Patience or Panic: Corbin Carroll, Josh Hader, and Nolan Jones

What should we do with these struggling players?

Welcome back to our Patience or Panic series! The calendar has turned to May, so baseball season is in full swing. For some teams, the season is nearly 20% complete. With only a handful of teams more than five games under .500, most of the league is still in the hunt for a playoff spot. This means that managers and front offices must make difficult decisions about playing time and lineup spots, decisions that will have serious ramifications for our fantasy teams. It’s critical to anticipate these changes as much as possible and make moves that keep your team well-positioned. Today, I’m taking a closer look at three players consistently drafted in the top 75 who are off to brutal starts.


Corbin Carroll, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks


As an owner of Carroll in a keeper/dynasty format, it brings me no joy to kick this week’s column off with the reigning NL Rookie of the Year. But, Carroll’s struggles so far are impossible to ignore. Through the games of April 29, he is slashing a putrid .191/.294/.236 (60 wRC+) with 13 R, 1 HR, 5 RBI, and 8 SB. To see Carroll, a top-5 pick in many drafts this spring, struggle to this extent has been nothing short of shocking. His power has completely vanished. After recording 65 XBH (25 HR) last season in 155 games, Carroll has three so far in 28 games. That would put him at 18 over a full season! Carroll has hit just five long balls in 284 ABs dating back to August 30 of last season.


What has been strange about Carroll’s struggles at the plate is that they’ve come as he’s walking more (11.9% vs. 8.8% in ’23) and striking out less (19.4% vs. 17.5%). When I see a hitter struggling but showing improved plate discipline, my first instinct is to assume they are getting unlucky. With Carroll, this just isn’t the case. He’s making some of the worst contact in the league (27.3% ICR, 8th percentile), especially in the air. His year-over-year average exit velocity on flyballs has dropped precipitously, from 86.3 MPH to 80.3 (5th percentile). For context, that’s 2 MPH worse than Steven Kwan’s career average. Somehow, Carroll is actually getting lucky on his batted balls (.230 BABIP vs. .198 xBABIP).


Verdict: Panic. When I say panic, I don’t mean take whatever you can get for Carroll. Even a bad season for him, assuming health, would look something like a 40-steal season with a .245 AVG and 75 runs. That is still enough to make Carroll a top-100 player pretty easily. But, I see enough red flags here to recommend putting Carroll on the block. His struggles at the plate have pushed him all the way down to 7th or 8th in the lineup as the Diamondbacks try to keep up in a competitive NL West. Carroll also has a history of shoulder problems. He missed almost all of 2021 with a labrum tear in his right shoulder and has since had some scary swings where it looked like he may have aggravated the injury. This start has me reevaluating the type of fantasy player that Corbin Carroll is. I’m not comfortable projecting him as more than a 15-homer, 40-steal bat with an average that won’t help or hurt you. If you agree, try to sell accordingly.


Josh Hader, RP, Houston Astros


What would you say if I told you a month ago that Hader would have the second-worst ERA (7.59) of any closer in baseball on April 30? As improbable as that might be for one of the most dominant ninth-inning guys I’ve ever seen, here we are. Baseball always has a way of humbling people! Hader has driven managers crazy this year, with as many saves (two) as blown saves in his first 12 appearances. The Astros suddenly struggling to win games for the first time in almost a decade hasn’t helped either. They currently have the second-worst record in the AL.

Josh Hader, 2024 vs. 2023 vs. Career

Surface results notwithstanding, Hader seems to be mostly the same guy he was last year, when he posted a 1.28 ERA, 2.69 FIP, and 33 SV. This should be more than good enough to get the job done, even if his skills aren’t as elite as they once were. The only difference with Hader this year is that he has been getting far more groundballs than ever before, which should be a positive, not a negative. But, this does mean Hader will need to be comfortable pitching with runners on base, as groundballs more often end up as hits. Batted ball samples are still tiny for relievers, so it will be interesting to see if this groundball-heavy trend persists throughout the season.


