The Fringe Five: Baseball’s Most Compelling Fringe Prospects

The Fringe Five is a weekly regular-season exercise, introduced a few years ago by the present author, wherein that same author utilizes regressed stats, scouting reports, and also his own fallible intuition 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 who (a) received a future value grade of 45 or less from Dan Farnsworth during the course of his organizational lists and who (b) was omitted from the preseason prospect lists produced by Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus,’s Jonathan Mayo, and John Sickels, and also who (c) is currently absent from a major-league roster. Players appearing on an updated prospect list or, otherwise, selected in the first round of the current season’s amateur draft will also be excluded from eligibility.

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.


Chad Green, RHP, New York AL (Profile)
This represents Green’s second consecutive appearance among the Five and third overall this season. He entered the week having produced two excellent starts, recording strikeout and walk rates of 40.8% and 2.0%, respectively, over 14.0 innings of work. The 25-year-old right-hander didn’t reach those same frenzied heights in his most recent appearance, but continued to exhibit the same sort of fielding-independent dominance nevertheless. Facing Nationals affiliate Syracuse, Green produced a 6:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio against 21 batters over 6.0 innings, conceding just three hits and no runs (box). And again, this doesn’t appear to be a case of mere polish or deception: Green sat at 95 mph during his only career major-league start and 97 mph about a month later while appearing in a relief capacity for the Yankees.

Max Schrock, 2B, Washington (Profile)
The author has documented his enthusiasm for Schrock already at this site, having made an airtight case (in January) for Schrock as future major-league MVP and then (a few days ago) providing a status update on the second-base prospect. The occasion for that status update? The promotion of Schrock from Low-A Hagerstown to High-A Potomac. And the significance of that promotion? It now renders him eligible for inclusion among the Five. After a final month with Hagerstown during which he struck out just four times over his last 107 plate appearances — while also producing an isolated-power figure about 50% higher than the Sally League average — Schrock has appeared entirely capable of handling Carolina League competition. His line through three games: 15 PA, 0 BB, 0 K, 1 HR, 8 H, 1-for-1 SB.

There are probably reasonable questions to ask about Schrock’s defensive future. Durng his junior year at South Carolina, he played left field almost exclusively. As a professional, he’s produced slightly below-average defensive marks at second base per Baseball Prospectus’s fielding metric. So that exists. The number of questions regarding the bat are fewer, however. Or, if they exist, they’re along the lines of, “This is a good bat, isn’t it?”

Here’s video of Schrock recording one of two hits during the South Atlantic League All-Star Game:

Charlie Tilson, OF, St. Louis (Profile)
A number of things come as a surprise to the author. Like that he’s employed in any capacity, for example. And like that a human woman willingly co-habitates with him. It makes no sense. What else comes as a surprise is how St. Louis outfield prospect Charlie Tilson’s name has never appeared within this weekly column — not even among the Next Five portion of it, it would seem. Because here’s why that’s surprising: Tilson has exhibited the same combination of excellent contact skills and defensive competence that defines a number of the prospects who appear here — and he’s been relatively young for his levels along the way. What’s he’s lacked — and what’s ultimately been the cause for his absence — is power on contact. The three occasions on which he’s recorded more than 400 plate appearances at a level, Tilson has produced isolated-power figures of .085, .105, and .093. This year with Triple-A Memphis, however, he’s posted a .136 ISO so far. Even after adjusting for the higher run environment of the Pacific Coast League, that’s still his best career mark.

Tilson has been particularly excellent of late, recording a .407 ISO (including two triples and two home runs) over his last 29 plate appearances while also striking out zero times.

Here’s video footage depicting one of those recent homers in regular and also slow motion:

Ildemaro Vargas, SS, Arizona (Profile)
In a just world, Vargas would appear within this dumb column every week. Because consider: he’s a mostly age-appropriate shortstop at Double-A who makes contact at a nearly unrivaled rate while also recording nearly league-average power numbers. In itself, that’s the profile of a “compelling fringe prospect.” What that characterization of Vargas omits, though, is how, at this time last year, he was only a month removed from serving as the starting shortstop for the Bridgeport Bluefish of the Atlantic League. This isn’t a just world, however, and so Vargas has been unduly ignored by the author. In any case, he’s been characteristically excellent of late, recently compiling a nearly 60-plate-appearance stretch without striking out and then recording his third homer of the season a couple days ago.

Aaron Wilkerson, RHP, Boston (Profile)
This marks Wilkerson’s fifth appearance among the Five proper this year. It also represents his final appearance among the Five — for a week, at least. After signing with the Red Sox in 2014 out of his third different independent league and after beginning his age-27 season (this year) as a Double-A pitcher with no experience at a level higher than that — after that less-than-promising series of events, Wilkerson is the most likely option to start Boston’s game against the Angels on Sunday afternoon. It should be said: Wilkerson’s frequent inclusion here oughtn’t be construed as a full professional endorsement of his major-league future. Wilkerson throws his fastball at around 90 mph, roughly 2 mph below the average velocity produced by major-league starters this year. He’s gotten minor leaguers to swing through it; major leaguers are likely to make more contact. That’s not entirely the point, however. Rather, the mere occasion of Wilkerson’s (expected) debut is sufficient for reminding us that life isn’t exclusively a succession of defeats and more defeats.

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

Greg Allen, OF, Cleveland (High-A Carolina League)
Yandy Diaz, 3B/OF, Cleveland (Triple-A International League)
Sherman Johnson, 2B, Los Angeles AL (Triple-A Pacific Coast League)
Joel Payamps, RHP, Colorado (High-A California League)
Josh Van Meter, 2B/3B, San Diego (High-A California 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 (which is to say, today). 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.

Fringe Five Scoreboard, 2016
1 Sherman Johnson Angels 2B 12 1 37
2 Greg Allen Indians OF 5 3 18
3 Aaron Wilkerson Red Sox RHP 5 2 17
4 Jharel Cotton Dodgers RHP 4 3 15
5 Yandy Diaz Indians 3B 3 3 12
6 Ildemaro Vargas D-backs SS 3 2 11
Jaime Schultz Rays RHP 3 2 11
Tim Locastro Dodgers 2B/SS 3 2 11
9 Joan Gregorio Giants RHP 3 1 10
10 Chad Green Yankees RHP 3 0 9

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

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8 years ago

where are u wen sherm is kil

i am at desk reading fg when cistulli is phone

“sherm is .316 with no power”


like and share or your favorite fringe prospect will go the way of sherm