6.5%, respectively, over 38.0 innings.

During his most recent appearance on June 20th against Frisco (box), he threw fastballs at 92-94 mph according to the Corpus Christi Hooks broadcast. Here’s an example of him throwing one of those types of pitches to very celebrated prospect Joey Gallo for a swinging strike three:

Rollins Gallo FA SS K

Blake Treinen, RHP, Washington (Profile)
Provided the author’s calculations from yesterday’s post aren’t terribly incorrect, Washington right-hander Blake Treinen’s WAR projection has improved by a greater margin since the beginning of the season than any other pitcher for whom a projection is currently available from either Steamer or ZiPS. Much of that improvement is likely to how, over 65.1 innings this year between Triple-A and the majors, Treinen has allowed zero home runs. Indeed, with a ground-ball rate of 59.8% so far with the Nationals, the 25-year-old right-hander has given opponents little opportunity to hit the requisite number of fly balls.

Treinen induces those ground balls by means of a sinker with terrific movement — such as the one here at 93 mph against Brandon Crawford from the former’s most recent major-league start, on June 12th:

BT Crawford 1

A slow-motion version of which pitch is available here, as well:

BT Crawford 1 Slow

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

Aaron Blair, RHP, Arizona (High-A Califonria League)
Billy Mckinney, OF, Oakland (High-A Califonria League)
Dario Pizzano, OF, Seattle (Double-A Southern League)
Chris Taylor, SS, Seattle (Triple-A Pacific Coast League)
Shawn Zarraga, C, Milwaukee (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.

Thomas Shirley Astros LHP 6 1 19
Jace Peterson Padres SS 5 2 17
Josh Hader Astros LHP 4 2 14
Robert Kral Padres C 3 5 14
Jose Ramirez Indians 2B 4 1 13
Taylor Cole Blue Jays RHP 4 0 12
Billy Mckinney Athletics OF 2 5 11
Ben Lively Reds RHP 3 1 10
Seth Mejias-Brean Reds 3B 3 1 10
Daniel Norris Blue Jays LHP 3 0 9
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
Dario Pizzano Mariners OF 1 1 4
Shawn Zarraga Brewers C 1 1 4
Blake Treinen Nationals RHP 1 0 3
Cameron Rupp Phillies C 1 0 3
David Rollins Astros LHP 1 0 3
Kyle Hendricks Cubs RHP 1 0 3
Luigi Rodriguez Indians OF 1 0 3
Marco Gonzales Cardinals LHP 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
Chris Taylor Mariners SS 0 2 2
Roberto Perez Indians C 0 2 2
Tommy La Stella Braves 2B 0 2 2
Aaron Blair D-backs RHP 0 1 1
Billy Burns Athletics OF 0 1 1
Brett Eibner Royals OF 0 1 1
Conrad Gregor Astros 1B 0 1 1
Danny Winkler Rockies RHP 0 1 1
Darnell Sweeney Dodgers 2B/SS 0 1 1
Edwar Cabrera Rangers LHP 0 1 1
Jesse Winker Reds OF 0 1 1
Kyle Smith Astros RHP 0 1 1
Stephen Landazuri Mariners RHP 0 1 1
Tim Cooney Cardinals LHP 0 1 1
Ty Kelly Mariners 2B/3B 0 1 1
Tyler Goeddel Rays 3B 0 1 1

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Carson Cistulli has just published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.

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

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  1. everdiso says:

    Norris is about to be a fringe prospect and a top 50 prospect all at the same time, looks like.

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  2. Sean says:

    Take a peek at Conrad Gregor next time, Carson.

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    • In fact, Gregor appeared here last week — among the Next Five, at least. Rather impressive, how he’s begun the High-A portion of his career.

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      • Sean says:

        Oh, I am so sorry. Well done with your keen eye. More from Gregor just last night, too. And all the wind in the California league can’t make a guy walk more than he strikes out.

        God knows Teoscar understands that. Though that one not-very-fringe player was trying to do it. Then bad things happened.

