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.

That said, it should also be noted that in cases where the collective enthusiasm regarding a player’s talent becomes very fevered — like how the enthusiasm collectively right now for Philadelphia third-base prospect Maikel Franco is very fevered, for example — that will likely affect said player’s likelihood of appearing among the Five, given that the purpose of the series, at some level, is to identify prospects who are demonstrating promise above what one might expect given their current reputations within the prospect community.

With that said, here are this week’s Fringe Five:

Mookie Betts, 2B, Boston (Profile)
This marks the fourth week in which Betts has appeared among the Fringe Five, nor have the conditions which first earned him a place here changed, really, at all. Now in 160 plate appearances with High-A Salem, Betts has continued to control the strike zone (having recorded a 10.0% walk and 10.0% strikeout rate there), to hit for more power than his body might otherwise suggest (5 HR), and to demonstrate exciting baserunning skills (as his 17-for-17 record on stolen bases likely suggests). Since last week’s edition of the Five, Betts has performed along all those same lines, having posted a 2:2 walk-to-strikeout rate in 30 plate appearances and stolen three bases on as many attempts.

Eddie Butler, RHP, Colorado (Profile)
Butler was less dominant than he has been recently, but no less effective, in his lone start since last week’s edition of the Five, recording a 3:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio against 18 batters over 5.0 innings, while conceding just a lone hit and earned run (box). Strikeout rate is the metric which most directly informs a pitcher’s success, and Butler’s hasn’t been as uniformly impressive as those produced by other pitchers who’ve appeared in this column. Butler remains here, however — due partly to the memory of his impressive Futures Game appearance (which included a strikeout of very talented Boston prospect Xander Bogaerts), and due partly to the exciting repertoire which that appearance revealed.

Juan Oramas, LHP, San Diego (Profile)
A member of the Next Five each of the past two weeks, Oramas makes his debut here among the Fringe Five proper after another excellent start for Double-A San Antonio. Signed originally out of Mexico in 2006, it appears, Oramas returned this June from a Tommy John procedure which had sidelined him for slightly over a year. Now, over nine starts and 38.2 innings, Oramas has produced one of the Texas League’s most impressive lines, the left-hander having recorded strikeout and walk rates of 29.3% and 7.3%, respectively, over that stretch. In his most recent start, the 23-year-old was excellent, posting a 7:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio against 21 batters over 5.2 innings (box). “But what does Oramas throw?” one wonders. On that subject, the entire internet appears to be uncharacteristically hush-hush.

In any case, here’s footage from Oramas’s most recent start of what appears to be a curveball — in this case to strike out Northwest Arkansas’ Matt Fields:

Oramas Fields CU SS K 2nd

And here’s a second pitch — what appears to be a changeup — for a swinging strike to Northwest Arkansas shortstop Orlando Caxito:

Oramas Calixte CH Maybe SS 3rd

Stephen Piscotty, OF, St. Louis (Profile)
One excellent, homer-saving catch likely doesn’t indicate with any sort of authority what sort of fielding skills a player possesses — and, yet, that might certainly seem like the implication being made by the author, who has definitely captured (from this longer video), rendered into GIF form, and presents here this excellent, homer-saving catch by Stephen Piscotty from Tuesday night:

Piscotty Catch

Offensively, over the past week, Piscotty continued to exhibit the same control of the strike zone which earned him a place among the Five originally, recording a 3:3 walk-to-strikeout ratio over 27 plate appearances. The 22-year-old has now posted walk and strikeout rates of 10.6% and 9.3%, respectively, with Double-A Springfield.

Marcus Semien, MI, Chicago AL (Profile)
A type of player that’s valuable in baseball is a middle-infield sort who walks and strikes out at about the same rate and hits 15-20 home runs over the course of a season. That’s more or less the skill set Semien exhibited at Double-A Birmingham — and it’s also what he exhibited over the past week at Triple-A Charlotte, as well, during the course of which week he recorded a 2:2 walk-to-strikeout ratio and home run in seven games. The greater level of competition in the International League has had some influence on the 22-year-old’s rates overall, but the same profile remains — i.e. that of a hitter with a good eye, good contact skills, and good (if not huge) power.

Here’s footage of Semien homering last Friday against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s Brett Marshall:

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

Ji-Man Choi, 1B, Seattle (Double-A Southern League)
C.J. Edwards, RHP, Chicago NL (High-A Florida State League)
Edwin Escobar, LHP, San Francisco (Double-A Eastern League)
Ty Kelly, 2B, Seattle (Triple-A Pacific Coast League)
Mike O’Neill, OF, St. Louis (Triple-A Pacific Coast 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.

Marcus Semien White Sox SS 11 6 39
Mike O’Neill Cardinals OF 10 6 36
Danny Salazar Indians RHP 8 5 29
Wilmer Flores Mets 2B 8 3 27
Maikel Franco Phillies 3B 6 1 19
Brian Flynn Marlins LHP 4 3 15
Rafael Montero Mets RHP 3 5 14
Burch Smith Padres RHP 4 1 13
Mookie Betts Red Sox 2B 4 1 13
Stephen Piscotty Cardinals OF 3 3 12
Chad Bettis Rockies RHP 3 2 11
Robbie Ray Nationals LHP 3 2 11
Corban Joseph Yankees 2B 3 1 10
Eddie Butler Rockies RHP 3 1 10
Edwin Escobar Giants RHP 2 4 10
Matthew Bowman Mets RHP 3 1 10
Chase Anderson D-backs RHP 2 2 8
Nick Kingham Pirates RHP 1 5 8
Arismendy Alcantara Cubs SS 2 1 7
Max Muncy Athletics 1B 1 4 7
Cody Martin Atlanta RHP 2 0 6
Joc Pederson Dodgers OF 1 3 6
Ronald Torreyes Astros 2B 1 3 6
Tim Cooney Cardinals LHP 1 3 6
Danny Winkler Rockies RHP 1 2 5
Ji-Man Choi Mariners 1B 1 2 5
Juan Oramas San Diego LHP 1 2 5
Jose Ramirez Yankees RHP 1 1 4
Zach Walters Nationals SS 1 1 4
Zachary Petrick Cardinals RHP 1 0 3
Brad Miller Mariners SS 0 2 2
C.J. Edwards Cubs RHP 0 2 2
Nolan Fontana Astros SS 0 2 2
Taylor Lindsey Angels 2B 0 2 2
Ty Kelly Mariners IF 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
John Murphy Yankees C 0 1 1
Josh Vitters Cubs 3B 0 1 1
Nick Delmonico Orioles CIF 0 1 1
R.J. Seidel Brewers RHP 0 1 1
Ryan Brett Rays 2B 0 1 1

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

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Ji-Man Choi, 1B, Seattle (Double-A Southern League)
he was just promoted to AAA