Patience or Panic 06/08: Arenado, Castellanos, Vladdy

A breakdown of baseball's struggling stars

Welcome back to another edition of patience or panic! This week we have a crop of some serious star power, with a prolific home run hitter with a high price tag, and two guys who at one time were mentioned as MVP candidates.

Something fun about this group is that all of them are on teams that are either firmly in the playoff picture (yeah yeah, it’s June, a lot can change) or still have hope and have a path to getting in. If that’s gonna happen though these scuffles need to end sooner rather than later, so let’s get into it.

 

Nolan Arenado, 3B, St. Louis Cardinals

 

You couldn’t have scripted a better start to the season for Nolan Arenado. He started the year scorching hot and entrenched himself as an early MVP candidate. His .375/.444/.681 line (plus 5 homers) through the end of April was good enough to land him player of the month honors for April. It was everything the Cardinals had dreamed of when they acquired him for pennies from the Colorado Rockies prior to the 2021 season.

The month of May was not quite as kind and Arenado fell back to earth, with just a .196/.270/.373 line for the month. He still hit some home runs and had some pop but for the most part it was a major drop off.

The Cardinals were able to survive this thanks to Paul Goldschmidt coming alive and starting to have the best season of his career, but regardless they’d like Arenado to start coming back around as well.

There’s good news though. Firstly, Arenado is still making quality contact. His rate of soft contact actually went down from April to May, as did the amount of balls he hit on the ground. On top of that, Arenado’s strikeout rate has gone down as well. So really his peripherals indicate that Arenado should start hitting better soon. And it has started already to an extent. Since the calendar flipped to June, the Cardinal third baseman has slashed .286/.355/.393 with a homer. Based on the quality of contact and how he continues to hit the ball in the air the power should return soon.

Verdict: Patience

 

Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 1B, Toronto Blue Jays

 

In 2021 Vlad Guerrero Jr broke out, hitting 48 home runs and finishing second in MVP voting while announcing to the league that the Toronto Blue Jays had arrived. That big season made Vladdy one of the top bets to be the American League MVP in 2022.

After a solid April where he hit six home runs and had a .898 OPS, Vlad looked like he was ready to pick up where he left off and continue to be one of the faces of baseball.

Similar to Arenado, things fell off for the Blue Jays slugger in May, where he hit just .217 and 3 homers in over a 100 plate appearances.

Also similar to Arenado though, Vlad’s peripherals indicate that he should get back to his usual production quickly. He dropped his strikeout rate over 10% from April to May, and he has also dropped his rate of soft contact from 20% down to 12.8% which is a great number.

The problem is that in May, 56% of the balls he hit were hit on the ground, and when you’re a power hitter that’s generally not what you want to do.

But! More good news! So far in June Vlad has cut that number down to 43%, which still isn’t ideal but a 13% decrease is something you’ll take, especially when the results have already started to manifest.

So far in June, Vlad is slashing .250/.344/.714 with 4 homers in just 7 games, and we could be witnessing the start of a hot streak here, which is exactly what the Blue Jays were waiting for as they’ve gone 8-2 in their last 10 games.

Verdict: Patience

 

Nick Castellanos, OF/DH, Philadelphia Phillies

 

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but Nick Castellanos started the year red hot for the Phillies, slashing .300/.374/.475 in April, giving the Phillies and their fans exactly what they were hoping for when they signed him over the offseason.

Again, stop me if you’ve heard this before, but things went south in May, where Castellanos slashed .234/.274/.414 with 4 homers over 117 plate appearances.

Now this is where things finally get different. June has been even less kind to the Phillies slugger as he’s sporting a miserable .111/.191/.111 line so far in June.

The problem for Castellanos is that his peripherals have declined each month. His walk rate declined by 5% from April to May. In that same span, his ground ball rate increased from 37% to 41%, and his soft contact rate increased from 12% to 18% as well.

The Phillies, to their credit, have handled Castellanos’ struggles well seeing as they’ve won five in a row since firing manager Joe Girardi and the parade is seemingly back on.

Things could turn around though. Historically, Castellanos has his worst OPS in May before pulling it back together after that month. His peripherals so far in June are better as well, with a soft contact rate of just 6.3% and a 10% decrease in his ground ball rate. So it should get better, but how much better remains to be seen.

Verdict: Patience (for the most part)

Graphic by Michael Packard (@designsbypack on Twitter & IG)

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