The latest from the Senior Circuit…
- It’s a big year for Cubs righty Yu Darvish, as The Athletic’s Patrick Mooney explores in an in-depth look at the Japanese star. Darvish “didn’t feel any power in [his] body” last season, easily the nadir in the righty’s decorated seven-year MLB career thus far. The righty’s season-long search for the root of his struggles came to a head in August, when he was ultimately diagnosed with a stress reaction in his right elbow. Limited to just 8 starts last season, Darvish claims to be flinging the “best stuff of his life” in early Cactus League-play, and his coterie of Cub teammates and coaches agree: “He’s been almost a different person this year,” manager Joe Maddon said. “We all know him. He knows us better. Definitely the self-confidence level seems to be soaring a bit right now. I just think the familiarity with the whole group matters to him, plus he’s healthy. All those factors are pointing the needle in the right direction right now.” Peak performances refrains are all too familiar in Spring Training, but a forthright Darvish may just be the weight that tips the scales in favor of Chicago in this season’s brutal NL Central.
- Giants righty Tyler Beede, who’s had difficulty harnessing a high-octane arsenal since spurning a huge Toronto offer as a first-round selection in the 2012 draft, may finally be turning the corner, writes Grant Brisbee of The Athletic. The Vanderbilt product, who overhauled his scintillating repertoire at the behest of the old Giants regime, turning himself into a sinker/command guy who sought soft contact, has gone back to his roots: a hard four-seam/overhand curve mix that’s baffled Cactus League hitters thus far. Technology implemented by the new, data-conscious staff under GM Farhan Zaidi (who singled out the righty in an early-spring media chat) appears to have been the catalyst, and the 25-year-old Beede is all ears. Beede’s eventual role remains unclear – there’s talk of him breaking camp with the club as a reliever – but he’s again a name to watch by the bay.
- Mets IF/OF Jeff McNeil will split time between third base and left field for the remainder of spring, per manager Mickey Callaway (via the NY Daily News’ Deesha Thosar). McNeil, 27 next month, was a virtual non-prospect before mashing his way to the big leagues in 2018: once there, he impressed further, slashing .329/.381/.471 over 248 late-season plate appearances. Much of McNeil’s big-league time came at second base last season, but the lefty has seen time at seven different positions over a six-year minor league career. Veterans Jed Lowrie and Todd Frazier are still shelf-ridden, with no concrete timetable for a return, so an opening-day spot at the hot corner appears increasingly likely for the feel-good story of last season.