Patience or Panic: Paul Goldschmidt, Edwin Diaz, Nick Castellanos

What should we do with these struggling players?

I’ve always been told that May 21 is the official start of the summer. That means we get to celebrate the start of everybody’s favorite season together right here. And you know what that means, don’t you? That’s right! Meaningful statistical sample sizes! That’s what you were going to say too, right?

The frustrating part of fantasy baseball and the frustrating part of co-writing this weekly column with the venerable Patrick Fitzgerald has been making sweeping declarations on players based on limited evidence. And while that is still true to a certain extent, by this point in the season certain metrics should be starting to stabilize. Soon we’ll be able to shift our focus from players who are off to bad starts over to players suffering through recent slumps. And now to completely refute that point, let’s start with a player who has frustrated fantasy managers from Day 2 (he was actually pretty good on Day 1).


Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, St. Louis Cardinals

In 2022, Goldschmidt was the near-consensus National League MVP winner. At 34 years old he posted his best-ever season, slashing .317/.404/.578 with career-highs in wOBA (.419) and wRC+ (176). It was an impressive season on the back half of an impressive career. So, has it all come crashing down just two years later? Has Father Time come calling for the future Hall of Famer?

There’s no other way to put it: Goldschmidt is playing like crap. Based on what I’ve read over the years about his demeanor and process, he would say the same thing. Goldschmidt doesn’t let himself get too high or too low, so he would approach his current predicament with all the patience that many fantasy managers are completely incapable of as he has struggled to a dreadful .209/.293/.299 with 4 home runs, 16 RBI, and 23 runs scored.

And while there has been some bad luck—low relative BABIP, negative expected differential on his batting average and wOBA—there’s no denying his slump is mostly a product of his own making. In particular, his strikeout rate has climbed to 32% despite existing in the more manageable low-20s range for the entirety of his career.

May especially was rough on Goldschmidt as he endured a brutal 0-for-32 slump that extended over parts of nine games and was broken with a meaningless hard-hit single in the second-to-last at-bat of the ninth game. That single helped Goldschmidt avoid the first five strikeout game of this career. Hopefully you moved him to the bench during that slump because that’s exactly where he belonged.

Verdict: Patience. While my patience is wearing thin, it hasn’t completely worn out. Goldschmidt has shown positive signs since busting that tumultuous slump, but it’s hard to determine exactly what that means just yet. After going 0-for-32, Goldy went on a modest eight-game hitting streak with a .377 wOBA, 148 wRC+, and a 92.0 mph average EV that is more in line with his career numbers. However, this “good” streak also came with a .429 BABIP and somehow an even more exaggerated 38.6% strikeout rate. His surging quality of play is nice, but I can’t base my verdict on that alone.

There is no sugarcoating the strikeout rate and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t greatly concerned, but other aspects of his profile appear stable. His exit velocities and hard-hit rate are down but only slightly and still well above the league average. The one glaring change in his profile (other than his strikeout rate) is a career-low 5.3% barrel rate. Despite what you may think, there is little meaningful correlation between barrel rate and strikeout rate. Some of the best power hitters in the game have both high barrels and high strikeouts. The greatest correlation to barrels is exit velocity, hard-hit rate, and launch angle—all of which are relatively stable for Goldschmidt. Oddly enough, barrel rate trends as the most stable statistic year-over-year. So, even if Goldy can’t figure out his strikeout problem, I expect to see positive regression coming soon and his current hot streak could be the start.


Edwin Díaz, RP, New York Mets

Diaz was in top form in 2022 and was the consensus top relief pitcher heading into 2023. It all came crashing down with a season-ending injury in the World Baseball Classic that spring. His recovery was slow but successful and fantasy managers were excited about the return of the king this season. Despite a frustrating lack of save chances, it was smooth sailing for Diaz for the first month. On April 28, he had a 0.93 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, and 14 strikeouts in 9 2/3 innings.

