MLB Detroit Tigers

5 Detroit Tigers Storylines To Follow During Spring Training

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Detroit Tigers: 5 Storylines To Follow During Spring Training

Tigers
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Tigers will look a lot different in the 2014 season, as they have made some significant changes to their team following the 2013 season and will look to find some answers this spring.

The Tigers went in a new direction following the loss in the ALCS last season, trading away several key pieces off the team. Prince Fielder and Doug Fister were both traded and the Tigers let Jhonny Peralta, Omar Infante and Joaquin Benoit go in free agency. All five of those players played big parts in the Tigers' recent success.

Detroit also has a new man at the helm after the retirement of Jim Leyland, as he stepped down as the manager this offseason. Brad Ausmus, a former Tigers catcher, was hired to replace him.

With the additions, the Tigers have a nice list of things that need to be figured out this Spring Training, and how things go will give the Tigers an indication to whether or not they made the correct moves this offseason. If things go well, the Tigers will be praised, but if things don't go as planned, Detroit could find a lot of criticism coming their way.

Here's a look at five storylines to follow for the Detroit Tigers that could have a big impact on how the Tigers perform during the 2014 season.

Spencer Impellizzeri is a MLB and college basketball writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @Spence_I

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5. Leadoff Spot In The Lineup

Jackson
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Austin Jackson returns after occupying the leadoff spot in the lineup last year, but his position in the lineup could change this season. Jackson didn't put up numbers expected out of a leadoff hitter last season. He struck out too much, 129 times to be exact, and his batting average and on base percentage dropped about 30 points apiece from the 2012 season. Jackson's strikeout numbers were his lowest of his career, but they are a long way from an ideal leadoff hitter. Jackson really struggled in the postseason, striking out in the majority of his at bats.

Jackson's numbers improved when he was dropped in the lineup, and that is an option this season with the addition of Ian Kinsler. Kinsler had a better batting average and on base percentage than Jackson last year, and only struck out 59 times in 545 at bats. He also provides more speed on the base paths, stealing 15 bases opposed to Jackson's eight.

The battle for the leadoff spot in the lineup should be something to keep an eye on this spring. Can Jackson improve his numbers and keep the spot, or will Kinsler take it over in his first year with the team? If the season started now, I would expect Kinsler to be the leadoff hitter, but a lot can change during Spring Training.

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4. Nick Castellanos At Third Base

Nick Castellanos
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

After playing in the outfield for the past two seasons, Nick Castelanos returns to his natural position of third base for the Detroit Tigers in 2014. Castellanos will take over the position at third after Miguel Cabrera moved across the diamond to first following the trade of Prince Fielder this offseason. The Tigers; top prospect, Castellanos has put up some solid numbers in the minors, including a .276 batting average with 18 home runs and 76 RBI's in 2013, and will be counted on to produce in 2014. With the loss of Fielder, the Tigers will need production out of Castellanos.

It will be interesting to see how Castellanos performs this spring as he shifts back to third and sees a significant number of at bats.

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3. Justin Verlander's Health

Verlander
Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer combine at the top of the Detroit Tigers' rotation to form arguably the best pitcher duo in baseball. But after suffering an abdominal injury during the offseason, Verlander might not be ready to go on Opening Day.

Not having Verlander in the rotation would hurt the Tigers, as he is one of the best pitchers in baseball. One of the reasons that the Tigers have been successful is the fact that Detroit has a dominant rotation. Verlander's health should be something to watch during Spring Training, as the Tigers are a different team without the pitcher. Come opening day, the Tigers want to see Verlander on the mound, not in the dugout.

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2. New Manager Brad Ausmus

Brad Ausmus
David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

Brad Ausmus takes over for Jim Leyland as the manager of the Detroit Tigers this season and has some big shoes to fill.

Leyland was hired as the manager of the Tigers in 2006 and immediately turned around the organization. The Tigers finished second in the AL Central in Leyland's first season and made it all the way to the World Series as a Wild Card. That year was the first time the Tigers had a winning season since 1993 and the first playoff berth since 1987. In the next seven seasons, Leyland led the Tigers to three AL Central championships and another berth in the World Series. Leyland stepped down after last season and Ausmus was hired after serving as the Special Assistant to Baseball Operations for the San Diego Padres for the last three seasons. Ausmus's only previous managerial experience was managing the Israel national baseball team in the Qualification Round of the World Baseball Classic. In his first full time position as a manager, it will be interesting to see how Ausmus does this Spring Training

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1. The Bullpen

Bullpen
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The bullpen has been the Achilles heel for the Detroit Tigers over the past couple seasons.

Jose Valverde unraveled during the 2012 postseason and the bullpen followed suit, struggling last season. This offseason, the Tigers added some new players to add stability, led by closer Joe Nathan. The Tigers will enter the year with an answer at the back of the bullpen, which is huge. Detroit also adds Joba Chamberlain and Ian Krol to the bullpen. They will join Bruce Rondon, a hard throwing prospect, Phil Coke and Al Aburquerque. With Nathan being the only pitcher already in a set role, it will be interesting to see how things unfold.

The Tigers need to find some answers in the bullpen to be successful again this year.