Spring Training is basically to get rust out for the players and see who wins the last few spots on the roster. It’s a time when pitchers will throw 10 straight changeups just to throw changeups. The Detroit Tigers made a lot of moves this offseason and this is the first chance for everyone to see how this new team will look. Fans should not take too much out of the showing, but here are 5 stories to watch this spring.
1. How will Nick Castellanos Look?
Nick Castellanos is the Tiger to watch in 2014 and it will start in Spring Training. Castellanos is going to be the starting 3rd baseman for the Tigers in 2014. Castellanos has been the crown jewel of the Tigers’ farm system for the past few years and much is expected from him. Castellanos’s career minor league split is .303/.359/.445 which has pushed him to a be the Tigers’ top prospect for the past couple of years and ranked 15th in all of baseball in 2014.
Projections for Castellanos have him at about a .265/.315/.405 split which would be welcomed for many Tigers fans. Castellanos will probably hit in the bottom half of the order and the Tigers just need Castellanos to be solid this year and grow through his career which many hope will be a long, prosperous one for him.
2. Who will be this year’s surprise?
In 2013, Matt Tuiasosopo played his way onto the Detroit Tigers’ roster with a .283/.368/.583 split with 4 HR and 10 RBI in 60 at bats. Tuiasosopo was the right handed power bat off of the tigers’ bench in 2013.
So who will be the surprise this season? There are a few spots left on the Tigers’ roster in 2014: the final outfield spot, one or two bullpen spots, and backup catcher. Many believe that Bryan Holaday will win the backup catcher’s spot, but Ramon Cabrera, Craig Albernaz, Luis Exposito, John Murrian, and James McCann have also been invited to Spring Training to challenge for that spot.
I believe the final outfield spot will go to either Trevor Crowe or Ezequiel Carrerra, two veteran outfielders who are non-roster invitees to camp. The Tigers have a few prospects like Daniel Fields, Tyler Collins, and Steven Moya who are in camp, but I believe they will go to the minors to start the year. If they get hot during the season or injuries arise, they could be called up to the big club.
The bullpen is basically wide open to whoever performs the best in spring training. It will be interesting to see how Bruce Rondon looks in camp, especially since many believe that he will be the 8th inning man in front of Joe Nathan.
3. The lengthening of Drew Smyly back to a starter
Before last season, Drew Smyly was a starter for his entire career. Last season, Smyly challenged Rick Porcello for the 5th starter’s spot, which Porcello won. Smyly started the season as the long reliever out of the bullpen and slowly progressed into the 8th inning man to shutdown basically every left handed batter he saw.
It will be interesting to see how Smyly readjusts to the starter’s role as he is stretched out during Spring Training. Smyly was ordained the 5th starter once Doug Fister was traded to the Washington Nationals in the offseason. This will only become a big story if Smyly does not adjust and perform in camp and early in the season.
4. Brad Ausmus’s Managing Style
This is a story that will not be a big one until the season starts. This is Ausmus’s first MLB managing duty, and every move that Ausmus makes will be put under the microscope this year. Ausmus will not have to make bullpen moves late in the game which may be the difference in a win and a loss. It will be interesting to see what kind of lineup Ausmus runs out onto the field when the starters play together for the few games that they play. This is another story that won’t be a big one until the regular season starts and it should be a fun one to watch. What kind of manager will Ausmus be? I don’t think even Ausmus completely knows the answer to that question.
5. Will the Tigers make any more moves during camp?
The Tigers basically have their roster set. They made bold moves this offseason to change the dynamic of the team. They added speed in Ian Kinsler and Rajai Davis and dropped Prince Fielder. The Tigers also added Joe Nathan, Ian Krol, and Joba Chamberlain to the bullpen. The Tigers have been linked to rumors with Nelson Cruz and his signing with the Tigers seems highly doubtful. There is a chance that the Tigers could add a bullpen arm or an under the radar move at best. I have been a huge fan of Joel Hanrahan and I still feel like he could be an addition to the bullpen. You can never have enough pitching, especially in the bullpen.