Jesse Roche is a member of the Baseball Prospectus fantasy team.
Jesse Roche: Happy Friday, everyone! We are now 4 weeks removed from the mass cancellations across the sports world. While MLB scrambles to find a way to make a season happen (maybe even in Arizona), we still sit patiently drumming our fingers waiting. Before diving into the questions, let me point you all to some content from this week. I was involved in two articles, including my retro review of my first dynasty/keeper team in Scoresheet way back in 2005 and JP's peer review of my squad in TDGX. Plus, I put out another episode of the Five-Tool Fantasy Baseball Podcast, including an interview of Shane Baz. Be sure to check all that out! To stay up-to-date on all my work, you can follow me on Twitter @jaroche6, and follow the podcast @5ToolPod. Now, on to the questions!
coffeeguy8806 (Chicagoooo): Why are we not seeing as much of an impact for international pitchers? A bunch in the pen, but seems like less starters. Thanks and stay safe!
Jesse Roche: Thanks! Hope you're staying safe as well.
This is an interesting observation. Part of the reason less international pitchers stand out is simply because the market share of international players is smaller. Players like Ronald Acuna and Juan Soto obviously stand out in a big way, and we do not see any international arms of that caliber. However, we do still have plenty of excellent international talent, including Luis Severino, Luis Castillo, Eduardo Rodriguez, Julio Urias, etc. Not to mention the Asian imports like Shohei Ohtani and Yu Darvish. Plus, there are plenty of high-end SP prospects are internationals, including Luis Patino, Sixto Sanchez, and Deivi Garcia. Of course, there are less elite
I do wonder if teams are more reluctant to dole out hefty bonuses to 16-year-old pitchers, which may force many prospective pitchers to try to make it as hitters. Pitching also has a heavy burnout rate and big workloads beginning at 16 can take a toll. Hard to say.
Buff (Colorado): Is Cole Tucker the Pirates’ shortstop of the future?
Jesse Roche: Last year, my answer would have been yes. Now, I'm not so sure. Oneil Cruz actually may be able to stick at shortstop long-term despite his unheard of height (6-foot-7) for the position. He has a huge arm, excellent range, and solid actions. There certainly is still a chance Cruz ultimately profiles at third base or right field, but the industry has more and more confidence in his ability to stick at the 6. If he does, then Tucker is certainly not the shortstop of the future in Pittsburgh. That said, Tucker will receive another extended look at some point in 2020 (if, and when, there is a season). Newman can easily slide to second base and Frazier is a better fit as a utility piece than an everyday starter. However, Tucker may need a change of scenery to truly find a fit.
CubbieBear (Chi-Town): Is Daulton Varsho more of a high end super utility type more than an everyday player or will his bat push him into an everyday player somewhere? Part II - if he loses catcher eligibility how valuable of a prospect does he become? Thanks.
Jesse Roche: I think Varsho hits enough for an everyday role, whether at catcher or in the outfield. Late in 2019, he began seeing time in center field. Given the presence of Carson Kelly and Varsho's so-so defense and arm strength behind the dish, Varsho very well may be destined for the outfield.
If Varsho becomes an everyday outfielder, losing catcher eligibility in the process, he likely retains much of the same fantasy value. Catcher eligibility benefits fringe fantasy performers more than superb hitters. A player like Varsho would receive less plate appearance and likely run less as a catcher. In addition, he likely would produce less per plate appearance simply due to the physical strain of catching. Meanwhile, in the outfield, he should be healthier, more spry, and have a better shot at making good on his 20/20 offensive potential. As such, I am less concerned about a player like Varsho losing catcher eligibility, than, say, Zach Collins.
The realistic ideal scenario is Varsho plays close to everyday in left field with enough starts at catcher (3rd stringer likely) to retain eligibility there year-to-year, or at least gain eligibility in-season. He could conceivably be that rare, super-valuable catcher-eligible position player who plays 6 times/week. At the same time, he would not suffer the same wear-and-tear that catching a ton of games has on a player. Consquently, Varsho likely will run more, perform better, and provide potentially massive fantasy value.
