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 has different connotations for different sorts of readers. For the purposes of this column, however — and for reasons discussed more thoroughly in a recent 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 three players retain their place among the Five: contact-heavy Phillies prospect Maikel Franco; Atlanta’s reliever-turned-starter, right-hander Cody Martin; and grievously under-represented White Sox infielder Marcus Semien.

Departing from the Five proper — largely because the author is restless and dumb — are well-educated Mets pitching prospect Matthew Bowman and perpetually youthful other Mets prospect Wilmer Flores.

Replacing that pair are recently promoted Washington left-hander Robbie Ray and right-handed Cleveland prospect Danny Salazar, who is very likely to receive a promotion (to the majors) on Thursday.

Now, here are this week’s Fringe Five:

Maikel Franco, 3B, Philadelphia (Profile)
In last week’s edition of the Five, the present author called attention to Franco’s excellent plate-discipline figures (including, at that point, a 1:2 walk-to-strikeout ratio in 52 plate appearances) as an indication that the 20-year-old was adapting quickly to the Double-A Eastern League. “To sustain such a high contact rate (in particular) would be unlikely, though,” the author either expressly stated or at least suggested quite vigorously. Somewhat surprisingly, however, Franco more or less has sustained those same basic rates. Consider: in his 24 plate appearances for Reading since last Tuesday, the third baseman has recorded a 0:1 walk-to-strikeout ratio, while also hitting a home run. His defense-independent numbers at Reading now? These: 76 PA, 5 HR, 1 BB, 3 K.

Cody Martin, RHP, Atlanta (Profile)
The right-handed Martin made his debut among the Five last week, mostly on the strength of his first three Triple-A starts — during the course of which starts Martin had recorded a 24:5 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 21.0 innings, including an 11-strikeout performance against Baltimore affiliate Norfolk (box). Martin’s fourth Triple-A start largely resembled the previous three: the converted reliever recorded an 8:4 strikeout-to-walk ratio against 23 batters in 5.0 innings.

Here’s Martin throwing a slider for his first strikeout in that game:

Martin Slider

Robbie Ray, LHP, Washington (Profile)
After leading all qualified Carolina League starters in strikeout rate and total strikeouts and (likely owing to the first two distinctions) opponent batting average, the left-handed Ray was promoted last week to Double-A Harrisburg. Nor were the early returns anything less than very promising: in his first Eastern League start, Ray, still just 21, recorded an 8:2 strikeout-to-walk ratio against 24 batters over 5.0 innings against Baltimore affiliate Bowie (box).

“Sure,” the reader is likely saying, “but is there a hastily made GIF available of just one pitch from that start you’ve mentioned?” In fact, there is, it seems. This one, specifically, of Ray’s fastball:

Ray FA

And, actually, this one of Ray’s curveball, too:

Ray Roza CU K

Danny Salazar, RHP, Cleveland (Profile)
Of all the players eligible for the Fringe Five — with the possible exclusion of Maikel Franco, perhaps — Salazar has demonstrated the most success at multiple levels this season. Starting at Akron, Cleveland’s Double-A Eastern League affiliate, the right-hander recorded a 51:10 strikeout-to-walk ratio in just 33.2 innings — and still possesses that league’s highest strikeout rate this year among starters with 30-plus innings. Following a May promotion to Triple-A Columbus of the International League, Salazar has been basically as effective as he was in Akron, having now posted a 49:13 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 42.1 innings. All told, the 23-year-old has recorded the highest strikeout rate among all qualified starters at Double- or Triple-A. The performance has earned him a second promotion, it appears: following the designation of right-hander Carlos Carrasco by Cleveland, Salazar is scheduled to start tomorrow’s (Thursday’s) game against Toronto.

Marcus Semien, MI, Chicago AL (Profile)
Last week, the author suggsted that Semien’s June was notable, on account of how the infielder had posted a walk-to-strikeout ratio just above 1.00 while hitting four home runs and making all his starts on the more challenging end of the defensive spectrum. Improbably, he’s improved upon those figures in July thus far. As of Tuesday, Semien had recorded an 8:4 walk-to-strikeout ratio in 39 July plate appearances — this, while also hitting two home runs and stealing two bases on two attempts.

Here’s nearly helpful slow-motion footage of Marcus Semien hitting a home run on July 5th against Mississippi right-hander Michael Lee (from this longer video):


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

Matthew Bowman, RHP, New York NL (High-A Florida State League)
Nick Delmonico, CIF, Baltimore (High-A Carolina League)
Nick Kingham, RHP, Pittsburgh (Double-A Eastern League)
Mike O’Neill, OF, St. Louis (Double-A Texas League)
Stephen Piscotty, OF, St. Louis (Double-A Texas 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 2 32
Wilmer Flores Mets 2B 8 3 27
Marcus Semien White Sox SS 5 6 21
Maikel Franco Phillies 3B 6 0 18
Danny Salazar Indians RHP 4 5 17
Brian Flynn Marlins LHP 4 3 15
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 1 10
Robbie Ray Nationals LHP 3 1 10
Chase Anderson Diamondbacks RHP 2 2 8
Nicholas Kingham Pirates RHP 1 5 8
Cody Martin Atlanta RHP 2 0 6
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
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
Nick Delmonico Orioles CIF 0 1 1
R.J. Seidel Brewers RHP 0 1 1
Stephen Piscotty Cardinals OF 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

Go Nick Kingham!