Oct 17, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias (1) makes a catch against Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz (not pictured) during the third inning in game five of the American League Championship Series baseball game at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
What 2015 Detroit Tigers Spring Training story line (or story lines) is most intriguing to you?
Dan Byrne: The left side of the infield. Iglesias will need to be a magnet and play 130 games. I’d like to see Castellanos improve to the point where he actually WANTS the ball to be hit to him. If the above happens and both of these guys hit, it will help to offset some pitching concerns.
Zane Stalberg: With more uncertainty than usual surrounding this team, there are plenty of storylines to follow as Spring Training approaches. For me, of all those storylines, two stick out. First, it will be very compelling to see how this team responds to being written off by a lot of the national media. The Tigers have always been viewed as a heavy favorite in this division and it is curious to see whether or not they will play with a chip on their shoulder. Secondly, it will be just as intriguing to watch, and judge, whether Justin Verlander has returned to form. In my mind, Verlander is one of the three most important players on the team this year, and whether or not he can regain some of his former glory will play a major role in the end result of the 2015 season.
Josh Scramlin: One of the most intriguing storylines for me personally is how Yoenis Cespedes fits in with this Detroit team. He said earlier in the offseason that this was the first team that he felt fully welcome, so if he was uncomfortable in Oakland and Boston and still put up great numbers, how high is his ceiling? For some odd reason Cespedes has a group of doubters that constantly follow him wherever he plays, so I think his tale is worth watching in Spring Training.
Steve Mitzel: Two story lines – who will emerge as the up and comer. Will it be Moya? Collins? Lobstein? Or someone that is not on any of our radar screens this year. The fact of the matter is that the Tigers need a young player to perform this year to fill some holes. The other story line will be Jose Iglesias and how healthy is now and can he continue to be healthy.
Tom Zahari: My storyline to watch is the health of the Tigers. This doesn’t just include Victor Martinez and Miguel Cabrera (although they are kind of a big deal to watch). I’m watching Jose Iglesias. Iglesias was out all of 2014 with shin injuries I had never heard of before and I do not know what his recovery will be. The Tigers need him to be a defensive wizard that he was in 2013 and their everyday shortstop. I’m watching to make sure he is still healthy, has his range, and can still beat out infield hits as we move forward through the 2015 season.
Blair Tatrault: I’m anxious to see if Jose Iglesias is completely healthy. Since he sat out last year, it’s easy to forget how well he plays shortstop. The Tigers don’t have much behind him, so it’s critical he makes a complete recovery. I’ll also be watching Justin Verlander and Bruce Rondon closely–the game is still about pitching and the road ahead gets a lot tougher if these guys aren’t pitching at a high level for most of the season.
Matt Pelc: The health of the team will be the biggest story line in Lakeland. A year ago the team went in to Spring Training relatively healthy and players began to drop like flies. It actually began before Spring Training last year when Justin Verlander had surprise surgery in January. Jose Iglesias played in two Grapefruit League games before bowing out, Andy Dirks and Bruce Rondon soon followed and we never saw them again. I am interested to see how Iglesias plays having been off his feet and away from true baseball action since Oct. 2013 and how Victor Martinez and Miguel Cabrera progress throughout March. The Tigers have to hope no one else gets hurt because they don’t want to be shorthanded come Opening Day. Injuries hampered the Tigers last year more than most realize.
Dave Holcomb: Even though the Indians and White Sox both have stronger rosters, and the Royals are coming off a trip to the World Series, the Tigers are still the most talented team on paper in the division. But they are also the oldest. Miguel Cabera and Victor Martinez are both over 30 and recovering from offseason surgery. They combined for 212 RBI last season. The Tigers need those guys to anchor the middle of the lineup again this season. After David Price, Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez are penciled into the second and third spots in the Tigers rotation. Both have been excellent pitchers in their careers, but each also have question marks going into 2015. Sanchez hasn’t made over 30 starts since 2012, and Verlander has admitted he didn’t feel right at all last season. Verlander went 15-12 with a 4.54 ERA, his highest since 2008, and just 159 strikeouts, his lowest since his rookie season. He will absolutely have to be completely health and better for the Tigers to win the division. To conclude, the shortstop position and bullpen are also health question marks. Detroit traded rookie shortstop Eugenio Suarez to acquire Alfredo Simon from Cincinnati. That means they are counting on Jose Iglesias returning to form and playing shortstop every day. As for the bullpen, closer Joe Nathan is 40 years old. How much does he have left in the tank? Fellow reliever Bruce Rendon also needs to fully recover. The 24-year-old throws gas and could eat up the middle innings if he is healthy.