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Chat: Jesse Roche

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Friday March 20, 2020 1:00 PM ET chat session with Jesse Roche.


Jesse Roche is a member of the Fantasy Team at Baseball Prospectus.

Jesse Roche: TGIF? Another week, another question mark. For some of you, this has not been a normal work week at all. Schools and businesses are closed across many states. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to sweep the nation. The MLB is considering foregoing the 2020 draft. It has been another wild week in what has been a bizarre month. Most importantly, I hope you all are staying safe! What better way to practice proper social distancing than peruse the continuous stream of content here at Baseball Prospectus and avail yourselves of our chats. While the baseball season is on hold and stuck in perpetual offseason, there is no such thing as offseason here at BP! (I wonder where I heard that before.) That said, we released our preseason Top-350 Dynasty Prospects on Thursday. You can now find the link using the "Fantasy" dropdown menu. This list will be regularly updated through 250 during the season, whenever that may be. Still to come: the Top-500 Dynasty Rankings! So stay tuned for that. I am starting the chat a little early today, but keep sending in the questions. Speaking of, let's get started!

spotted cow (Rockford): In a shortened season, will suspension be shifted?

Jesse Roche: This is an excellent question. Several players are under suspension, including Domingo German (63 games) and Michael Pineda (39 games), entering the season. A shortened season clearly lessens their impact if the suspensions are not reduced. I have not heard anything suggesting the suspensions will be reduced. In fact, I imagine they will not. MLB normally takes a hard line on suspensions so I would plan for all suspensions to remain in full force and effect.

Meanwhile, MLB and the players' union are in discussions regarding other important items impacted by the delayed and shortened season, such as service time in a shortened season. Normally, a full year of service is 172 days. A normal season is 187 days. Hence, teams wait until mid-April, or at least 15 days, to call up top prospects to prevent a year of service. A shortened season may, for example, only be 120 days. MLB teams will want to reduce the amount of days for a year of service from 172 in 2020 to, say, 105. Players will not want any changes of course. How service time shakes out will be an interesting development to follow.

Eric (LA): No Ronaldo Hernandez in your recently-released dynasty top 350 OR the honorable mentions - despite being ranked above several Rays who made the Rays top-10 prospects list and called "still a top 5 catching prospect" in the fantasy portion it... after 5 months of no baseball? What gives? Seems like an oversight to not having him in the Honorable Mentions at a minimum. Phillies' Luis Garcia made that and his year was substantially worse!

Jesse Roche: Trust me. There is no oversight on the list. It was thoroughly compiled.

The Top-10 lists represent real-life rankings. In real-life, catchers carry far more value than normal fantasy leagues. In fact, most catchers have nominal impact in fantasy. Further, catchers carry far more risk than most prospects as the burnout rate is high.

As for Mark's comment in the Rays' Top-10, I respectfully disagree, and so does Bret. Ronaldo Hernandez is not a top-5 dynasty catching prospect. While he spent the year in the Florida State League--which is a power-suppressing league--he failed to display nearly any game power, despite flashes of plus raw to the pull-side. Speaking of which, he is also extremely pull-heavy and aggressive at the plate, which casts doubt on his hit tool as well. All told, his best case scenario is looking like borderline-average hit and game power tools, maybe, and I stress, maybe average, which is barely rosterable in most fantasy leagues at the MLB level, let alone as a prospect.

That said, he was on the edge of Honorable Mentions, along with Cal Raleigh, Mario Feliciano, and Shea Langeliers, all of which are excellent real-life prospects, but not so great dynasty investments. Catchers, man.

If you prefer Hernandez to Luis Garcia, I totally understand, but I still have some hope for the kid who spent the entire year in the South Atlantic League at 18 years old with plus barrel control, a feel for hitting, a touch of pop and speed, and strong defense.

MK (Houston): In a roto dynasty startup, what range of prospect would you offer for one of the latest TJ pitchers (Severino or Sale)? What would it take for you to accept trading away Severino or Sale?

Jesse Roche: It never hurts to offer a little lower than value to see if you capture the hysteria surrounding TJS. At the moment, we have Luis Severino at 149 overall on our Top 500, which is lower than I have seen others drop him. This places him below our 26th ranked prospect. I think an offer of a backend top-50 prospect for Severino is a good starting point, but use your judgment and find out what prospects interest the other owner before blindly offering. You might be surprised either way and it could avoid an overpay or a perceived insult. As for Chris Sale, his TJS is fresh and we have yet to fully update the Top 500 to reflect his fall. I would anticipate he will fall to the backend of the top 100 (we previously had him at 53, which even baked in some risk to start with). I would consider offering a bit more for Sale than Severino, but I would again start with a backend top-50 prospect and again reach out before making any offer. These owners also may be more receptive to an offer of a MLB piece to replace the injured SP rather than a prospect and you may be able to squeeze more value from a trade that way.

mcc1013 (Pennsylvania): Tommy edman is so highly ranked many times ahead of scott kingery so my question is who do you like better in roto this year and do you still believe kingery could be a stud?

