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.


Robert Refsnyder, 2B, New York AL (Profile)
Last Wednesday, Marc Hulet noted within these pages that Refsnyder — selected by the Yankees out of Arizona in the fifth round of the 2012 draft — that Refsnyder had produced demonstrably absurd numbers over the previous 10 days. In the week since Hulet’s post, Refsnyder has recorded less impressive numbers — but only because basically all numbers are less impressive than the ones he’d recorded before. Over the last week, Refsnyder has still walked in more than 15% of his 32 plate appearances and added two home runs. There are still concerns regarding his defense, the 23-year-old having converted to second base from right field only just last year; however, there are also indications that Refsnyder has improved at converting the opportunities within his range. Regard: after posting a .943 fielding percentage last year between Class A and High-A, Refsnyder has produced a .977 mark this year — and has made zero errors, actually, in 101 chances at second following his promotion to the Triple-A International League.

Here’s footage from July 6th of Refsnyder not making an error on a line drive:

Ref 1 (2)

And continued footage from that same game of Refsnyder not committing an error whilst turning a double play:

Ref 3

David Rollins, LHP, Houston (Profile)
The left-handed Rollins, one of two Houston pitching prospects among the this week’s Five, made his debut here two weeks ago — at which point he had produced (markedly excellent) strikeout and walk rates of 25.8% and 6.5%, respectively, over 38.0 innings. In 13.0 innings over three appearances since then, he’s recorded strikeout and walk rates of 28.0% and 4.0% — which is to say, even better ones. There appear to be no recent scouting reports on the 24-year-old — although, as noted in recent edition of the Five, the Corpus Christi Hooks broadcast noted fastballs at 92-94 mph.

Kyle Smith, RHP, Houston (Profile)
After recording strikeout and walk rates of 27.2% and 10.5%, respectively, over 27.2 innings at High-A Lancaster to begin the season, the right-handed Smith has preserved the latter of those figures (i.e. his strikeout rate) while halving the former in about double the innings (56.2) for Double-A Corpus Christi — with which club he’s a teammate of David Rollins (above). Originally selected out of a Florida high school by Kansas City in the fourth round of the 2011 draft, Smith was traded by the Royals to Houston at last year’s deadline in exchange for Justin Maxwell. While not having entered the season among the league’s more celebrated prospects, he’s generally received praise — like from Marc Hulet, for example, and like from the editors of Baseball America (in their Prospect Handbook) — for his curveball.

Here’s an example of that curveball from his most recent starts — in this case to strike out Starlin Rodriguez:

KS 1

And that same pitch, inexplicably slower:

KS 1 Slow

Steven Souza, OF, Washington (Profile)
It’s probably a threat to whatever legitimacy this weekly column possesses that Souza hasn’t previously appeared within it. In just over 300 plate appearances with Triple-A Syracuse, he’s produced respectable plate-discipline numbers (12.9% BB and 17.2% K) while also demonstrating a combination of power (in the form of 13 home runs) and speed (insofar as he’s 20-for-25 on stolen-base attempts). If he’s been omitted, it’s because the author weighed perhaps too heavily the number of games Souza was starting in right field at the beginning of the season. Following two brief promotions with the parent club, however, the 25-year-old has recorded a number of appearances in center — including three of them, for example, over his last eight games. Moreover, Souza has one of the most optimistic Steamer projections among rookie-eligible players now, forecasting him to produce ca. 2.5 WAR per ever 600 plate appearances.

Here’s Souza homering on July 1st, courtesy of a minor-league feed with excellent production quality:

Mike Tauchman, OF, Colorado (Profile)
“Will it play in Peoria?” is a figure of speech commonly employed to inquire as to whether a product or idea will appeal to a mainstream demographic. Indeed, Mike Tauchman has played in Peoria — quite a bit, one assumes, owing to how he was not only born there but then also attended Bradley University for four years. Selected out of that same school by the Rockies in the 10th round of last year’s draft, Tauchman produced reasonable, but not inspiring, numbers in the Low-A Northwest League. Since his late-June promotion to High-A Modesto, however, he’ been excellent. Nor is it merely his slash line (.419/.500/.791) which merits attention: he’s recorded a 7:5 walk-to-strikeout ratio and four home runs over his first 50 plate appearances with Modesto. One is cautious, of course, about offensive production in the California League. That said, one also notes that Modesto’s John Thurman Field allows home runs to left-handed batters at only 71% the rate of the average Cal League park.

