The Fringe Five: Baseball’s Most Compelling Fringe Prospects

The Fringe Five is a weekly regular-season exercise, introduced last April by the present author, wherein that same ridiculous 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 the exercise, of course, is a definition of the word fringe, a term which possesses different connotations for different sorts of readers. For the purposes of the column this year, a fringe prospect (and therefore one eligible for inclusion in the Five) is any rookie-eligible player at High-A or above both (a) absent from all of three notable preseason top-100 prospect lists* and also (b) not currently playing in the majors. Players appearing on the midseason prospect lists produced by those same notable sources or, otherwise, selected in the first round of the current season’s amateur draft will also be excluded from eligibility.

*In this case, those produced by Baseball America, ESPN’s Keith Law, and our own Marc Hulet.

In the final analysis, the basic idea is this: to recognize those prospects who are perhaps receiving less notoriety than their talents or performance might otherwise warrant.


Seth Mejias-Brean, 3B, Cincinnati (Profile)
Either owing to his multiple appearance within this important weekly column or for some other, less likely reason, Mejias-Brean was promoted by the Reds to Double-A last week after recording walk and strikeout rates of 14.1% and 15.7%, respectively — plus also 11 home runs — over 313 plate appearances in the California League. A brief inspection of the internet reveals that the 23-year-old’s first week in Double-A has been a shockingly promising one. Through 26 PAs now with the Pensacola Blue Wahoos, Mejias-Brean has produced an 8:1 walk-to-strikeout ratio and also a home run.

Unfortunately, footage of that home run doesn’t appear readily available. In its place, is this still of Mejias-Brean just before facing his first Double-A pitch:


And then a disappointing GIF of that same prospect drawing a walk moments later:

MB Walk

Daniel Norris, LHP, Toronto (Profile)
One could pretty reasonably dispute the notion that Norris is a fringe prospect. Indeed, the left-hander was drafted originally in the second round and appeared before the 2012 season on Baseball America’s top-100 list and has advanced through Toronto’s system with a celerity typical of more promising younger players. That said, he appeared on none of the relevant top-100 lists prior to this season — and, as a result, has perhaps received less of the attention of late that his recent achievement probably merits. As with Seth Mejias-Brean (above), Norris made his debut at Double-A last week after a promising half-season at High-A. Also like Mejias-Brean, Norris has produced startlingly proficient fielding-independent numbers so far, having recorded now a 19:4 strikeout-to-walk ratio after just two starts and 11.1 innings with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.

Luigi Rodriguez, OF, Cleveland (Profile)
Of Luigi Rodriguez the editors of Baseball America write in their most recent Prospect Handbook both that “home runs won’t be his forte” and also that “place discipline has been an issue.” It is appropriately encouraging, therefore, that he has both improved upon his established home-run rates and also recorded decidedly more promising walk and strikeout rates (14.7% and 19.5%, respectively) over his 190 plate appearances at High-A Carolina. His last six games have been of particular note, during which interval the 21-year-old outfielder has produced a 5:2 walk-to-strikeout ratio and two home runs in 27 plate appearances. The emergence of either power or plate-discipline would complement the athleticism and footspeed for which Rodriguez has been already been praised.

David Rollins, LHP, Houston (Profile)
The author did not purposely set out this season to dedicate the largest part of these weekly Fringe Five pieces to pitchers within the Houston system; one could reasonably claim, however, that such a thing has happened. Josh Hader, Thomas Shirley, Kyle Smith, and Aaron West have all previously made appearances — in many cases, multiple appearances — among the Five. This week, a fifth Houston pitching prospect appears in the person of left-hander David Rollins. A 24th-round selection by Toronto in 2011 draft, Rollins was one of seven players acquired by Houston in a trade that sent David Carpenter, J.A. Happ, and Brandon Lyon to the Blue Jays in 2012. Through eight starts and 11 appearances within the Astros’ tandem system, Rollins has produced strikeout and walk rats of 25.8% and 6.5%, respectively, over 38.0 innings.

