Fantasy Baseball Mailbag: Thursday 5/19/16

Now that we're a quarter of the way into the season, can we abandon preseason projections?

We're starting a new little diddy here on numberFire to try to help you navigate the ever-changing landscape that is fantasy baseball. It's not easy to keep up with all of the day-to-day fluctuations, so it can help to have someone to bounce ideas off of. That's what our daily mailbag will look to do.

Feel free to shoot us any questions you may have throughout the day on Twitter, and then we'll try to answer as many as we can in the form of a post. These questions can be anything fantasy baseball related. That means daily fantasy baseball, season-long, dynasty, and everything else are all in play.

Obviously, we won't be able to get to all questions because there's a lot to cover. For additional questions, be sure to check out our new MLB DFS tools along with our daily and season-long projections, which should help out more times than not.

Now, enough of that. Let's dig into today's mailbag and see what's popping in the world of fantasy baseball.

That's a really solid question to start with now that we're basically at the quarter pole of the season. It differs a bit between pitchers and hitters, but you can already start to draw conclusions for both based on what we've seen so far in 2016.

With pitchers, stats such as skill-interactive ERA (SIERA), strikeout rate, walk rate, and ground-ball rate have likely already hit relevant sample sizes. These are all categories that stabilize fairly quickly, meaning we can try to pounce on what they have showed through a pitcher's first seven or eight starts of the year. If projections had Aaron Nola's ERA above 3.50 before the season, his 2.57 SIERA through 53 innings would say we can abandon those and fully buy into a guy who has been one of the bigger surprises so far.

Things are a bit more difficult with hitters simply because they don't get 100 chances in a game like a pitcher does each time he throws the ball. They only get four to five plate appearances, meaning we'll have to be a bit more cautious about abandoning preseason projections. There are ways we can combat that, though, and that's through batted-ball stats and plate-discipline numbers.

As you can see in this FanGraphs post on sample sizes, batted-ball stats start to stabilize at 80 balls in play, strikeout rates stabilize after 60 plate appearances, and walk rates take 120 plate appearances. That means we can look at these categories if we're trying to conclude things from the start of the year, even if we have to be careful in doing so.

An example here would be looking at Mark Teixeira's start. He finished 2015 with a 35.3% hard-hit rate, 16.7% soft-hit rate, and 18.4% strikeout rate. All of those numbers are drastically worse this year, sitting at 30.4%, 20.7%, and 26.8%, respectively. This means our preseason thoughts on Teixeira would likely be defunct, and we need to adjust to a hitter who is clearly not what he was last year.

Absolutely, unequivocally, 100% yes. He may even be the best one to buy in the entire league right now.

As we mentioned when he flirted with retirement, Joey Votto may actually be better in some ways this year than he was last year. His hard-hit rate has jumped to 45.7% from 38.3%, and he has also cut his soft-hit rate to 8.7% from 9.5%. This has come at the expense of a higher strikeout rate, which puts a cap on his batting average, but the power will come with Votto. It's just a matter of when. I'd buy now before that window closes.

Man, Jackie Bradley has been stupidly fun this year. His batted-ball stats are good enough to make it look like his success is sustainable, but things are trending up for Troy Tulowitzki right now, too.

Over the past three weeks, Tulowitzki has ratcheted his hard-hit rate up to 35.4% with a 47.9% fly-ball rate. Those are solid power numbers for a player in one of the more dinger-friendly parks in the league. The concern is that he also has a 27.4% strikeout rate over that span, but his 82.8% contact rate says that number may be due to come down a bit. By most advanced metrics, it looks like Tulowitzki may be starting to snap out of his slump.

Personally, I'd prefer to keep Tulowitzki as this would be selling low when he's finally getting better. He's also batting sixth on a quality offense at an offensively-starved position. That's what would push me toward keeping Tulo, even though Bradley does truly look legit.

Although pitching is a bit tough for today, Jhoulys Chacin's first six starts this year have been good enough to raise some eyebrows.

Between his time with the Atlanta Braves and his debut with the Los Angeles Angels, Chacin has a 3.49 SIERA with a 21.7% strikeout rate and 5.6% walk rate. That gives him a decent floor in most matchups, and then his 50.5% ground-ball rate gives that floor an additional bump. In streaming, I'm always looking to maximize floor, and Chacin has a lot of things working in his favor.

The one concern with Chacin is that he has traditionally struggled more with lefties, and the Los Angeles Dodgers have a plethora of those. Early this year, though, he has kept his ground-ball rate against lefties up at 53.3% with only a 6.5% walk rate. Those numbers are respectable, and they'd be enough to give me a decent amount of confidence in Chacin for today.

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