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.


Alex Claudio, LHP, Texas (Profile)
As of June 27th this year, the left-handed Claudio had made only two of his 17 appearances with High-A Myrtle Beach in a starting capacity. Since the 28th of that same month, however — so, about a month and a half — Claudio has recorded seven starts (in 10 overall appearances). Nor have any of them (i.e. those appearances) occurred with Myrtle Beach, but rather Double-A Frisco and, as of last Friday, Triple-A Round Rock. While the 22-year-old’s numbers during that interval (42.2 IP, 16.5% K, 2.4% BB) have been merely very good and not elite, always with Claudio it’s the manner in which he produces them — namely, by means of a fastball that sits at ca. 85 mph and a changeup that averages nearly 20 fewer mph than that.

Here’s an example of that changeup — at 68 mph, in this case — from Claudio’s most recent appearance:

Claudio 1 68

And then, on the following pitch, what appears to be a slider for the strikeout against Reno’s Mike Freeman:

Claudio 2 SL

Dixon Machado, SS, Detroit (Profile)
Some brief inspection of the internet and also one actual, physical book reveals that it’s difficult to find a report on the 22-year-old Machado without also finding an attendant celebration of his skills as a shortstop. Baseball America’s most recent Prospect Handbook, for example, recognizes him both as Best Defensive Infielder and Best Infield Arm in the Detroit system. What the editors of that publication don’t do, however, is recognize Machado as one of that same organization’s top-30 prospects. The likely reason: concern regarding Machado’s offensive upside. As an above-average shortstop, however, Machado need only demonstrate some small sign of offensive promise to generate enthusiasm regarding his future. As of late, he’s begun doing that. Since the very arbitrary date of July 21, for example, Machado has produced this line in 70 plate appearances: 15.7% BB, 7.1% K, 2 HR, .375/.471/.536 (.380 BABIP). Over his last five games, the young Venezuelan has recorded five walks and zero strikeouts while also hitting one of those home runs.

This home run, specifically:

Michael Reed, OF, Milwaukee (Profile)
With his inclusion here this week, Reed now appears among the top-10 contestants on the largely arbitrary Fringe Five Scoreboard below. His performance over the last week serves as a reasonable microcosm for his season as a whole, insofar as he walked rather often (26.5%), struck out less often (20.6%), and demonstrated some promising element of power and/or speed — in this case, recording his fifth home run of the season.

Scott Schebler, OF, Los Angeles NL (Profile)
Schebler made his debut among the Five two weeks ago after exhibiting signs that his plate discipline might be improving to such a degree as to allow his other gifts to reveal themselves more fully. It’s one of those other gifts — namely, his power — that Schebler has exhibited in recent days. Over his most recent two-game stretch with Double-A Chattanooga, Schebler has produced the following line: 7 PA, 1 BB, 0 K, 4 HR, 5 H. Nor has Schebler’s plate-discipline deteriorated, really: since that initial appearance among the Five, Schebler has produced walk and strikeout rates of 8.0% and 14.0%, respectively — i.e. a considerable improvement over his previously established levels.

Here’s largely unhelpful footage depicting one of Schebler’s recent home runs:

Schebler HR 2

Blayne Weller, RHP, Arizona (Profile)
If one takes for granted that part of what can render a prospect “compelling” is his personal narrative, then Weller has a considerable advantage in this regard — insofar, that is, as he was signed by Arizona last summer after proving his competence in the independent Frontier League. That he sits at 94 mph with his fastball and features what appears to be an entirely serviceable curveball and also recently threw a no-hitter — these are other reasons why he’s compelling, too. The 24-year-old’s most recent start, during which he struck out a third of the 27 batters he faced, is indicative of that which makes him promising (box).

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

Austin Barnes, C/2B, Miami (Double-A Southern League)
Taylor Cole, RHP, Toronto (Double-A Eastern League)
Andrew Faulkner, LHP, Texas (Double-A Texas League)
Jake Thompson, RHP, Texas (Double-A Texas League)
Austin Voth, RHP, Washington (Double-A Eastern League)

Fringe Five Scoreboard
Here are the top-10 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.

# Name Team POS FF NF PTS
1 Taylor Cole Blue Jays RHP 6 2 20
2 Thomas Shirley Astros LHP 6 1 19
3 Jace Peterson Padres SS 5 2 17
4 Jose Ramirez Indians 2B 5 1 16
5 Ben Lively Reds RHP 4 3 15
6 Billy Mckinney Cubs OF 3 5 14
7 Josh Hader Astros LHP 4 2 14
8 Michael Reed Brewers OF 4 2 14
9 Robert Kral Padres C 3 5 14
10 Seth Mejias-Brean Reds 3B 4 2 14

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

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M.S. Solstice
9 years ago

I share the enthusiasm for breaking pitches and completely unknown and overlooked baseball players who are, for lack of a better term, killing it.

Also, relying on video quality as evidence, it appears as if Schebler has been hitting home runs since at least 1997.