Verdict: Patience. This one is a no-brainer for me because there’s been no discernible change in Hader’s skills. I would even recommend buying if frustrated owners are looking to sell at a discount. The astronomical BABIP can do nothing but fall back to earth, and Hader will start to see more save opportunities because there is no chance that the Astros continue their 100-loss pace. I wouldn’t give up a top-50 player for Hader, but he shouldn’t be on the wire in any leagues and should be a top-5 closer the rest of the way.


Nolan Jones, OF, Colorado Rockies


Jones, who just hit the IL with a low-back strain, skyrocketed up draft boards this offseason after posting a 20/20 season in just 106 games in 2023. The five-category upside is tantalizing, but the .297 average Jones posted in ’23 is looking more like a mirage with each passing day. As of April 30, he was slashing .170/.243/.277 (31 wRC+, third-worst among qualified hitters). Consistent with his prospect reports, Jones has objectively poor contact skills (career 31.2% K%, 69.1% Contact%) that will make it difficult for him to hit above .270, even as a Rockie.


Nolan Jones, 2023 vs. 2024

I apologize for throwing a bunch of numbers at you in the chart above, but I think it paints a pretty clear picture of why Jones has been struggling. He is swinging less even though he is making contact more often when he does swing (lower Whiff%). It’s reached a point where I am comfortable saying he is too passive at the plate, especially for someone who can do serious damage when he swings. His swing rate ranks in the 7th percentile, and it’s causing him to take way too many strikes and get too deep into counts. His called strike rate of 25.3% and 2-strike% (percentage of pitches seen in two-strike counts) both rank in the first percentile. Getting deep into counts has also negatively impacted his quality of contact, with his poor wOBA largely backed up by the expected results. I’m sure some nagging back pain didn’t help with his contact quality either.


Verdict: Panic. I might be a bit biased here because I was firmly out on Jones at his top-75 price, but what I’ve seen so far is not encouraging. My answer here was “panic” before the IL news broke. Like Carroll, Jones does not have a long track record of major league success, so we should react accordingly when he struggles for this length of time. His 103 PAs this season represent more than 15% of his major league career. But, I will say that his issues seem like an easier fix than Carroll’s. I still believe in Jones as a 20-20 guy if he gets more aggressive at the dish, but he can’t be counted on for a good batting average, and his counting stats will likely be lackluster in a terrible Rockies lineup. If you can, I would wait for Jones to go on a heater and then sell. As with Carroll, make sure you are selling him for a player you know will be of use to your team.

Patrick Fitzgerald

Patrick Fitzgerald is a Staff Writer for Pitcher List's fantasy team. He is an alum of Vassar College, where he pitched on the baseball team and studied economics and political science. Patrick is an avid O's fan and head-to-head fantasy baseball player (roto remains a work in progress).

5 responses to “Patience or Panic: Corbin Carroll, Josh Hader, and Nolan Jones”

  1. Scott says:

    This is probably me just grasping for anything but is last night and Monday night included in Carroll’s data above? The double he hit last night, as well as a couple from Monday topped 100 MPH which I don’t remember seeing prior to Monday. Maybe that’s a glimmer of a thing or something?

  2. Stephen Meiners says:

    Only an idiot would suggest giving up Carroll right now..

    • Patrick Fitzgerald says:

      Hey Stephen, I’m always available for productive back-and-forth, but this isn’t it. Carroll has continued to struggle in the two weeks since publication (.602 OPS, 1 HR, 0 SB), and I’m still pretty down on his outlook for the year. Like I said, I still expect to see him finish in the top 100.

  3. Scott says:

    I don’t know if you saw but the sample size of his “over 88 mph” EV AB has increased to around 12 now. He looked must less awful last night…I think there may be a glimmer of a thing….

    • Patrick Fitzgerald says:

      Hey Scott, I just saw these comments, so I apologize! I think we are seeing some signs of life from Carroll in the last couple weeks, but I still wouldn’t say he’s on the precipice of breaking through. His EV on FB has gone up from where it was a couple of weeks ago, and the xBABIP has jumped a lot too. I think we could see more hits falling very soon, but I’m still super bearish on his power this year. No SB in the last 2 weeks is odd as well; he was caught last night, I believe.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Account / Login