As things currently stand, slugging outfielder Tyler O’Neill is expected to make the Cardinals’ Opening Day roster, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes. The Cards “have reserved a spot for him as a spare outfielder, for now,” Goold writes, noting that poor health in the shoulder of Marcell Ozuna and/or continued struggles for Dexter Fowler could eventually thrust him into a larger role. And with Ozuna set to hit free agency at season’s end, a more natural path to everyday at-bats for the 23-year-old O’Neill isn’t hard to see. As Goold highlights in chatting with hitting coach Jeff Albert, O’Neill has worked diligently to improve his contact skills as he seeks a more well-rounded offensive profile. O’Neill slugged 35 homers between Triple-A and the Majors last season but punched out in a quarter of his plate appearances in Triple-A and more than 40 percent of his 142 PAs in the Majors.
More from the division…
- Brewers president of baseball ops David Stearns chatted with MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand and discussed his club’s patient approach in free agency, as well as the decision not to bring in any rotation help from the free-agent market. “I’d say we explored various opportunities on the starting pitching market, but in the backdrop of all of that was the depth and comfort level that we have with our young starters,” said Stearns. “We rode a lot of these guys deep into the playoffs last year, whether it’s Brandon Woodruff, Freddy Peralta or Corbin Burnes. They were in slightly different roles; we’re going to be asking more of them throughout the course of the year this year, but we think they have the potential to do it.” Asked if the team would have the financial wherewithal to make in-season additions after signing Yasmani Grandal and Mike Moustakas, Stearns voiced confidence that owner Mark Attanasio is “willing to support this team and stretch the limits,” pointing to the very additions of Grandal and Moustakas as evidence of that mentality.
- Although the Cubs didn’t make any kind of significant splash in free agency, they’re also not viewing the current roster as a finished product, writes Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. Part of the team’s lack of spending stems from a desire to make sure there are ample resources in place this summer to address in-season needs via the trade market. “We don’t know what it’s going to be, but certainly there’s going to be a major focus to make sure we’re in position to improve the team in the middle of the season,” said general manager Jed Hoyer of potential summer activity.
- Perhaps the biggest additions the Cubs could see in 2019 would be healthy versions of Kris Bryant and Yu Darvish. Bryant said today in an appearance on 670 The Score that his shoulder feels “completely healed,” stressing that he’s not feeling any lingering effects of the injury that slowed him in 2018 (Twitter link). Darvish, meanwhile, spoke with confidence following his most recent spring outing, with particular excitement over the fact that his fastball reached 97 mph in that game (link via Wittenmyer). Obviously, only time will tell whether either former All-Star can rebound to something resembling peak form, but the fact that neither appears hampered by lingering effects of last season’s health struggles is nonetheless a positive sign for Cubs fans early on in camp.