The Spin: Making a call on 5 slumping fantasy baseball stars

It's May 13. We're about a quarter of the way through the fantasy baseball season. At this point, you should have a good idea of if you're a contender or not. Sure, there's always time to fix a bad team, and a good start could still be a mirage. But we have to start digging into what's real in 2024.

The Spin check-in coming off the weekend. (Banner by Taylor Wilhelm/Yahoo Sports)
The Spin check-in coming off the weekend. (Banner by Taylor Wilhelm/Yahoo Sports)

Today's subject is about the frustrating hitters, the big-ticket players who have not returned what we expected back in March. I'll try to give you a window into why they're struggling and what their chances are for turning things around.

As always, these are educated guesses. And it's entirely possible your educated guess might be different than mine. We're going to disagree on some of this stuff; that's why we have a game in the first place.

March ADP: 3

Current Rank: 182

Some things about Rodríguez are unlikely to turn around; the Mariners' park will always favor the pitchers, and the Seattle lineup doesn't offer much support. At least Rodríguez is still interested in running, already up to nine stolen bases.

Rodríguez's expected stats say he's been a little bit unlucky, though even if he had his expected .267 average or .407 slugging, we wouldn't be throwing a parade. His walk rate is stable, his strikeout rate's a little bit up. The one surprising thing to me is a drop in Julio's pull rate; he's down to 29.7% in that area, after clearing 40% in his first two seasons.

My guess is that Rodríguez is missing pitches he can cripple, but that will eventually sort itself out. I doubt anyone in your league is ready to panic-sell, but there's too much back class here not to treat Rodríguez like a star talent moving forward. And heck, he did have a home run on Sunday and narrowly missed a second one. Maybe the big boom is coming.

March ADP: 5

Current Rank: 283

Carroll's power took a dip last year when a shoulder problem came along, and his lack of pop this year (two homers, .266 slugging) makes us paranoid that the wind isn't corrected. Although Carroll's bat speed is fine, all of his hard-hit metrics are pinned to the left, the danger side. His real-life average (.201) is unlucky, but only by 36 points. Carroll has earned that .553 OPS to this point.

Carroll blames the slow start on a flat swing; it is, after all, a game of angles. His pop-up rate is more than double last year's rate. His hard-hit rate is down about 10% from last year.

Injury speculation can be a tricky thing. If Carroll really isn't 100%, there isn't much incentive to tell the world about it. Often these things come out after the season, sometimes accompanied by surgery to fix a problem. Given that Carroll's slugging percentage was about 100% lower in the second half of last year, I'm afraid his poor start is real enough for us to adjust to it.

If I were walking into a fresh draft today, I would not select Carroll unless the discount applied was significant.

March ADP: 77

Current Rank: 473

This one stings; not on my teams (I don't have any Goldschmidt this year) but in my heart. Goldschmidt has long been one of my favorite players, and he's long been on a Hall of Fame track. He's been a very good or great offensive player his entire career, which is why a .197/.280/.279 slash line through 38 games makes little sense. His walk rate is off a little bit, and his strikeout rate is a career-worst 31.9%.

Goldschmidt homered Sunday and knocked in two runs, badly needed after an extended slump. His skid hit 0-for-32 the previous night, and he struck out four times in that game before a late hit.

While we accept that player development often isn't linear, player decline almost always is. Goldschmidt's bat speed is merely league average this year, and this is an age-36 season. Even if Goldschmidt's plate discipline picks up (one of his problems thus far has been letting good pitches pass and swinging at bad pitches), I don't expect him to be better than a league-average hitter.

It's no fun to play fantasy baseball like an actuary, but often it's the prudent thing to do.

March ADP: 14

Current Rank: 361

Somehow the Braves are fifth in runs per game despite most of their primary players getting off to slow starts. Ronald Acuña Jr. and Michael Harris II have been mild disappointments, Austin Riley is slumping (and now hurt) and then there's Olson. After conking 54 homers last year — the most in franchise history, which is saying something given who's played for these guys — Olson is stumbling around with a .200 average and four homers into mid-May.

Olson's the type of player who's likely to have peaks and valleys as a high-strikeout, high-fly-ball hitter. And his batted-ball profile offers far more optimism than the other names on this list — Statcast data says he should be batting .254 and slugging .461. I am not sure how gettable Olson is in a buy-low trade — it's possible that might be an impossible get in a competitive league — but I suspect most of this offense will warm up as the weather does and make pitchers pay for the slow start we've seen.

I don't know if I can get it, but I'd love to land some Olson shares before the story flips.

March ADP: 94

Current Rank: 335

The Red Sox routinely get crushed when they don't retain one of their star players, but the franchise likely did the right thing when they didn't open up the vault for Bogaerts. The Padres probably landed an eventual albatross when they signed Bogey to an 11-year, $280 million deal back in December 2022.

Alas, no one thought the air would seep out of the balloon this quickly. Bogaerts' hard-hit rate has collapsed to 23.8% (his career norm is in the mid-30s), and his batted-ball sliders are all on the wrong side (exit velocity is in the ninth percentile, and the barrel rate is far under code).

When Bogaerts was in his New England salad days, he always had Fenway Park's backdrop to bail him out somewhat. That's not the case in Petco Park. While his expected slugging is a little unlucky to this point, a .371 number is far from a star. Bogaerts is merely 31 and can be a respectable veteran for the Padres for another few years, and hopefully last year's base-running nerve will come back. But you're hoping for a boring floor to reestablish itself; I don't see much potential for an upside pop.