The Fringe Five: Baseball’s Most Compelling Fringe Prospects

The Fringe Five is a weekly exercise (introduced last month) 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 working definition of fringe. Currently, for the purposes of this column, it’s any prospect who was absent from all of three notable preseason top-100 prospect lists. (A slightly more robust meditation on the idea of fringe can be found here.)

Four players retain their place this week among the Five: Mets infield prospect Wilmer Flores; giant, tall Marlins left-hander Brian Flynn; other Mets prospect, right-hander Rafael Montero; and Cardinals Double-A outfielder Mike O’Neill.

Departing from the Five is Yankees right-hander Jose Ramirez, who did nothing in particular to lose his spot except fail to approximate the conspicuous capital-M Mystery provided by recently demoted San Diego prospect Burch Smith.

All those points having been made, here are this week’s Fringe Five.

Wilmer Flores, 2B/3B, New York NL (Profile)
The ongoing struggles of Mets major-league first baseman Ike Davis have led to questions about what Flores’ credentials might be at that same position. With regard to those concerns, it ought first to be noted that, despite his promising offensive approach, Flores is likely not even an average major-league hitter at the moment. It ought further to be noted both that (a) including Tuesday, Flores has played first base just twice this season but also that (b) he (i.e. Flores) is still probably reasonably capable there defensively.

Brian Flynn, LHP, Miami (Profile)
Following his entirely able start on Tuesday night against Rangers Triple-A affiliate Round Rock (box), the 6-foot-8 Flynn has now recorded a 44:12 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 42.1 innings since his promotion from Double-A.

“What sort of pitches does he throw?” a curious reader might ask — for the purpose of answering said question, the author has prepared the following video:

Rafael Montero, RHP, New York NL (Profile)
Since last week — his first among the Fringe Five proper — Montero has made two starts, one at Double- and one at Triple-A. Overall, he recorded a line entirely in keeping with his established levels this season. To wit: 12.2 IP, 13 K, 3 BB, 1 HR, 8 H, 2 R.

It appears as though the 22-year-old right-hander will remain at Double-A for the moment; however, there are certainly indications that he would succeed if given the benefit of a permanent promotion.

Mike O’Neill, COF, St. Louis (Profile)
O’Neill recorded more strikeouts (four) between May 21st and May 27th than he had for nearly the entire month preceding that interval. That’s worrisome insofar as O’Neill’s offensive approach is based almost entirely on making contact. Even with the uncharacteristic week, though, O’Neill had still posted walk and strikeout rates of 17.8% and 6.1%, respectively, as of Tuesday — this, in 197 plate appearances.

For those interested, published a profile of O’Neill by Todd Traub on Tuesday. While not revelatory in any way, the piece does remind readers that O’Neill signed for merely $1,000.

Burch Smith, RHP, San Diego (Profile)
In his three major-league starts since last appearing among The Five, Smith exhibited a promising fastball, an excellent changeup, and posted a 15.5% swinging-strike rate — nearly double the average for major-league starters. He also conceded 15 runs in just 7.1 innings, a figure which few teams will tolerate, regardless of other, more positive signs. Almost impossibly, Smith recorded nine swinging strikes on 37 pitches in the first inning of his last start, against St. Louis, and yet managed only a single strikeout. There are real indications that Smith’s sequencing is awry, or that his approach with two strikes is entirely too conservative.

In any case, Smith exhibited no difficulty in his return to the minors. Making his first Triple-A appearance (for Padres affiliate Tucson), Smith posted the following line on Tuesday night (box): 5.0 IP, 5 K, 0 BB, 0 HR, 6 H, 1 R.

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

Brad Miller, SS, Seattle (Triple-A Pacific League)
Jose Ramirez, RHP, New York AL (Double-A Eastern League)
Danny Salazar, RHP, Cleveland (Triple-A International League)
Marcus Semien, SS/2B, Chicago AL (Double-A Southern League)
Ronald Torreyes, 2B, Chicago NL (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.

Wilmer Flores Mets 2B 7 0 21
Mike O’Neill Cardinals OF 6 0 18
Marcus Semien White Sox SS 3 4 13
Brian Flynn Marlins LHP 3 2 11
Burch Smith Padres RHP 3 1 10
Corban Joseph Yankees 2B 3 1 10
Chase Anderson Diamondbacks RHP 2 2 8
Danny Salazar Indians RHP 2 2 8
Rafael Montero Mets RHP 2 1 7
Chad Bettis Rockies RHP 1 2 5
Joc Pederson Dodgers OF 1 2 5
Ronald Torreyes Cubs 2B 1 2 5
Jose Ramirez Yankees RHP 1 1 4
Max Muncy Athletics 1B 0 2 2
Nicholas Kingham Pirates RHP 0 2 2
Nolan Fontana Astros SS 0 2 2
Victor Payano Rangers LHP 0 2 2
Brad Miller Mariners SS 0 1 1
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
Taylor Lindsey Angels 2B 0 1 1
Zach Walters Nationals SS 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

Garin Cecchini went from not being on KLaw’s pre-season top 100, to as of yesterday, 22nd in his updated top 25.

This is your column and you’re entitled to your own opinions. KLaw obviously also isn’t infallible. Still, I think only including him once, and then only in your next five, is an enormous oversight.

10 years ago
Reply to  Greg

Did you consider that Carson can possibly see into the future and knew Cecchini would be included in Keith Law’s recently released top 25?

Thus, he is disqualified, hence why he was never included again. I believe the oversight is with you, good sir.

Chief Keef
10 years ago
Reply to  Blockhead

Cecchini was an overslot good pedigree guy, he’s never been a fringe prospect. He had injuries and durability questions but that’s not really what this is supposed to be about.