Fantasy Baseball Mailbag: Monday 7/18/16

Jose Bautista is set to come off the disabled list at the end of July. Should we be buying him in season-long fantasy baseball?

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

Question via P.J. in numberFire's Questions Tab

In a 5x5 Keeper League. Was offered Arrieta and Matz for Rizzo. Dominating all the hitting categories (with Dee Gordon due to return soon) and am weak in pitching. Can only keep Rizzo two more seasons after this one. I know Arrieta has been struggling and Matz has a bone spur but is this trade worth the risk?

You could ask 50 different people this same question, and the conclusions would likely be split right down the middle. For me, I'd prefer to hang onto Anthony Rizzo, even though the prospect of acquiring Jake Arrieta and Steven Matz is interesting.

This decision would be more based on what Rizzo brings than a lack of confidence in Arrieta or Matz. Rizzo is in an elite group of hitters who posts a high hard-hit rate without striking out with great regularity. His strikeout rate is around 15.0% for the second consecutive season, and he has improved his hard-hit rate to 35.2%. His strikeout rate and 13.0% walk rate give him a sizable floor, and then his hard-hit rate and 43.7% fly-ball rate swoop in to give him a grotesque ceiling. It's not easy to replace that combo, and finding it in an offense as good as the Chicago Cubs' is even harder.

From a season-long perspective, Arrieta is an interesting buy-low target. His peripherals slid along with his results in June and early July, but his last start before the All-Star break painted a bit of a different picture. Arrieta picked his average fastball velocity back up to 94.0 miles per hour following three straight starts with declining velocity, and it paid off with a 13.6% swinging-strike rate. If there was something wrong with him before, he may have been able to correct it in that outing, furthering optimism about him moving forward.

As for Matz, when healthy, he's clearly going to be a very good starter. He had a 3.30 skill-interactive ERA his first 12 starts this year, and opponents made hard contact only 24.9% of the time. However, the injury seems to have taken a toll on his effectiveness as his swinging-strike rate since is just 8.6%. If you were assured that he would be perfectly healthy from here on out, then it may be in your best interest to make the trade and snag his upside. That's clearly not assured right now, though, meaning Rizzo's floor is the more appealing option.

You've already won me over by saying that you bought Jose Bautista. He's expected to return by the end of July, and based on his first-half peripherals, he really could light things up once he's healthy.

The biggest source of disappointment for Bautista prior to his injury was his isolated slugging percentage. After wrecking worlds in that department last year with a mark of .285, his isolated slugging this year is just .226. That's obviously a big-time buzzkill for a guy whose main source of value is his power, but his batted-ball stats indicate things shouldn't have been quite that bad.

Through his first 286 plate appearances, Bautista had posted a 38.3% hard-hit rate and 42.6% fly-ball rate. That hard-hit rate is actually higher than his mark of 35.3% last year, and although the fly-ball rate was down, it wasn't down enough to justify the big dip in isolated slugging. That makes you think Bautista would be able to come back and experience some of that ever-so-tasty positive regression.

With Bautista, there's an obvious concern that he might not come back at full strength. With a 35-year-old slugger, that's an absolutely legitimate factor in the equation. However, even if he's not the old Bautista, he's still (likely) a lead-off hitter for one of the best offenses in baseball. That gives him a tremendous floor that you won't find in many other trade targets this time of year. His early-season peripheral stats give him that ceiling that we want, helping quell the concerns around his health.

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