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 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.)

Three players retain their place this week among the Five: young Philadelphia third-base prospect Maikel Franco, Cardinals Double-A outfielder Mike O’Neill, and promising Washington left-hander Robbie Ray.

Departing from the Five proper are left-handed Miami prospect Brian Flynn (for mostly no reason other than the author’s own vagaries) and luminous mystery/San Diego right-hander Burch Smith (because he spent the majority of the week in the majors). Replacing the pair are Mets right-hander Rafael Montero (who’s appeared among the Five previously) and also, making his first appearance, Cubs shortstop prospect Arismendy Alcantara.

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

Arismendy Alcantara, SS, Chicago NL (Profile)
Both White Sox middle-infield prospect Marcus Semien and also Cubs second-base prospect Ronald Torreyes have made multiple appearances within this weekly feature — either among the Fringe Five proper, or at least the Next Five (found below). All three play at Double-A, but Alcantara is a year younger than the former and more likely to play a premium position (shortstop, as opposed to second base) than the latter. As just a 21-year-old in the Southern League, he’s recorded nine home runs and a 26:53 walk-to-strikeout ratio in 261 plate appearances, while also stealing 15 bases on 17 attempts.

Here, for the benefit of the readership, is mostly helpful footage of Alcantara hitting a home run earlier this season just inside the Buffalo Wild Wings foul pole:

Maikel Franco, 3B, Philadelphia (Profile)
Both isolating and regressing* their main offensive indicators (i.e. home runs, walks, and strikeouts), the 20-year-old Franco would appear to have produced the equivalent so far of a 137 wRC+ in the Florida State League, while Red Sox third-base prospect and 22-year-old Garin Cecchini would appear to have produced the equivalent of a 136 wRC+ in his High-A league, the Carolina League. Noted prospect analyst Keith Law recently added Cecchini to his top-25 prospect list. That Franco could approximate Cecchini’s offensive production at his age appears quite promising.

*By the author’s likely flawed method.

Rafael Montero, RHP, New York NL (Profile)
The author feels compelled to admit that he’s not entirely smitten with Montero. While both his changeup and overall command are generally great, the right-handed Mets prospect doesn’t feature plus velocity, nor does his slider appear to be anything that would threaten major-league hitters at the moment. That said, it’s difficult to ignore Montero’s results so far: a 77:11 strikeout-to-walk ratio, for example, in 73.1 innings at Double-A (and one start at Triple-A Las Vegas). Nor, it should be said, is Montero what anyone would classify as a soft-tosser; he frequently sits in the 92-93 mph range. Since the most recent edition of the Five, Montero has made one start, during which he posted this rather impressive line (box): 7.0 IP, 24 TBF, 6 K, 1 BB, 0 HR, 2 H, 0 R.

Mike O’Neill, COF, St. Louis (Profile)
It occurs to the author that, so far as the Fringe Five is concerned, O’Neill is not unlike an adult child whose parents live in Portland, Oregon — which is to say he’s welcome to stay here (among the Five) for as long as he likes, regardless of what happens. Between editions of the Five, O’Neill has posted a 4:4 walk-to-strikeout ratio in 35 plate appearances, which basically represents his floor, at this point, so far as control of the plate is concerned.

Robbie Ray, LHP, Washington (Profile)
Ray made his debut among the Five last Wednesday, largely on the strength of a strikeout rate unparalleled by all but a few pitchers at High-A or better. That same night, he recorded seven strikeouts and just one walk in 6.2 innings pitched against Rangers affiliate Myrtle Beach (box). “Are there two GIFs available of his curveball from that game?” a strangely prescient reader might ask — because, yes, there are two GIFs available of his curveball from that game.

First this one, on a 3-2 count in the bottom of the fourth inning to right-fielder Trever Adams:

Ray Adams CU Called K

And also this one — also on a 3-2 count, and also in the bottom of the fourth inning — to left-fielder Chris Grayson:

Ray Grayson CU SS K

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

Tim Cooney, LHP, St. Louis (Double-A Texas League)
Brian Flynn, LHP, Miami (Triple-A Pacific Coast League)
Taylor Lindsey, 2B, Los Angeles AL (Double-A Texas League)
Max Muncy, 1B, Oakland (High-A California League)
R.J. Seidel, RHP, Milwaukee (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.

Mike O’Neill Cardinals OF 8 0 24
Wilmer Flores Mets 2B 7 1 22
Brian Flynn Marlins LHP 4 3 15
Marcus Semien White Sox SS 3 5 14
Burch Smith Padres RHP 4 1 13
Rafael Montero Mets RHP 3 2 11
Corban Joseph Yankees 2B 3 1 10
Danny Salazar Indians RHP 2 3 9
Chase Anderson Diamondbacks RHP 2 2 8
Maikel Franco Phillies 3B 2 0 6
Robbie Ray Nationals LHP 2 0 6
Ronald Torreyes Cubs 2B 1 3 6
Chad Bettis Rockies RHP 1 2 5
Joc Pederson Dodgers OF 1 2 5
Jose Ramirez Yankees RHP 1 1 4
Arismendy Alcantara Cubs SS 1 0 3
Max Muncy Athletics 1B 0 3 3
Nicholas Kingham Pirates RHP 0 2 2
Nolan Fontana Astros SS 0 2 2
Taylor Lindsey Angels 2B 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
R.J. Seidel Brewers RHP 0 1 1
Tim Cooney Cardinals LHP 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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9 years ago

In the past week, Wilmer Flores went just 12-25 with a double, 2 HRs, 8 rbi and 6 runs, 1 BB, 1 HBP and just 2 Ks. a slash of .480/.519/.760. I wonder what he has to do to get back on the list…

9 years ago
Reply to  LaLoosh

and btw, for the year (270 PAs), Flores has a slash of .314/.356/.494 for an .850 OPS. FWIW, Oscar Taveras is at .319/.353/.475 for an .828 OPS (151 PAs and about 10 mos younger than Wilmer).

Is WIlmer underrated for now? It seems so. Even if he has to move to 1B I think there is a pretty good chance that he’ll hit enough to make that work.