Jesse Roche: I will copy and paste from our current Top 500:

192 Tommy Edman
193 Scott Kingery

They are neck-and-neck for us. Kingery has slightly more pop and more job security. Edman has a better hit tool and is a safer bet to provide a strong average. Both are similarly speedy. I agree some rankings of Edman are a bit out of control. This year, I prefer Edman, as I anticipate excellent eligibility, which gives him the edge.

I do not believe Kingery could be a stud and I have not since his poor debut. He just does not make enough contact. That said, I think he could flirt with 20/20 for awhile and maybe truly breakout if he develops into the type of high-contact bat we all foresaw as a prospect. However, his 31.9% whiff rate will not fly for a player who does not have elite quality of contact.

Craig (Chicago): Which is the real version of Josh Bell? 2017 (26 HR, .255 BA), 2018 (12 HR, .261 BA), 2019 (37 HR, .277 BA)?

Jesse Roche: 2019. He is here to stay. I expect something along the lines of .270-.280 with 30-35 home runs moving forward. Here is my writeup of Bell in our First Base rankings:

The long-awaited breakout finally arrived for Bell, who launched 37 home runs with 220 runs/runs batted in last year. Skeptics will stress that much of his production came during a red-hot first two months (.343/.405/.704, 18 home runs). The rest of the year, Bell just hit .232/.342/.476, including a dreadful, 54-game stretch between June and August (.209/.318/.429). Focusing on his second-half performance overlooks his strong, final 33 games (.270/.384/.557) while battling a lingering groin injury. Most importantly, the power gains are real. Bell was among the league leaders in exit velocity and hard-hit rate, all while maintaining superb plate discipline and nominal swing-and-miss. Squarely in his prime, he should provide Freddie Freeman-lite production.

Craig (Chicago): Looking at Anthony DeSclafani, it looks like he is trending upwards in his Strikeouts and IP, but his ERA/FIP does not have clear trends. Is he a 4.25 ERA/150 IP/ 150 K pitcher, or could he breakout in the upcoming season? What do you point to for that thought?

Jesse Roche: DeSclafani is certainly trending in the right direction. Notably, he began relying less on his fastball and more on his secondaries in late May. He saw a corresponding boost in performance, with a 3.37 ERA and 24.3 percent strikeout rate over his final 20 starts. My concern with DeSclafani is he still gives up too many home runs and does not mitigate it enough with swing-and-miss. His curveball is also below average. That said, DeSclafani reportedly spent the offseason fine-tuning that more efficient delivery, with a specific emphasis on his curveball, according to Bobby Nightengale. I do like him as a late-round target in all formats. I know some who believe a breakout is imminent. I am less confident, but his cost is quite reasonable.

NotJoeDrake (Socially Distanced): What changes for you when you evaluating via video rather than at the game?

Jesse Roche: I think it first depends on the type of video you have access to. The right angle, and a mix of angles, can make couch scouting somewhat doable. If it is standard video from MiLB TV, for example, it is far less doable.

For pitchers, it is more difficult to assess deception, effort, and extension in their delivery. It is also more difficult to assess movement of pitches, including late explosive life. That said, it can be easier to grade out command with a clearer view of where the catcher sets up and whether the pitch is delivered, but you still have issue with assessing movement, which is a big part of command of a particular pitch.

As for hitters, angles matters, and normal telecast angles are not kind to assesses swings. Visually, you get a sense of things like bat speed, foot speed, and even raw power, but it is still difficult to judge.

The most value video scouting can bring (imo) is just to get eyes on a player and a feel for what they're working with. Some telecasts have somewhat reliable radar guns and you can track pitches, pitch mix, and velocity, which is useful. Most, however, do not even provide radar readings.

SEC Network for college games does a nice job as well.

In general, getting looks at players is always a good thing. Just be careful about forming judgments based on limited video.

Buff (Colorado): Has Jose Garcia significantly raised his stock this spring, or his power outburst too much of a short sample size blip?

