The Fringe Five: Baseball’s Most Compelling Fringe Prospects

The Fringe Five is a weekly exercise (introduced in April) 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.)

Three players retain their place this week among the Five: relentlessly effective Marlins left-hander Brian Flynn, Cardinals Double-A outfielder Mike O’Neill, and luminous mystery Burch Smith of the Padres organization.

Departing from the Five proper are two Mets prospects, actually: both infielder Wilmer Flores and right-hander Rafael Montero (although both still appear among the Next Five). Replacing the pair are two debutantes: young Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco and promising Nationals left-hander Robbie Ray.

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

Brian Flynn, LHP, Miami (Profile)
After having posted one of the best strikeout-to-walk ratios (25:3 K:BB) among Southern League pitchers during his four starts with Miami affiliate Jacksonville, Flynn has now nearly approximated his Double-A success with New Orleans of the Pacific Coast League, having recorded a 52:12 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 49.0 innings over eight appearances (all starts). Since the last edition of the Five, Flynn has made two starts, against both the Cubs’ and Rangers’ PCL affiliates, and posted the following line: 13.2 IP, 55 TBF, 15 K, 1 BB, 1 HR, 14 H, 5 R.

Maikel Franco, 3B, Philadelphia (Profile)
Though much less celebrated, Franco (a) is the same age as, (b) plays the same position as, (c) plays in the same exact league as, and (d) has posted nearly the exact regressed (although not park-adjusted) line as top-20 prospect Miguel Sano of the Twins. By way of illustration here are their defense-independent numbers, respectively. Sano: 229 PA, 13 HR, 27 BB, 58 K. And Franco: 234 PA, 11 HR, 15 BB, 32 K. Relative to Sano, Franco’s approach is more contacted-oriented, nor does he likely have Sano’s raw power. (And, in fact, upon further inspection, we find that Franco’s home park is of some benefit to right-handed power hitters, while Sano’s is decidedly not.) Still, he needn’t perform precisely like Miguel Sano to merit greater attention.

Mike O’Neill, COF, St. Louis (Profile)
As of the most recent edition of the Five, O’Neill had posted a walk/strikeout differential of 11.7% (17.8% BB, 6.1% K) — since which time he’s managed, in fact, to improve upon that figure slightly. Now 23 plate appearances and a 4:1 walk-to-strikeout ratio later, O’Neill’s differential has increased to 11.8%.

Robbie Ray, LHP, Washington (Profile)
Among every minor-league pitcher who (a) plays at High-A or above and (b) has made starts in at least half of his appearances and also (c) isn’t either Tony Cingrani or Danny Salazar — among those sorts of pitchers, Washington left-hander Robbie Ray has recorded the highest strikeout rate (32.9%). Originally a 12th-round pick out of high school by the Nationals in 2010, Ray’s success in 2013 is possibly a result of replacing his slider with a curve.

In any case, footage of all his pitches is available in this professionally made video:

Burch Smith, RHP, San Diego (Profile)
In the two minor-league starts since his demotion — his first starts, it should be noted, at the Triple-A level — Smith has recorded an entirely serviceable 9:3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 10.0 innings and conceded an entirely reasonable three earned (and total) runs. Moreover, his rest-of-season Steamer projection remains quite optimisic. To wit: 50.0 IP, 8.50 K/9, 3.05 BB/9, 3.56 FIP, 0.5 WAR.

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

Wilmer Flores, IF, New York NL (Triple-A Pacific Coast League)
Rafael Montero, RHP, New York NL (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 1 22
Mike O’Neill Cardinals OF 7 0 21
Brian Flynn Marlins LHP 4 2 14
Marcus Semien White Sox SS 3 5 14
Burch Smith Padres RHP 4 1 13
Corban Joseph Yankees 2B 3 1 10
Danny Salazar Indians RHP 2 3 9
Chase Anderson Diamondbacks RHP 2 2 8
Rafael Montero Mets RHP 2 2 8
Ronald Torreyes Cubs 2B 1 3 6
Chad Bettis Rockies RHP 1 2 5
Joc Pederson Dodgers OF 1 2 5
Jose Ramirez Yankees RHP 1 1 4
Maikel Franco Phillies 3B 1 0 3
Robbie Ray Nationals LHP 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
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

We hoped you liked reading The Fringe Five: Baseball’s Most Compelling Fringe Prospects by Carson Cistulli!

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

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Ok, I admit I have a man-crush on Montero and his miniscule BB%, but is there a reason he’s not at least in AAA yet? He’s pitching deep in to games, has solid control, and a 2.70 ERA in 10 starts, plus he already showed well in a AAA sport start. Just doesn’t make sense.

Meanwhile, Dillon Gee and Shaun Marcum have combined for 4 quality starts…


I’ve read that the Mets don’t like to promote until around the AS break. When Wheeler gets called up, look for Montero to go to LV.