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 slightly more robust meditation on the idea of fringe can be found here.)

Four players retain their place this week among the Five: Mets infield prospect Wilmer Flores; giant, tall Marlins left-hander Brian Flynn; other Mets prospect, right-hander Rafael Montero; and Cardinals Double-A outfielder Mike O’Neill.

Departing from the Five is Yankees right-hander Jose Ramirez, who did nothing in particular to lose his spot except fail to approximate the conspicuous capital-M Mystery provided by recently demoted San Diego prospect Burch Smith.

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

Wilmer Flores, 2B/3B, New York NL (Profile)
The ongoing struggles of Mets major-league first baseman Ike Davis have led to questions about what Flores’ credentials might be at that same position. With regard to those concerns, it ought first to be noted that, despite his promising offensive approach, Flores is likely not even an average major-league hitter at the moment. It ought further to be noted both that (a) including Tuesday, Flores has played first base just twice this season but also that (b) he (i.e. Flores) is still probably reasonably capable there defensively.

Brian Flynn, LHP, Miami (Profile)
Following his entirely able start on Tuesday night against Rangers Triple-A affiliate Round Rock (box), the 6-foot-8 Flynn has now recorded a 44:12 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 42.1 innings since his promotion from Double-A.

“What sort of pitches does he throw?” a curious reader might ask — for the purpose of answering said question, the author has prepared the following video:

Rafael Montero, RHP, New York NL (Profile)
Since last week — his first among the Fringe Five proper — Montero has made two starts, one at Double- and one at Triple-A. Overall, he recorded a line entirely in keeping with his established levels this season. To wit: 12.2 IP, 13 K, 3 BB, 1 HR, 8 H, 2 R.

It appears as though the 22-year-old right-hander will remain at Double-A for the moment; however, there are certainly indications that he would succeed if given the benefit of a permanent promotion.

Mike O’Neill, COF, St. Louis (Profile)
O’Neill recorded more strikeouts (four) between May 21st and May 27th than he had for nearly the entire month preceding that interval. That’s worrisome insofar as O’Neill’s offensive approach is based almost entirely on making contact. Even with the uncharacteristic week, though, O’Neill had still posted walk and strikeout rates of 17.8% and 6.1%, respectively, as of Tuesday — this, in 197 plate appearances.

For those interested, published a profile of O’Neill by Todd Traub on Tuesday. While not revelatory in any way, the piece does remind readers that O’Neill signed for merely $1,000.

Burch Smith, RHP, San Diego (Profile)
In his three major-league starts since last appearing among The Five, Smith exhibited a promising fastball, an excellent changeup, and posted a 15.5% swinging-strike rate — nearly double the average for major-league starters. He also conceded 15 runs in just 7.1 innings, a figure which few teams will tolerate, regardless of other, more positive signs. Almost impossibly, Smith recorded nine swinging strikes on 37 pitches in the first inning of his last start, against St. Louis, and yet managed only a single strikeout. There are real indications that Smith’s sequencing is awry, or that his approach with two strikes is entirely too conservative.

In any case, Smith exhibited no difficulty in his return to the minors. Making his first Triple-A appearance (for Padres affiliate Tucson), Smith posted the following line on Tuesday night (box): 5.0 IP, 5 K, 0 BB, 0 HR, 6 H, 1 R.

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

Brad Miller, SS, Seattle (Triple-A Pacific League)
Jose Ramirez, RHP, New York AL (Double-A Eastern League)
Danny Salazar, RHP, Cleveland (Triple-A International League)
Marcus Semien, SS/2B, Chicago AL (Double-A Southern League)
Ronald Torreyes, 2B, Chicago NL (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 7 0 21
Mike O’Neill Cardinals OF 6 0 18
Marcus Semien White Sox SS 3 4 13
Brian Flynn Marlins LHP 3 2 11
Burch Smith Padres RHP 3 1 10
Corban Joseph Yankees 2B 3 1 10
Chase Anderson Diamondbacks RHP 2 2 8
Danny Salazar Indians RHP 2 2 8
Rafael Montero Mets RHP 2 1 7
Chad Bettis Rockies RHP 1 2 5
Joc Pederson Dodgers OF 1 2 5
Ronald Torreyes Cubs 2B 1 2 5
Jose Ramirez Yankees RHP 1 1 4
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
Brad Miller Mariners SS 0 1 1
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
Taylor Lindsey Angels 2B 0 1 1
Zach Walters Nationals SS 0 1 1

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Carson Cistulli occasionally publishes spirited ejaculations at The New Enthusiast.

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

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  1. Greg says:

    Garin Cecchini went from not being on KLaw’s pre-season top 100, to as of yesterday, 22nd in his updated top 25.

