The Fringe Five: Baseball’s Most Compelling Fringe Prospects

Fringe Five Scoreboards: 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013.

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 among the Five) is any rookie-eligible player at High-A or above who (a) was omitted from the preseason prospect lists produced by Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus,, John Sickels*, and (most importantly) lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen and also who (b) is currently absent from a major-league roster. Players appearing on any updated list — such as the revised top 100 released last week by Baseball America — will also be excluded from eligibility.

*All 200 names!

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.


Zack Granite, OF, Minnesota (Profile)
A former 14th-round draft pick, Granite now leads the International League in batting — by a considerable margin, as noted by David Laurila yesterday in the introduction to his interview with Granite.

Batting average obviously has shortcomings as a measurement of player value. For one, it stabilizes only in large samples. For two, it’s merely part of the overall offensive picture. That said, Granite has also consistently recorded strikeout rates below 10% — meaning he’s likely to produce higher batting averages anyway. Moreover, because of his baserunning and defensive abilities, Granite is the sort of player who could actually prove useful to a club despite a somewhat empty batting average.

In any case, Granite rendered his batting average a little less empty this week, hitting his second home run of the season, as documented in the following video presentation.

Tzu-Wei Lin, SS, Boston (Profile)
After appearing among the Five on two occasions in May, the 23-year-old Lin was forced by injury to miss some time at the beginning of the current month. He’s returned to the lineup, however, and continued to exhibit basically the precise collection of skills and tools that earned him a place here originally. In the 24 plate appearances between this and last week’s edition of the column, Lin produced strikeout and walk rates of 12.5% and 16.7%, respectively, a .167 isolated-power mark, and a 2-for-2 record on stolen bases. None of that’s elite, necessarily, but it is (a) remarkably consistent with his early-season numbers and (b) quite valuable given the quality of the defense. Eric Longenhagen delivered some prepared remarks on Lin’s season in a recent installment of his Daily Prospect Notes.

Tim Locastro, SS/CF, Los Angeles NL (Profile)
Locastro appeared among the top 10 on the final edition of last year’s arbitrarily calculated Scoreboard. He was also designated as Cistulli’s Guy on Eric Longenhagen’s organizational prospect list for the Dodgers this past offseason. As such, it’s not surprising to find him included here, too, among this week’s Five.

The purpose of this brief entry, however, is to call some attention to one of Locastro’s unusual skills — namely, his capacity for getting his body in the way of pitched balls. To get a sense of his proficiency in the matter, consider this: entering play on Thursday, only two majors leaguers (Josh Harrison and Anthony Rizzo) had recorded double-digit hit-by-pitch totals this whole season. Locastro, for his part, has now compiled 11 HBPs in the month of June alone.

Three of those painful episodes occurred over the past week. Here they are in Technicolor film:

Danny Mendick, 2B/SS, Chicago AL (Profile)
Because of the Carolina League All-Star Game on Tuesday (in which game Mendick participated) and the attendant days off (Monday and Wednesday) on either side, the White Sox’ Winston-Salem affiliate played a limited schedule this past week. Nevertheless, Mendick exhibited enough to earn a place here — particularly by virtue of his performance in Thursday night’s contest, during which he recorded four hits (including a double and home run) over four plate appearances while also starting at shortstop for the club.

In addition to the aforementioned homer, Mendick also produced real value by way of his baserunning, first turning a ground ball into two bases:

… and then turning another ground ball into a run for his club by scoring from second on a slowly developing defensive play:

David Thompson, 3B, New York NL (Profile)
Thompson received the designation of Cistulli’s Guy in Eric Longenhagen’s organizational prospect list for the Mets this past offseason. A fourth-round pick out of Miami in 2015, Thompson entered pro ball having just produced one of the most promising offensive lines in the ACC, nearly homering as often as he struck out. Concerns about his third-base defense, however, rendered him something less than an elite prospect.

As a professional, Thompson’s profile has nearly inverted. He was worth +10 runs at third over 50 games at short-season Brooklyn in 2015 according to Clay Davenport’s fielding metrics. Last year, Thompson produced +12 runs defensively in 45 games at Low-A Columbia by that same measure. Baseball Prospectus’s methodology has also consistently rated Thompson an above-average defender.

As for the offense, however, that hasn’t translated as well to the pro game. While some of Thompson’s end-of-season lines have been fine, he’s failed to exhibit both the contact skills and game power that defined his appeal as a collegiate — until this past week, that is. Indeed, in the 21 plate appearances since last Friday’s edition of the Five, the 23-year-old has recorded a 4:2 walk-to-strikeout ratio at Double-A Binghamton while also hitting two doubles and three home runs. Building off either that run of contact or of power would — in combination with the defense — point to future major-league success.

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

Sandy Baez, RHP, Detroit (High-A Florida State League)
J.T. Brubaker, RHP, Pittsburgh (Double-A Eastern League)
Ryan Helsley, RHP, St. Louis (High-A Florida State League)
Danny Jansen, C, Toronto (Double-A Eastern League)
Jason Vosler, 3B, Chicago NL (Double-A Southern League)

Fringe Five Scoreboard
Here is the top-10 list of players who 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.

Fringe Five Scoreboard, 2017
1 Ildemaro Vargas D-backs 2B/SS 3 4 13
2 Nik Turley Twins LHP 4 0 12
3 Max Schrock Athletics 2B 3 2 11
4 Mike Tauchman Rockies OF 3 1 10
5 Brandon Lowe Rays 2B 2 3 9
6 Tzu-Wei Lin Red Sox SS/CF 3 0 9
7 Wilmer Font Dodgers RHP 3 0 9
8 Danny Mendick White Sox 2B/SS 2 2 8
9 Michael Russell Rays 2B/SS 2 2 8
10 Nicky Lopez Royals SS 1 5 8
Highlighted row denotes player who was ineligible for selection this week.

We hoped you liked reading The Fringe Five: Baseball’s Most Compelling Fringe Prospects by Carson Cistulli!

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

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mike sixel
mike sixel

It would appear, alas, that Nik Turley was not quite ready for the majors. I hope he goes to the minors and moves to the bullpen.