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

Andrew Aplin, OF, Houston (Double-A Texas League)
Ben Lively, RHP, Cincinnati (Double-A Southern League)
Seth Mejias-Brean, 3B, Cincinnati (Double-A Southern League)
Dario Pizzano, OF, Seattle (Double-A Southern League)
Rob Zastryzny, LHP, Chicago NL (High-A Florida State 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
Jose Ramirez Indians 2B 5 1 16
Josh Hader Astros LHP 4 2 14
Robert Kral Padres C 3 5 14
Seth Mejias-Brean Reds 3B 4 2 14
Daniel Norris Blue Jays LHP 4 0 12
Taylor Cole Blue Jays RHP 4 0 12
Ben Lively Reds RHP 3 2 11
Billy Mckinney Athletics OF 2 5 11
Andrew Aplin Astros OF 1 4 7
Bryan Mitchell Yankees RHP 1 3 6
Dario Pizzano Mariners OF 1 3 6
David Rollins Astros LHP 2 0 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
Kyle Smith Astros RHP 1 2 5
Luigi Rodriguez Indians OF 1 1 4
Robert Refsnyder Yankees 2B 1 1 4
Shawn Zarraga Brewers C 1 1 4
Alexander Claudio Rangers LHP 1 0 3
Blake Treinen Nationals RHP 1 0 3
Cameron Rupp Phillies C 1 0 3
Kyle Hendricks Cubs RHP 1 0 3
Marco Gonzales Cardinals LHP 1 0 3
Mike Tauchman Rockies OF 1 0 3
Ryan Rua Rangers 3B 1 0 3
Steven Souza Nationals OF 1 0 3
Steven Wright Red Sox RHP 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
Darnell Sweeney Dodgers 2B/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
Edwar Cabrera Rangers LHP 0 1 1
Jesse Winker Reds OF 0 1 1
Rob Zastryzny Cubs LHP 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 occasionally publishes spirited ejaculations at The New Enthusiast.

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

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  1. jmei says:

    Someone worth considering: Steven Wright

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  2. Wobatus says:

    For your consideration: Enrique Hernandez, although he’s now in the majors, close to 1-1 k/bb rates in AA-AAA this year, ISO uptick.

    Mets: Steve Matz. Kevin Plawecki.

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    • The Flaming FIPs says:

      Not really sure Plawecki’s “fringe” anymore. He seems to be gaining quite a bit of steam. Baseball America has him 40th on its midseason prospects list.

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      • Wobatus says:

        Indeed on Plawecki. But (i) I also mentioned him in the comments before the mid-season 50, and (ii) the criteria mentioned by the noted author is absent from 3 pre-season top 100s.

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    • Dave says:

      Thanks, man. I just signed Kike in my league. Very intrigued by this guy with his retooled swing and ability to play ANY position other than pitcher or catcher.

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  3. Dave says:

    On that second defensive play by Refsnyder, isn’t the batter safe at first? I can’t see how he was even that close to being out.

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    • novaether says:

      Yes, the batter should have been safe, but it was pretty close if you go through and try and catch the exact frame.

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  4. Turk's Teeth says:

    Worth looking at: 22-yr-old LHSP Nate Smith (Angels, AA). His already strong K-rate improved with the leap to AA, and he actually has a lower average-against outside the comfy confines of Dickey Stephens park. Needs to improve walk rates, but other stats are directionally sound.

    Two more from Angels’ org: Tyler DeLoach (23, LHSP, high-A) and Drew Rucinski (25, AA, MiLB free agent), who looks like the club’s next Matt Shoemaker surprise.

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    • Turk's Teeth says:

      And the day I recommend Rucinski, he’s called up to the Angels. Over his past 6 starts in Arkansas: 1.29 ERA, 0.761 WHIP, 7.2 K/BB ratio, 7.71 K/9, 1.07 BB/9. K-rate is modest, but guy pitches to contact.

      Meanwhile, 6’6″ LHSP DeLoach’s last 9 starts in the Cal League: 2.25 ERA, 54Ks in 52 IP. Frugal .185 BAA. Can’t hit him. Only issue is BB rate.

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  5. Shorebird Bob says:

    How has Chance Sisco not made one of these?

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  6. boo ya says:

    Carson–any thoughts on Boston’s Sean Coyle or Manuel Margot? Both seem like interesting prospects.

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    • Dave says:

      Yeah, Coyle is a perfect fit for this list. He actually got paid first round money when he was drafted, which is the only thing that might disqualify him.

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      • Wobatus says:

        I don’t think Sean Coyle fits Carson’s bed of Procrustes of preferred attributes due to a high K rate of roughly 23%.

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  7. Iron says:

    Does Rasiel Iglesias qualify?

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    • Iron says:

      To answer my own question, no; though he will likely join the Reds organization at high A or above, he has not yet played.

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  8. Denard Span says:

    I think Souza should be playing left. Zim’s always been a third baseman. He should be playing third. We’ve got one of the best second basemen in the league in Anthony Rendon.

    Of course, we want the best-hitting lineup in there. But I think Zim playing third and Souza playing left is something that would be good for this team. I think that should be what’s happening.

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  9. TC says:

    Refsnyder played RF last night and Cashman might be trying to transition him back there to replace the scuffling Ichiro for the second half.

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    • Dave says:

      Probably he would split time between RF and 2B. The incumbents at both positions must be around replacement level.

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  10. JosephK says:

    Was Herschel “Boog” Powell on the shortlist before getting busted for popping adderall?

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  11. Brendan says:

    Hey Carson,

    Billy McKinney should be listed as a Cub, correct?

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  12. Miles says:

    Additional positives for Refsnyder:
    1. Was in A last year, in AAA this year. (i.e. not in AA)

    2. Switched to infield on team (Yankees) that desperately needs infielders. Most positional shifts seem to be from IF to OF, OF to IF.

    3. To belabor a previous point made by the author: those are certainly not errors being made while playing infield. Those are certainly out being made, and probably outs the vast majority of human beings on Earth would not have been able to make.

    P.S. Defensive .gifs are mmmm, tasty…..

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  13. Miles says:

    <3 batter's reaction to an improbable (but, as he could surely explicate, not impossible) curveball. Which should probably be called a drop ball for the downward vertical movement inflicted upon both the baseball and said hitter's jawbone.

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