During his most recent appearance on June 20th against Frisco (box), he threw fastballs at 92-94 mph according to the Corpus Christi Hooks broadcast. Here’s an example of him throwing one of those types of pitches to very celebrated prospect Joey Gallo for a swinging strike three:

Rollins Gallo FA SS K

Blake Treinen, RHP, Washington (Profile)
Provided the author’s calculations from yesterday’s post aren’t terribly incorrect, Washington right-hander Blake Treinen’s WAR projection has improved by a greater margin since the beginning of the season than any other pitcher for whom a projection is currently available from either Steamer or ZiPS. Much of that improvement is likely to how, over 65.1 innings this year between Triple-A and the majors, Treinen has allowed zero home runs. Indeed, with a ground-ball rate of 59.8% so far with the Nationals, the 25-year-old right-hander has given opponents little opportunity to hit the requisite number of fly balls.

Treinen induces those ground balls by means of a sinker with terrific movement — such as the one here at 93 mph against Brandon Crawford from the former’s most recent major-league start, on June 12th:

BT Crawford 1

A slow-motion version of which pitch is available here, as well:

BT Crawford 1 Slow

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

Aaron Blair, RHP, Arizona (High-A Califonria League)
Billy Mckinney, OF, Oakland (High-A Califonria League)
Dario Pizzano, OF, Seattle (Double-A Southern League)
Chris Taylor, SS, Seattle (Triple-A Pacific Coast League)
Shawn Zarraga, C, Milwaukee (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.

Thomas Shirley Astros LHP 6 1 19
Jace Peterson Padres SS 5 2 17
Josh Hader Astros LHP 4 2 14
Robert Kral Padres C 3 5 14
Jose Ramirez Indians 2B 4 1 13
Taylor Cole Blue Jays RHP 4 0 12
Billy Mckinney Athletics OF 2 5 11
Ben Lively Reds RHP 3 1 10
Seth Mejias-Brean Reds 3B 3 1 10
Daniel Norris Blue Jays LHP 3 0 9
Andrew Aplin Astros OF 1 3 6
Bryan Mitchell Yankees RHP 1 3 6
Francellis Montas White Sox RHP 2 0 6
Michael Reed Brewers OF 2 0 6
Wesley Parsons Braves RHP 1 3 6
Aaron West Astros RHP 1 2 5
Adam Duvall Giants 3B 1 2 5
Dario Pizzano Mariners OF 1 1 4
Shawn Zarraga Brewers C 1 1 4
Blake Treinen Nationals RHP 1 0 3
Cameron Rupp Phillies C 1 0 3
David Rollins Astros LHP 1 0 3
Kyle Hendricks Cubs RHP 1 0 3
Luigi Rodriguez Indians OF 1 0 3
Marco Gonzales Cardinals LHP 1 0 3
Ryan Rua Rangers 3B 1 0 3
Tsuyoshi Wada Cubs LHP 1 0 3
Brian Johnson Red Sox LHP 0 2 2
Chris Taylor Mariners SS 0 2 2
Roberto Perez Indians C 0 2 2
Tommy La Stella Braves 2B 0 2 2
Aaron Blair D-backs RHP 0 1 1
Billy Burns Athletics OF 0 1 1
Brett Eibner Royals OF 0 1 1
Conrad Gregor Astros 1B 0 1 1
Danny Winkler Rockies RHP 0 1 1
Darnell Sweeney Dodgers 2B/SS 0 1 1
Edwar Cabrera Rangers LHP 0 1 1
Jesse Winker Reds OF 0 1 1
Kyle Smith Astros RHP 0 1 1
Stephen Landazuri Mariners RHP 0 1 1
Tim Cooney Cardinals LHP 0 1 1
Ty Kelly Mariners 2B/3B 0 1 1
Tyler Goeddel Rays 3B 0 1 1

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

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8 years ago

Norris is about to be a fringe prospect and a top 50 prospect all at the same time, looks like.

8 years ago
Reply to  everdiso

it also took 2 million to get him to sign