Over his next 8 1/3 innings, he gave up 10 earned runs to see his numbers climb to a 5.50 ERA and 1.22 WHIP. It all came to a head in his most recent appearance on Saturday. He gave up four runs on four hits and only recorded one out. All four hits came on poor sliders. The first three missed down the heart of the plate and Josh Bell caught the fourth for a game-tying three-run homer. The poor appearance was the final nail in the coffin as Mets manager Carlos Mendoza announced that the bullpen pecking order would change. For now, the ninth inning is no longer the sole realm of Diaz. It’s been a shocking fall from grace for one of the game’s premier closers.

Verdict: Patience. There’s no reason to drop Diaz, but that hasn’t stopped his ownership numbers from dropping ever so slightly. The Mets are headed into a more “fluid” bullpen hierarchy, but Diaz would easily regain control if/when he solves his current issues on the mound. I don’t think he’s too far away. For starters, his luck has taken a hard turn. Despite a 5.50 ERA, his xERA is a more palatable 2.85. But let’s look deeper.

Diaz has two highly effective pitches—his four-seamer and his slider. Half of that profile remains strong. Before his devastating knee injury, Diaz averaged 99 mph on his four-seamer and regularly touched triple digits. He hasn’t quite reached that level so far in his first season back, but he’s at a strong 97 mph average and a near-identical elite vertical approach angle to past seasons. Essentially, the pitch is coming in hard and high even as he continues to work his way back into form. The slider has had more issues. In the past, Diaz would drive batters crazy with his pinpoint command: four-seamers taking the top off the zone and sliders painting the corners down low. Over his three previous healthy seasons, Diaz gave up just five extra-base hits on his slider. He already has matched that total this season. He’s clearly still working to recapture his pre-injury form and I think it’s a prudent move to shift him into a low-pressure bullpen role while that happens. Considering his long history of success and elite peripherals (his strikeout rate is still among the game’s best), I would bet on the comeback.


Nick Castellanos, OF, Philadelphia Phillies

Castellanos has always been a bit of an enigma. You’ve probably noticed his inconsistent nature—a player just as likely to hit 30 home runs in a season as he is to hit 15. Part of that comes from his pedestrian quality of contact. He has a strong hard-hit rate but a surprisingly low average exit velocity. He lives on the edge of what we would consider a “power hitter” and, as a result, suffers prolonged slumps.

One of those slumps is happening now. Castellanos is slashing .202/.269/.295 with 4 home runs, 19 RBI, and 21 runs scored. His underlying numbers closely match his poor 2022 season when he finished with just 13 home runs and a .304 wOBA over 136 games. He’s currently sporting a low barrel rate (6.6%), average EV (87.7 mph), and hard-hit rate (36.5%). His approach in 2022 was to swing early and often, leading all qualified players in swing%. His current rate is even higher this season. To be fair, Castellanos has always been one of the game’s most aggressive hitters. He’s been able to get away with it thanks to his ability to make consistent contact outside of the zone, which is something just not happening in 2024.

Verdict: Patience. Castellanos is not a player I like. He doesn’t hit the ball particularly hard, he chases too many pitches out of the zone, and when he slumps, he slumps HARD. That being said, if you drafted Castellanos, I assume you knew what you were getting into. This is what Castellanos does, and while it seems particularly galling because the season just started, there’s nothing in his profile to suggest he has fundamentally changed as a player. His poor 2022 season was a career outlier and he quickly adjusted to an All-Star level last year. Right now, he seems to understand his contact issues and has cut down on his chase rate. The biggest outlier is his .248 BABIP, which is nearly 90 points lower than last season. I still don’t like Castellanos as a fantasy asset, but if you’ve survived the slump you might as well hold on until the hot streak starts. And then sell.

Ryan Loren

Ryan Loren is a baseball writer for Pitcher List and a Detroit sports fan struggling to remember what it's like to root for winning teams.

One response to “Patience or Panic: Paul Goldschmidt, Edwin Diaz, Nick Castellanos”

  1. JHMW says:

    Since when is Castellanos a 3B? He hasn’t played that since 2017!

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