    This is your column and you’re entitled to your own opinions. KLaw obviously also isn’t infallible. Still, I think only including him once, and then only in your next five, is an enormous oversight.

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    • l1ay says:

      Did you consider that Carson can possibly see into the future and knew Cecchini would be included in Keith Law’s recently released top 25?

      Thus, he is disqualified, hence why he was never included again. I believe the oversight is with you, good sir.

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      • Chief Keef says:

        Cecchini was an overslot good pedigree guy, he’s never been a fringe prospect. He had injuries and durability questions but that’s not really what this is supposed to be about.

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  2. yaboynate says:

    Carson, please note that on March 30, 2013, one “TMZ” provided his veteran scouting opinion in the Brad Miller CBS Sports Fantasy Baseball player profile page comments that he “thinks this kid is ready”.

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  3. Intrigued says:

    Loved the Brian Flynn video, any timetable on this kid??

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    • Derb says:

      As a Tiger fan, I was more upset to lose this guy than I was in losing Jacob Turner or Rob Brantly in the Anibal Sanchez/Omar Infante trade.

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  4. Eminor3rd says:

    Any love for the immortal Josh Phegley? Seems like a Carson guy to me.

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  5. George says:

    Reds AA pitcher Chad Rogers appears to be of the sort that would appeal to the author, generally.

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  6. Clint Robinson says:

    Seems kinda silly to use Bullpen Banter instead of John Sickels. Sickels is more established and respected than Hulet, let alone Bullpen Banter. Nothing against those two, but Sickels is very prominent.

    That’s relevant to this post because Brad Miller was #48 on John’s preseason list.

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    • I’d the same thought, but that’d exclude a lot of Dear Author’s favorites inasmuch as Sickels also promotes fringy guys who pique his instincts (The foregoing written without a shred of evidence).

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      • Another thought I had was this: Flores doesn’t need to be “an average major-league hitter at the moment” for promotion, he only has to be better then Ike Davis.

        I followed with this similar thought: Dear Author doesn’t have to an average writer for Fangraphs, he only must exist northwest of Dayn “Y Y” Perry on the “cheaper” and “availabler” axis.

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        • My final thought from this piece was, “$1,000?! Boje moi, I’ve spent more on my Ukranian and Russian wives and 1/2 as much on my Byelorussian and Bulgarian wives.”

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  7. Andrew says:

    Has Tommy Medica of the Padres hit anyone’s radar. He is a catcher by trade who has been relegated to 1B due to knee surgeries over the past few years. However, while he is a little old for the leagues he has played in, the kid can flat out hit. Check him out. I know nothing about his 1B defense, but he seems like a fringe prospect who could become an Allen Craig-like guy.

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  8. MLB Rainmaker says:

    Something to be said for Montero’s BB/9, sits at a career mark around 1.5.

    For the life of me can’t figure out why he’s “fringe”. Maybe because he’s 6’0 170 he never got on anyone’s radar? He’s pitched well at every level, has solid control, and over the last two seasons has shown pretty solid swing and miss stuff.

    Can we request some Rafael Montero scouting footage, set to the theme from back to the future?

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    • teufelshuffle says:

      Mets fan. Been following Montero for a while. His ridiculous K/BB numbers make him look like a no-brainer top prospect, and many on Amazin’ Avenue take for granted that he’s going to be a #3 starter at worst in the majors as soon as next year. But a more recent article takes a closer look at Montero and it’s a little easier to see why he’s a fringe guy.

      The takeaway:
      “Well, so far Montero is passing that test with flying colors. I just get a bit nervy around pitchers whose number one strength is fastball command…I don’t see how Montero gets the same amount of called strikes two and three with his fastball at the highest level. And the secondary stuff as currently comprised is not going to miss major league bats.”

      Looks like we won’t find out unti he comes to the Show how good he’s going to be.

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      • Clifford says:

        I don’t quite understand why one would “get a bit nervy around pitchers whose number one strength is fastball command”…I would actually argue that this is at or near the top of the list for important attributes any pitcher must have to succeed at the major league level…I would argue that guys like Cliff Lee, Halladay, Verlander, etc are such special pitchers because they can locate their fastball whenever they want, wherever they want, only further setting up their off-speed stuff.

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        • MLB Rainmaker says:

          T-Shuff – Thanks, appreciate the link.

          Cliff, I get the argument. The poster boy is Andy Sonnanstine good K/9 at the lower levels, than got ate alive at the MLB level.

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  9. All Balls No Brains says:

    I’m gonna start a crowdsourcing project to buy Cistulli a Burch Smith jersey. One of the hideous SD camouflage ones.

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  10. BleedCubbieBlue23 says:

    Daniel Vogelbach 1B Chicaqo Cubs

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  11. randplaty says:

    Burch Smith coverage. Love it.

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