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 definition of the word fringe. The author recognizes that the word certainly has different connotations to different sorts of readers. For the purposes of this column, however — and for reasons discussed more thoroughly in last week’s edition of the Five — the author has considered eligible for the Five any prospect who was absent from all of three notable preseason top-100 prospect lists.

This week, the reader will find that two players retain their place this week among the Five: well-educated Mets pitching prospect Matthew Bowman and young Philadelphia third baseman, the sort of recently promoted Maikel Franco.

Departing from the Five proper — largely because the author is restless and dumb — are diminutive batsman, St. Louis outfield prospect Mike O’Neill, promising Cleveland right-hander Danny Salazar; and two-true-outcome shortstop, Washington’s Zach Walters.

Replacing that triumvirate are the rather young, but offensively advanced, Wilmer Flores of the Mets system; Atlanta reliever-turned-quite-effective-starter Cody Martin; and White Sox shortstop or second-base or third-base prospect Marcus Semien.

Now, here are this week’s Fringe Five:

Matthew Bowman, RHP, New York NL (Profile)
After consecutive appearances among the Fringe Five, Bowman produced another excellent start this past week, recording a 7:2 strikeout-to-walk ratio against 26 batters over 8.0 innings in a Florida State League game versus St. Louis affiliate Palm Beach (box). Those figures should add to the already excellent line he’s produced, which — as of last Wednesday, at least — has placed him third among all High-A starters by SCOUT, the author’s flawed and proprietary metric. Unmentioned in previous editions of the Five is Bowman’s capacity for inducing ground balls, as well: both Minor League Central and StatCorner suggest that’s recorded grounders on more than 60% of batted balls.

Wilmer Flores, 2B, New York NL (Profile)
After hitting only four home runs over the first two months of the season, Flores recorded six of them in June — and two of those since the most recent edition of the Five. Whether related or not, Flores’ plate-discipline numbers haven’t entirely resembled his previously established levels. To wit: the infielder posted walk and strikeout rates of 3.4% and 15.3%, respectively, in June after recording rates of about 7.0% and 10.0% last season during his march through High- and Double-A. Always one needs to remember, however, with regard to Flores, that he’s just 21 years old. Indeed, Flores’ home-run, walk, and strikeout rates remain almost identical to much more celebrated 21-year-old prospect Oscar Taveras’s, also in the Pacific Coast League.

Maikel Franco, 3B, Philadelphia (Profile)
The 20-year-old Franco has taken enthusiastically to Double-A. Following his promotion about two weeks ago to Reading, Philadelphia’s Eastern League affiliate, Franco has batted .431/.442/.765 (.400 BABIP) in 52 plate appearances. Nor is it merely the slash stats which are impressive: Franco’s combination of plate discipline and power — he’s recorded a 1:2 walk-to-strikeout ratio and four home runs — are excellent relative to his peers, even after being regressed using the author’s likely flawed method. Franco’s numbers continue to echo very impressive Twins prospect Miguel Sano’s, himself recently promoted to Double-A. Sano has hit six home runs in 75 plate appearances, almost precisely the same rate (8.0%) as Franco (7.7%).

Cody Martin, RHP, Atlanta (Profile)
While typically prejudiced against people, and also probably dogs, named Cody, the author has been compelled to include Martin among the Five this week owing to his (i.e. Martin’s) entirely promising results at Triple-A Gwinnett. Following a promotion from the Southern League, the 23-year-old Martin has recorded a 24:5 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 21.0 innings — which figures include his most recent start, during which he struck out 11 of 27 batters faced against Baltimore affiliate Norfolk (box). A closer at Gonzaga during his senior year there, Martin was selected by Atlanta in the seventh round of 2011 draft and has been converted gradually into a starter. Ranked 13th among Braves prospects by Marc Hulet this preseason, Martin throws (according to Hulet) “a fastball that has hit 93-94 mph coming out of the bullpen… a promising slider, good curveball and a developing changeup.”

Marcus Semien, MI, Chicago AL (Profile)
Semien has been a fixture in this column since its inaugural edition back in April — and, with his inclusion here among the Fringe Five, ascends to third place on the potentially meaningless Scoreboard crafted by the author (see below). The 22-year-old was excellent in June, not only recording a walk-to-strikeout ratio above 1.00 (26:25 BB:K), but also hitting four home runs, slashing .248/.406/.465, and stealing seven bases on just as many attempts in the Double-A Southern League. Semien’s final defensive home still remains uncertain. The White Sox seem, at the moment, to be preparing him for every infield position. Over the last 18 games (which is an arbitrary endpoint, entirely), Semien has played second base (four times), third base (five times), and shortstop (nine times).

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

Nick Kingham, RHP, Pittsburgh (Double-A Eastern League)
Rafael Montero, RHP, New York NL (Triple-A Pacific Coast League)
Mike O’Neill, OF, St. Louis (Double-A Texas League)
Joc Pederson, OF, Los Angeles NL (Double-A Southern League)
Danny Salazar, RHP, Cleveland (Triple-A International 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.

Mike O’Neill Cardinals OF 10 1 31
Wilmer Flores Mets 2B 8 3 27
Marcus Semien White Sox SS 4 6 18
Brian Flynn Marlins LHP 4 3 15
Maikel Franco Phillies 3B 5 0 15
Danny Salazar Indians RHP 3 5 14
Rafael Montero Mets RHP 3 5 14
Burch Smith Padres RHP 4 1 13
Corban Joseph Yankees 2B 3 1 10
Matthew Bowman Mets RHP 3 0 9
Chase Anderson D-backs RHP 2 2 8
Nick Kingham Pirates RHP 1 4 7
Robbie Ray Nationals LHP 2 1 7
Joc Pederson Dodgers OF 1 3 6
Max Muncy Athletics 1B 1 3 6
Ronald Torreyes Cubs 2B 1 3 6
Chad Bettis Rockies RHP 1 2 5
Arismendy Alcantara Cubs SS 1 1 4
Jose Ramirez Yankees RHP 1 1 4
Zach Walters Nationals SS 1 1 4
Cody Martin Atlanta RHP 1 0 3
Brad Miller Mariners SS 0 2 2
Nolan Fontana Astros SS 0 2 2
Taylor Lindsey Angels 2B 0 2 2
Victor Payano Rangers LHP 0 2 2
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
R.J. Seidel Brewers RHP 0 1 1
Tim Cooney Cardinals LHP 0 1 1

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

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10 years ago

Cesar Puello. yawn