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Level of concern: Evaluating 8 struggling MLB stars

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It's still early in the 2024 MLB season, but we're already approaching the one-month mark and there are a handful of high-profile players who are struggling mightily. Here, we highlight some of the notable names who are off to slow starts and if there's reason to be optimistic that they'll start producing closer to their career norms.

Corbin Carroll, D-Backs

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Level of concern (1-5): ⭐⭐⭐⭐

24 2 1 .208/.321/.260 68 0.1

Carroll took the league by storm in 2023, putting up impressive numbers across the board en route to winning NL Rookie of the Year. The young star appears to be suffering from a bit of a sophomore slump. Carroll's ability to hit for power has completely evaporated in the early part of the 2024 campaign. His hard-hit rate has plummeted from 33.3% in 2023 to 19% this season. Carroll is also making much more soft contact compared to last campaign.

Baseball Savant

The 23-year-old has dealt with shoulder issues at various points during his career and missed some time with a right shoulder injury last season. Many are wondering if his missing power stroke might be a byproduct of an ailing shoulder. The Diamondbacks are off to an uneven start this season after a shocking run to the 2023 World Series. They desperately need Carroll, who batted seventh in the lineup Wednesday, to become the catalyst of their offensive attack once again if they want to resemble the team many were expecting this season.

Alex Bregman, Astros

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Level of concern: ⭐⭐⭐

22 5 0 .202/.284/.262 63 0.1

Bregman is in the final season of a six-year, $100-million contract he signed in 2019. The two-time World Series winner was hoping to put together a strong platform season to land a lucrative contact in free agency. Things haven't gone according to script so far.

Bregman is still showcasing his trademark plate discipline, but he's struggling to drive the ball with much authority. His hard-hit rate has dropped by nearly 10% so far, and his barrel percentage is a career-worst mark. Bregman's struggles are a good encapsulation of the Astros' overall malaise in the season's first month. When he's at his best, Houston is usually battering teams. Until he finds his stroke, the Astros will have a hard time righting the ship, and Bregman will have a difficult time setting himself up to land the last big contract of his career.

Aaron Judge, Yankees

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Level of concern: ⭐

25 6 4 .191/.319/.383 103 0.4

If you ask many Yankees fans how concerned they are with Judge's start to the season, they'd probably sound every available alarm. Judge received boos at home in recent games as his slump at the plate continues. The 2022 AL MVP isn't hitting the ball quite as hard as he has in the past, but he's still able to drive the ball with authority.

Judge isn't chasing many bad pitches, a sign that he's not pressing too much at the plate. The biggest culprit to his early-season slump could be as simple as fly balls not going over the fence. Judge's home run-to-fly ball ratio is down to 14% after he posted marks of 30.8% and 35.6% in 2023 and 2022, respectively. It's far too early to panic about Judge, especially with the Yankees still finding ways to pile up wins. He should get things going in a big way at the plate in the not too distant future.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Blue Jays

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Level of concern: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

25 3 3 .219/.330/.344 99 0.1

Guerrero is off to a rough start at the plate. The Blue Jays slugger had a stretch with just one extra-base hit over 51 plate appearances. Guerrero is still capable of crushing long home runs, but some of his swing decisions have been out of character in 2024.

Swinging strikes for strikeouts: 2024

The Blue Jays won't be able to reach their ceiling as a franchise if Guerrero is only a good player and not a great one. Outside of his incredible 2021 campaign, the evidence is beginning to build that Guerrero may be unable to reach those lofty heights again. It's always best to exercise patience with a player who's still only 25, but with just two years of team control remaining, the Blue Jays don't really have that luxury.

Xander Bogaerts, Padres

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Level of concern: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

26 2 2 .219/.293/.295 70 0.2

The Padres moved Bogaerts off of shortstop to second base in the second season of an 11-year contract. That's not exactly a confidence builder for a player already on the wrong side of 30. Bogaerts' start at the plate hasn't done much to quiet the concerns about how that contract will age and potentially hurt San Diego into the future.

Bogaerts is struggling to hit the ball hard despite still possessing a good understanding of the strike zone and making mostly good swing decisions at the plate. The 31-year-old has seen his exit velocity numbers on the decline for a few years, but he's still be able to grade out as a well-above-average offensive player. It's fair to wonder how long he'll be able to do that if his ability to hit for extra-base hit power continues to be fleeting.

Paul Goldschmidt, Cardinals

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Level of concern: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

24 1 2 .200/.294/.278 63 -0.4

Goldschmidt put together a strong 2023 season after winning MVP in 2022, but he saw his wRC+ fall from 176 to 122. Sometimes the bat speed can quickly diminish at the age of 36, leading to a precipitous decline at the plate.

Goldschmidt is striking out at the highest rate of his career. His hard-hit rate is also at a career-worst mark. The Cardinals are still reliant on Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado to be the engines of their lineup, but it's starting to look like Goldschmidt might be more of a complementary piece at this stage of his career.

Randy Arozarena, Rays

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Level of concern: ⭐⭐⭐

25 1 3 .158/.223/.263 43 -0.3

Arozarena has emerged as one of baseball's most exciting players, as well as a magnetic character with his on-field theatrics and personality shining through. Unfortunately, he hasn't had a lot to smile about so far in 2024.

"He's missing off-speed pitches in the zone, he's missing some fastballs in the zone," Rays manager Kevin Cash said of Arozarena, per's David Adler. "Just a little uncharacteristic."

Arozarena vs. 4-seam fastball

Arozarena hit .283 with a .493 slugging percentage against fastballs in 2023. He's struggled with heaters so far this season, hitting just .167 with a .292 slugging percentage. Until he finds a way to do more damage against fastballs, Arozarena will have a hard time putting up the type of numbers Rays fans have become accustomed to seeing from him.

Francisco Lindor, Mets

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Level of concern: ⭐

24 3 4 .206/.291/.361 86 0.6

Lindor is off to a sluggish start at the plate. The shortstop is no stranger to starting slow, as his OPS in the month of April is the lowest of any month over his career. Mets fans gave him the Trea Turner treatment a few weeks ago, cheering him every time he stepped up the plate in an effort to rally him to break out amid the slump. Owner Steve Cohen shared his support for the gesture on X as the entire organization tries to rally around Lindor.

Most of Lindor's batted-ball numbers are within reach of his career norms. Lindor combined to post a 123 wRC+ with 57 home runs, 206 runs scored, and 205 RBIs in his first two seasons with the Mets. He had his first big game of the season Wednesday against the Giants, hitting a pair of home runs. There's no reason to expect much of a drop off from that level despite what he's shown in the first few weeks of the 2024 campaign.

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