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In the second year of a contract extension that could be worth almost $200 million and coming off back-to-back top-10 finishes in the AL MVP balloting, struggling Seattle Mariners superstar Julio Rodríguez has been dropped to sixth in the lineup for Thursday's series finale against the Yankees:

Of  Rodríguez's 49 starts thus far in 2024, he batted second in Scott Servais' lineup 45 times and leadoff four times. As such, the drop to sixth in an offense that ranks near the bottom of the AL in runs scored is a jarring one for one of the most compelling young players in the game. Presently, Rodríguez has a 2024 slash line of .263/.311/.318 with just two home runs in 98 at-bats. That comes to an OPS+ of 86, which means that Rodríguez's park-adjusted OPS is 14% worse than the league-average mark. For context, Rodríguez coming into this season had a career OPS+ of 136, or 36% better than the league mean, over his first two seasons in Seattle. Here's more context: 

Beyond the top-line numbers, it's also concerning that Rodríguez has seen his K% and whiff rate both spike. His value at the vital position of center and on the bases means he's still been a crucial part of the Mariners' success thus far, but they need Rodríguez to produce at the plate more in line with expectations. The hope, no doubt, is that the drop in the order will help him find his familiar level. 

The encouraging news is that Rodríguez is still hitting the ball very hard and has deserved better, if not quite vintage, outcomes off the bat. That points to better days ahead for the 23-year-old.

Despite the struggles of Rodríguez in particular and the offense in general, the Mariners go into Thursday's slate with a 27-23 record and a three-game lead over the Rangers in the AL West. No doubt, though, improvement from Rodríguez would greatly aid the cause, and it may be necessary in a division that also houses the Rangers and Astros