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  3. Andrew says:

    “That said, [Norris] appeared on none of the relevant top-100 lists prior to this season…”

    Norris was #98 on John Sickels’ top 150 list for 2014

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    • Coop! says:

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

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      • Andrew says:

        Obviously something needs to be changed because the asterisk does nothing to take away from the connotation of how the sentence’s wording. It’s actually a convoluted way of writing that all down.

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  4. Not a relative says:

    Love the series, Carson. Now the request: How about profiles of Matt Olson and Breyvic Valera. They’re the Gene Tenace and Mickey Witek for the next generation.

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    • A's Fan says:

      Olson is killing it in High-A.

      He’s had a much better year offensively than Billy McKinney and is only 5 months older (both are among the youngest players in the California League).

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  5. Kyle says:

    “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.”

    One of the cool things about your own website is that you can actually look up the players who you’re writing about, and then exclude them when they don’t fit your own personal criteria. Such as…Billy McKinney.

    “2013 June Amateur Draft – Round: 1, Pick: 24, Overall: 24, Team: Oakland Athletics”

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  6. Hojeman says:

    So when are we getting Dalton Pompey?

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  7. ESPN Message Board Guy says:


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  8. wobatus says:

    I feel badly for fringe grad Jace Peterson, who is in a 1-37 slump and has lost his minor league plate discipline. Hadn’t had even a half season above high A before thrown into the cauldron of no-hittability of the Padres. He’ll come around.

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    • Steve says:

      If Jace follows in the footsteps of former Cistulli infatuation Charlie Blackmon, he will be awesome in about 2.5 years, after having been terrible.

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  9. nsacpi says:

    I submit for your consideration the name Kyle Kubitza.

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  10. Hendu for Kutch says:

    I know he violates the A+ rule, but I’d love to read some info on Jake Bauers. He’s one of 5 age-appropriate players in the minors with an OPS over 1.000, while also being the youngest player in the Midwest League. Yet, I can find no hype or even stories about him.

    FYI, the 5 players are Bryant, Gallo, Seager, Pederson, and Bauers. Not bad company for a guy nobody’s ever heard of.

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    • Reply guy says:

      If you go to this site & enter “Jake Bauers” you’ll be taken to the 2013 draft preview. You’ll find Bauers down at #200, with a mini scouting report.

      He’s not toolsy by any means, but he has the two tools that matter most. Could be a batting title contender who pops 20-25 homers in his prime, and maybe 30 once or twice. (Even Jimmy Rollins hit 30 once, right?)

      Bauers should be on everyone’s mid-season top 25, but he won’t be — just as Taveras wasn’t when he tore up the MWL. (Heck, last week Law said he isn’t top 100. Wrong.)

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      • Hendu for Kutch says:

        Thanks for the info. I can find some info pre-draft, but almost nothing more current discussing his dismantling of the Midwest league.

        Where did Law discuss Bauers last week? Was it an ESPN Insider piece?

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  11. Dylan says:

    I was so spoiled by the Mets appearing so often here last year. Now I think their best hope might be Allan Dykstra.

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    • Wobatus says:

      Kevin Plawecki. Absent from all 3 top 100s in the criteria i think, high A or above, not drafted 1st round this year (he was a supplemental first rounder in 2012). 6.4-10.8% bb/k rates, .160 iso. .326/.378/.487 slash. Catcher. His bb rate may be a little low this year, but a little higher last year and closer to 1:1. He will likely make some top 100s next year.

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      • Dylan says:

        Shocked that Plawecki isn’t on any of the lists. My bad, he’s a clear Fringe Five candidate in that case.

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        • SlickRick says:

          How could Plawecki possibly make these lists when CC infatuation Robert Kral is usually taking a spot on the list….?

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  12. Shaun says:

    Do you hate Mets prospects?

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    • Wobatus says:

      Doubtful. He prominently featured Flores, Montero and even Bowman last year.

      Bowman may even warrant another look, since he is doing essentially the same thing in AA this year. More line drives so more hittable, but 21.9 k% 6.8 bb% and 57.3 gb%.

      I nominate Plawecki and Bowman for consideration.

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  13. Michael says:

    Walk rats are much cuter than those fast-moving run rats.

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