2. Yu Darvish
Yu Darvish's contract alone will put unattainable expectations onto the 37-year-old starter. Darvish pitched in just 24 games last season, and didn't even record 150 innings pitched. The veteran, while still able to keep the base paths relatively clear of free runners, has seen a dip in his strikeout numbers for the second consecutive season.
Darvish, during his first season in San Diego, posted a 29.2 percent strikeout rate. Combined with a walk rate of just 6.5 percent, Darvish's K-BB% was 22.8 percent in 2021. Last season, that number dropped to 17.1 percent, as Darvish struck out less than 25 percent of the batters he faced.
But without Blake Snell, the San Diego fanbase will be looking to Darvish, along with Joe Musgrove, to be the team's frontline starters in 2024. Darvish signed a six-year, $108 million extension with the club prior to last season, and with an average salary of $18 million per year comes high expectations.
But after battling a bone spur in his elbow last season that eventually ended Darvish's season, questions about his health will be looming heading into spring training. Can Darvish return to the level of dominance he displayed early during his career?
While pitchers like Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer have turned back the clock in recent years, Yu Darvish isn't in their league. His contract and past performance will place lofty projections on Darvish heading into next season, but those may be unattainable for a pitcher coming off an injury and entering his age-37 season.