The Fringe Five for April 24, 2013

The Fringe Five, in case you’re wondering and also don’t know, is a weekly exercise (introduced last Tuesday) wherein the author utilizes regressed stats, scouting reports, and his own man-heart to identify and/or continue monitoring the most compelling fringe prospects in all of baseball.

“What precisely the hell do you mean by fringe?” a particularly combative reader might ask. To which query the author would reply: “Currently, a fringe prospect is one who was absent from all of three notable preseaon top-100 prospect lists.” And to which the author would continue responding as follows: “There is more discussion of the definition of fringe here.”

Being as this is merely the second installment of a column that is likely to run either (a) forever or (b) until the present author dies nobly in a Bloodsport-type combat situation, it’s fair to say that the criteria for inclusion among the Fringe Five is not entirely fixed at this point.

By way of illustration: four of the five players here are the same precise ones that appeared among the Fringe Five last week. That’s mostly because last year’s and this past winter’s performances are still very relevant. By way of even more illustration, the one player who’s departed from the Five (i.e. Joc Pederson) hasn’t been demoted for lack of performance, at all. In fact, Pederson has slashed something like .409/.500/.864 over the past week, with a 4:4 walk-to-strikeout ratio and two home runs.

Rather, the reason for Pederson’s exclusion has everything to do with how the author has parleyed with his True Self and found his True Self ultimately unmoved by Pederson. Does Joc Pederson have a future as a major leaguer? Almost certainly, yes, given his performance of late. Whatever he’s doing, however, is somehow not entirely consonant with the spirit of the Fringe Five.

Meanwhile, the player by whom Pederson has been replaced, Cardinals outfield half-prospect Mike O’Neill, is the sort whom we ought all to be celebrating constantly. One can read more about O’Neill below — and all the other members of this week’s Fringe Five.

Chase Anderson, RHP, Arizona (Profile)
After his considerable success in the Southern League last season — and also in the Arizona Fall League after that — right-hander Chase Anderson has done little to dispel the notion (if such a notion even exists) that he’s worthy of major-league baseball. Here’s his line from the past week, for example, in two Pacific Coast League starts: 10.0 IP, 12 K, 4 BB, 0 HR.

Also, here’s a changeup by Anderson to Trent Oeltjen from April 11th:

Anderson Oeltjenb CH SS Later

And here’s another changeup to Trent Oeltjen from later in that precise at-bat:

Anderson Oeltjenb CH SS Later Later

Wilmer Flores, 2B/3B, New York NL (Profile)
Just the fourth-youngest player in the Pacific Coast League at 21, Flores has still managed to post a walk-to-strikeout ratio above one in his first 80 Triple-A plate appearances (8:7 BB:K as of Tuesday evening). He’s hit a home run and recorded a 3:4 walk-to-strikeout ratio since the last edition of the Fringe Five. Here are his updated games-played numbers defensively (courtesy Baseball Reference): second base (14), third base (1), DH (2).

Corban Joseph, 2B, New York AL (Profile)
Despite the lack of attention, Corban Joseph continues to produce offensively, slashing .297/.375/.500 (.308 BABIP) in his first 72 plate appearances at Triple-A this season, with an 8:9 walk-to-strikeout ratio and three home runs. Here are Joseph’s games-played numbers defensively (also courtesy Baseball Reference): second base (16). That’s it, actually; just second base.

Mike O’Neill, COF, St. Louis (Profile)
Last season, Cardinals minor-league corner outfielder Mike O’Neill recorded the minor leagues’ best walk-to-strikeout to ratio, posting a 78:26 figure between High- and Double-A in his age-24 season. He’s actually outpacing that ratio to begin this season, having established a 13:2 mark as of Tuesday. The arguments against O’Neill in terms of major-league potential are few but convincing: he’s relegated to a corner outfield spot and he seems to have zero power upside. His control of the strike zone is unparalleled, however, and his approach is rather nuanced, as this conversation with O’Neill by our own David Laurila reveals.

Marcus Semien, SS, Chicago AL (Profile)
As of last week, the author was entirely unacquainted with Semien. As of last week, Semien himself had posted a 5:3 walk-to-strikeout ratio and home run in his first 48 plate appearances in the Double-A Southern League. In the meantime, the author’s enthusiasm for the White Sox shortstop prospect has grown considerably. Also in the meantime, Semien has actually improved upon the rates he established to begin the season, having recorded an 8:3 walk-to-strikeout ratio and another home run. According to Baseball Reference, Semien has more or less split time between second base and shortstop, which isn’t ideal (because it’d be nice to see him claim shortstop duties exclusively), but his offensive production is currently making the specifics of his future defensive home less urgent.

The Next Five
Brian Flynn, LHP, Miami (Double-A Southern League)
Max Muncy, 1B, Oakland (High-A California League)
Victor Payano, LHP, Texas (High-A Carolina League)
Joc Pederson, OF, Los Angeles NL (Double-A Southern League)
Burch Smith, RHP, San Diego (Double-A Texas League)

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

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