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.


Austin Barnes, C/2B, Miami (Profile)
The 24-year-old Barnes appeared within three of the four most recent editions of this weekly column almost entirely on the strength of his excellent plate-discipline profile and positional flexibility. He demonstrated both those skills once again this past week, recording a 7:3 walk-to-strikeout ratio while also making defensive appearances at both second base and catcher for Double-A Jacksonville. What else he did this week was hit four home runs — raising his season total by 50%, from eight to 12.

Here’s one of the aforementioned home runs:

Barnes HR 2 Fast

And the same thing, except from the side for some reason:

Barnes HR 2

Yandy Diaz, 3B, Cleveland (Profile)
Reports concerning Cleveland’s signing of the 22-year-old Diaz, a Cuban defector, are decidedly more difficult to locate than for other, more notable expatriates of that same country. There exists, for example, no entries pertaining to him at MLB Trade Rumors. A seemingly authorless Google spreadsheet does indicate that Diaz received a bonus of $300 thousand, which figure seems reasonable. In any case, the point remains: there’s a paucity of information surrounding his acquisition. For all his anonymity, though, here’s a thing that Diaz has done this season: record the best walk-strikeout rate differential (+4.1 points) among all qualified batters at High-A. And here’s another thing: get named best defensive third baseman in the Carolina League, per Baseball America. Here’s his line since last Tuesday: 40 PA, 8 BB, 3 K, 1 HR.

Chris Lamb, LHP, Oakland (Profile)
Lamb began the season as a 24-year-old former 11th-round draft pick on Oakland’s Class-A Midwest League affiliate — his third consecutive season with the club. Not the sort of profile that suggests great promise. Regard, however, the line from Lamb’s most recent start, this past Sunday (and now in the High-A California League): 7.0 IP, 26 TBF, 17 K, 1 BB (box). Occasionally a mediocre pitcher can accidentally produce a no hitter; striking out nearly six full innings’ worth of batters is less accidental, however. Hardly any reports concerning his repertoire exist on the internet, although a San Jose Giants broadcast from August 3rd cited a 90-mph fastball and 86-mph splitter, in addition to a curveball.

Dixon Machado, SS, Detroit (Profile)
This marks Machado’s third consecutive appearance among the Five. After having been recognized for some time as a likely above-average defender at shortstop, Machado has this season produced a career-best walk-strikeout differential as just a 22-year-old at Double-A — and this month also demonstrated not inconsequential power numbers. Regard, Machado’s offensive line since the mostly arbitrary date of August 1st: 81 PA, 17.3% BB, 9.9% K, 3 HR, .406/.506/.625 (.426 BABIP).

Here’s a GIF of a home run (one of two) hit by Machado this week — in this case, against recent seventh-overall pick Aaron Nola:

Machado HR 1

And then that same home run, in slower motion:

Machado HR 1 Slow

Blayne Weller, RHP, Arizona (Profile)
With his appearance here, the right-handed Weller has now made the last four consecutive editions of the Fringe Five, having parlayed his 95-mph fastball most recently into a 13-strikeout performance over 5.2 innings this past Thursday (box). That brings Weller’s line at High-A Visalia to the following: 7 GS, 38.1 IP, 32.8% K, 9.9% BB. All of this, again, having been authored by a 24-year-old who just last season was a member of the independent Frontier League’s Windy City ThunderBolts. Footage of Weller’s repertoire continues to be rare. In its place, here’s a photo of the ThunderBolts’ ballpark from what appears to be the parking lot of same:


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

Parker Bridwell, RHP, Baltimore (High-A Carolina League)
Jharel Cotton, RHP, Los Angeles NL (High-A California League)
Tyler Heineman, C, Houston (Double-A Texas League)
Yorman Rodriguez, OF, Cincinnati (Double-A Southern League)
Scott Schebler, OF, Los Angeles NL (Double-A Southern 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 Dario Pizzano Mariners OF 4 4 16
5 Jose Ramirez Clevelanders 2B 5 1 16
6 Ben Lively Reds RHP 4 3 15
7 Billy Mckinney Cubs OF 3 5 14
8 Josh Hader Astros LHP 4 2 14
9 Michael Reed Brewers OF 4 2 14
10 Robert Kral Padres C 3 5 14

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

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8 years ago

Re: Machado – not only has he put up insane numbers in August, but since the ENTIRELY arbitrary date of June 10th, he has hit 343/426/522 at Erie. Basically, it took him three weeks to get accustomed to AA, and he has been on fire ever since. Good catch here, Carson!