Lefty08 (home, where else?): Looking for some off the radar international 2019 signees or later round draft picks to target in late rounds of my FYPD draft ongoing now. Looking for best upside regardless of position. 30 team league with 60 man rosters, 30-40 prospects per team on average. Who ya got?
Jesse Roche: As an initial matter, please check out our Top-350 Dynasty Prospects: https://www.baseballprospectus.com/fantasy/article/57806/top-350-dynasty-prospects-march-2020/
That said, with a league that deep, most, if not all, of those players are already off the board.
Late round targets in drafts with mostly first year players by position:
OF: Emmanuel Rodriguez, Minnesota Twins; Joshua Mears, San Diego Padres; Jhon Diaz, Tampa Bay Rays; Juan Chacon, Boston Red Sox; Dasan Brown, Toronto Blue Jays; Darryl Collins, Kansas City Royals; Jonatan Clase, Seattle Mariners; Alberto Rodriguez, Toronto Blue Jayes; Jose De La Cruz, Detroit Tigers; Junior Perez, San Diego Padres; Colin Barber, Houston Astros
SS: Yeison Santana, San Diego Padres; Rafael Morel, Chicago Cubs; Will Holland, Minnesota Twins; Jamari Baylor, Philadelphia Phillies; Eduardo Garcia, Milwaukee Brewers; Dauri Lorenzo, Houston Astros; Brainer Bonaci, Boston Red Sox; Vaughn Grissom, Atlanta Braves; Kevin Made, Chicago Cubs; Adael Amador, Colorado Rockies; Rikelvin De Castro, Toronto Blue Jays; Estiven Machado, Toronto Blue Jays
3B: Juan Guerrero, Colorado Rockies; Victor Nova, Cleveland Indians; Christian Koss, Colorado Rockies; Jaylen Palmer, New York Mets; Cristhian Rodriguez, Miami Marlins
2B: Glenallen Hill Jr., Arizona Diamondbacks
1B: Jhonkensy Noel, Cleveland Indians
Old Timer (Raleigh NC): Both Jeter Downs and Vidal Brujan went very early in the fantasy experts prospect mock draft, too early imo. I assume this is due in part to their steal potential. Given the lack of steals at the MLB level, is it time to get rid of steals as a stand alone fantasy category?
Jesse Roche: I agree both Brujan (16) and Downs (34) went a touch too early for my tastes, but neither stood out as a massive overdraft to me. Obviously, the majority of Brujan's fantasy value is tied to his speed and potential for big stolen-base numbers. Downs, on the other hand, carries more value in his hit/power combo than his legs. Still, he could chip in 10-15 steals at peak despite his more modest raw foot speed.
Steals are certainly in steep decline. Just last year, the average MLB hitter only stole ~7 bases over 600 PAs (versus 21.8 homers).
There are many different fantasy leagues, some of which devalue stolen bases. Steals are less valuable in simulation-based leagues such as Scoresheet or Benchwarmer Baseball. Steals are also less valuable in points formats or even leagues with more categories. However, steals remain a vital, valuable part of most traditional 5x5 formats. Personally, I enjoy value being tied to stolen bases and their increasing rarity. If you are opposed to stolen bases carrying so much value, you can always set up your new league to more properly value the stat. For now, however, I do not see stolen bases going anywhere. Who doesn't like a good swiped bag?!
Jesse Roche: Not many questions today. I'll be back at it next week if you missed getting a question in today. In the meantime, we are continuing our review series next week. I'll be reviewing one of JP Breen's rosters so stay tuned! I will also have another episode of the Five-Tool Fantasy Baseball Podcast out next Thursday. We have yet another exciting guest so be sure to give it a listen! Finally, I decided to download Out of the Park Baseball and I plan to begin a series of articles regarding the Perfect Team feature in the next couple weeks. While there is no real baseball right now, fantasy baseball never ends!