Jesse Roche: It is certainly a small sample size blip, and, for some, it is enough to put him on their radar more and he then moves way up. For me, this is how his ranking as tracked:

September: 167
November: 142
December: 142
January (move to BP): 146
March: 106

So, yes, he has moved up a bit due to his spring performance, but more due to more positive reports that support a potential 5 hit (maybe 6) / 4 power (maybe 5) / 6 speed outcome. I tend to think he could be a .270/15/20 type, and I am bullish on his power projection and I see potential average power there.

Old Timer (Raleigh NC): Dynasty keeper league. I am likely to have a choice of Jeter Downs, Orelvis Martinez, or Noelvi Marte with my first pick. Do you have any particular preference and why? Thanks.

Jesse Roche: Dynasty and keeper are different things normally. If you can keep nearly your entire roster forever, then it is dynasty. If you have a strict keeper limit, even if you can keep forever, it is keeper. The difference matters because opportunity cost is something that must be considered when talking players like Orelvis Martinez and Noelvi Marte who are a ways away.

Regardless, none are bad picks, but I am partial to Marte as a potential 5-category star who could be a top-10 dynasty prospect by year's end if everything goes according to plan.

Mr. Fister (Arlington): In five years, what type of player will Austin Martin be? Bat first Soto-ish guy? More of a power/speed blend? What position will he ultimately end up at? Thanks!

Jesse Roche: I think Martin has potential 6 hit, 5 power, and 6 speed tools. In five years, he could hit .290/20/20, give or take. He is nothing like Soto (not many are). His future position likely depends on the organization in which he lands. I would expect him to be given every possible opportunity to stick at shortstop.

Full size man turd (In the litter box): Which Royals pitching prospect ends up as the best?

Jesse Roche: In fantasy, Daniel Lynch.

Bubic Hair (In your soup): Luis Campusano or Daulton Varsho for dynasty league? Thanks!

Jesse Roche: Daulton Varsho easy. Five-category "catcher"? Sign me up!

Not sure he will be a catcher, though, so if that is really important then you should probably go with Campusano. I still think Varsho will generate solid (and better) fantasy value than Campusano regardless what position he ends up playing.

Tentin Quarantino (In my TP castle): Emerson Hancock's stock seemed to take a hit early this spring. I've read that his delivery has issues and that he has a slight head-whack. Is there anything else in the profile that should keep an MLB team or a dynasty owner from considering him the top pitcher in the class? With 2 plus pitches and 2 more above-average with above-average control, shouldn't he be a pretty sure bet to be a quality big league starter?

Jesse Roche: The other concern is arm health (isn't it always). Hancock's command has been more hit or miss since his lat strain last year. I still prefer him as the top pitcher in this class.

Prep righties (Kelley or Abel) have a poor track record. Asa Lacy still has borderline command, despite dominant stuff.

Non-Essential Worker (At Work....): Age old debate (well, maybe year old debate)....Walker Buehler or Jack Flaherty...who ya got?

Jesse Roche: Buehler easy. Better stuff and better command.

Pay for Pitching (Early and Often): Rank for dynasty fliers....Voth, Houser, Burnes, E. Hernandez, Means.

Jesse Roche: 1) Adrian Houser
2) Corbin Burnes
3) John Means
4) Austin Voth
5) Elieser Hernandez

Jefferson Airplane (Boston): With the uncertainty of the upcoming season, how would you value guys like E5 and Charlie Morton (i.e. potentially their last season) against TJS guys (e.g. Sale and Sevy)?

Jesse Roche: I easily prefer Chris Sale to all of the above. Luis Severino and Charlies Morton is a closer call, but I still prefer Morton until we have a clearer picture of when the season will begin. One (Encarnacion) is not like the others.

Squirrel Pie (Pandemic Culinary Academy): Could you put a comp on Garrett Crochet? Chris Sale starter kit?

Jesse Roche: Crochet is easily in the top 5 pitchers for me at the moment in this class. His season was delayed due to shoulder soreness and only made one start (which I need to check out). Reports have him with three potential 6 offerings (fastball, curveball, changeup) and some command issues. Obviously, the shoulder soreness is also a concern. His delivery is reminiscent of Chris Sale, but Sale is a unicorn.

Motaurhead (Ace of Spades): Asa Lacy or Daniel Lynch for dynasty?

Jesse Roche: Lacy by a hair. Higher upside.

Jesse Roche: Alright, that is it for me. Thanks for all the questions! Stay safe and social distance! While you all are shut in, check out my new podcast presented by Fantrax here: https://twitter.com/5ToolPod/status/1241065032663916544?s=20 And be sure to follow me on Twitter @jaroche6!

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