MLB 2024: Are slow starts from J-Rod, Carroll, Olson real?

Why Julio Rodriguez could break out of his slump soon -- and verdicts on other MLB slow starts. Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Julio Rodriguez has been one of the game's brightest stars his first two seasons in the majors. As a 21-year-old rookie in 2022, he hit .284 with 28 home runs and finished seventh in the American League MVP voting. Last season, he hit .275 with 32 home runs and 37 stolen bases and finished fourth in the MVP voting. Now 23, with two years of experience, there was hope for even bigger and better things; after all, a former Seattle Mariners center fielder named Ken Griffey Jr. was 23 years old when his power spiked, going from 27 to 45 home runs.

Instead, Rodriguez got off to a slow start to 2024, hitting .256 in April with just one home run and 40 strikeouts in 30 games. He hit .273 in May, but again, the power was lacking, with just three home runs. He's been a little better in June, but he's still showing a glaring lack of extra-base power with just seven home runs and six doubles. He's on pace for just 28 extra-base hits compared to 56 as a rookie (in just 132 games) and 71 last season.

J-Rod isn't the only big name putting up some surprisingly disappointing numbers, though. While one of the themes of the 2024 season was the early catalog of pitching injuries, that hasn't stopped pitchers from dominating. The league-wide batting average of .241 is seven points lower than 2023 and would be the lowest since 1968. The ball hasn't been quite as lively this season and home runs are at 1.05 per team per game, a notable dip from 1.21 in 2023 and the lowest since 1.01 in 2015.

Still, while offense might be down so far this season, there could still be cause for concern for certain players' performances -- from young players who haven't taken the next step to aging veteran stars. Let's dig into some of these slow starts, starting with Rodriguez, to see whether they are first-half flukes or legitimate struggles.