Five MLB Stars Off To Surprisingly Slow Starts in 2024

Some of the best players in baseball have gotten off to a brutal start to the 2024 season, headlined by Aaron Judge and Francisco Lindor.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 22: Aaron Judge #99 of the New York Yankees celebrates his solo home run in the fifth inning against the Cleveland Guardians at Yankee Stadium on April 22, 2022 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

April can be misleading. 

With such a small sample size under everyone’s belts, there is often quick judgment on the hot or cold starts of players simply because it is the only data we have in front of us.

So naturally, there are superstar players every year who will not hit the ground running out of the gate at their normal pace. And by no means does that indicate the early woes will even linger around until the middle of May, let alone all year.

In 2024 that is again the case, with five separate teams itching for their cornerstone player to be the driving force of the offense that they regularly prove themselves to be. But through the first 20 or so games, that has certainly not been the case.

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Let’s highlight a handful of them.

Aaron Judge

The Yankees are off to a fantastic start, and they have done so without their King of Diamonds, Aaron Judge, playing at his regular MVP level. Judge is hitting just .183 with a .674 OPS through his first 22 games.

And it has not started to trend upward yet either, as Judge holds just a .107 clip with an equal slugging percentage over his last seven games. He simply hasn’t hit his stride yet.

The good news is there is nothing about Judge’s profile that is out of the ordinary. Yes, he continues to swing and miss at a fair rate, but he is walking a lot and still hitting the ball hard. The caveat is his HardHit rate and Barrel rate are in the 74th percentile as opposed to the 97th percentile or above, where he has sat at most of his career. But it is a marginal difference. It is certainly just a matter of time before Judge heats up.

Francisco Lindor

The early narrative in Queens similarly mirrors the one in the Bronx. The team is having a stellar April, as the Mets have won five of their last six series. But their best player is not firing on all cylinders. Francisco Lindor has just a 62 WRC+ at this point in the season. He has shown very little power aside from his two home runs and is hitting just .174. 

Lindor has had a tough go of it from the left side of the plate, posting just a .459 OPS against right-handed pitching. And his power peripherals have not lauded upwards yet, with his Barrel rate sitting 40% below his mark from a year ago. While his defense continues to rank among the best in the game, his offense as a whole has not yet gotten there.

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That being said, Lindor has started to find his stroke over the last week. Prior to going 0-for-4 against Logan Webb on Tuesday night, Lindor was slashing .370/.414/.556/.970 over his last seven games with four multi-hit games in that time.

He appears to be putting a forgetful first couple weeks behind him.

Julio Rodriguez

Rodriguez has been susceptible to slow starts in the first three April’s of his career. He holds a career .652 OPS in March/April and is currently slugging just .310 for 2024. Through April 15, Rodriguez had an alarming 41 WRC+ to show for himself.

He was not squaring the ball up early on. It appeared to be a timing issue for Rodrirguez, who was late on a lot of offerings and sprayed balls the opposite way with lessened authority. His HardHit% was way off the top five percentile of the league in which he has comfortably rested through his first two seasons.

But Rodriguez appears to be digging himself out of the ditch in a hurry. He is hitting .464 in his last seven games, has five multi-hit games in as many contests and has recorded a hit in seven of his last nine. The power has not yet come around as he has left the yard just once, occurring on Tuesday.

But Rodriguez is now on time at the plate and barreling the ball up at a much more consistent rate, so the long balls are inevitable. Likely right around the corner. And when he starts hitting home runs, they will rack up in bunches.

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Rafael Devers

Devers has been battling through a bit of an injury that has kept him out of the lineup for the last few days, but his results have still been lackluster nevertheless. 

Devers is hitting just .188 and is two for his last 16 dating back to when he was seeing regular playing time with good health. He, much like Rodriguez, has not hit the ball hard the way we are accustomed to seeing. He is slightly above the league average HardHit% right now (53rd percentile per Baseball Savant), whereas Devers sat in the 98th percentile last year and is regularly in the 95th percentile or above.

This will almost certainly be a distant memory for Devers by season’s end, but first things first is for him to get back to playing games on the regular. Once he does, paired with the fact he is still finding a ton of barrels while finding himself a merchant of some bad luck in the power department, the heartbeat of the Red Sox will get back to serving as the driving force of the offense.

Alex Bregman

Bregman has the most to lose of the entire group. Currently in his walk year, the Astros third baseman holds a 76 WRC+ to his name and has not yet hit a home run. He is slugging .125 over his last seven games and .280 for the season.

Bregman continues to have an elite eye, walking a lot, while being an extremely tough candidate to strike out, but that has not translated to hits or extra base hits this year.

Houston has more than one problem at the moment, most notably the fact that almost their entire rotation is on the Injured List. But Bregman (and others) not pulling his weight does play a sizable factor into the Astros sitting with a 7-16 record.

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Much like the others, no one expects this to last. But Bregman will need to turn it around quickly. The Astros, and the future dollar signs of Bregman’s bank account, are counting on it.