Detroit Tigers Spring Training: 5 Players Who Are Sure to Shine
5 Detroit Tigers Who Will Shine in Spring Training
For the first time since the spring of 2006, the Detroit Tigers will open up Spring Training in Lakeland, Fla., with a new manager at the helm.
Brad Ausmus begins his first season with the Detroit Tigers after replacing the retiring Jim Leyland. Ausmus enters his first career managerial job with a team that is in much better shape than it was when Leyland took over in 2006.
Back then, the Tigers had suffered through 100-loss seasons, bad trades, awful free agent signings and a ballpark that Detroiters had yet to accept.
Fast forward to today, the Tigers have won three straight AL Central titles, and they've made three consecutive appearances in the ALCS, including a World Series trip in 2012. The Tigers possess the best hitter in baseball in Miguel Cabrera, a marvelous heist pulled off against the Marlins by Dave Dombrowski, and one of the top pitching duos in Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer.
Not bad for a first-year manager huh?
As the start of Spring Training draws near, the frost of the dreadful Michigan winter slowly begins to thaw as fans turn their attention to the beloved Tigers. Each and every year brings new hope and excitement. That goes for players too.
There should be no surprises when the starting lineup is announced on Mar. 31 at Comerica Park. The Tigers have a loaded roster once again and appear ready for another division crown, as well as a fourth consecutive postseason run -- and it all starts in Spring Training.
As the first exhibition game on Feb. 25 approaches, here are five players that are sure to shine for the Tigers this spring.
5. Alex Avila
Alex Avila has been one of the more frustrating Tigers the past few seasons. After being voted an All-Star in 2011 and winning the Silver Slugger award that same season, Avila has been a disappointment. Since that 2011 season, Avila dropped his batting average from .295 to .243 in 2012 and .227 in 2013. Everything else has fallen off as well, including power numbers and games played. Lingering injuries have hampered the latter as Avila only played in 102 game last season. If he wants to get back to his All-Star form, Avila will have to have a strong spring to set the tone for the rest of 2014.
4. Devon Travis
The Tigers have one of the worst-rated farm systems in baseball. Baseball America has rated it 29th in its latest rankings, while ESPN has it 28th. But despite such a low ranking, second baseman Devon Travis is a bright spot. Last season, Travis played for low-A and high-A affiliates in the Tigers organization and combined to hit .351 with 16 HRs and 78 RBIs. He also swiped 22 bases. Recently-acquired Ian Kinsler is in no danger of losing his job to the Florida State product, but watch out for Travis in the future.
3. Bruce Rondon
At this time last year, Bruce Rondon was anointed the closer despite not throwing a single pitch for the Tigers. The move later backfired as Rondon couldn't even make the Opening Day roster after struggling for much of Spring Training. Rondon eventually became an asset down the stretch as he bounced back from a rough start to finish the final two months with a combined 12.2 IP, 1.50 ERA and 18 Ks. Rondon is looking to establish himself as a late-inning man and should have a fine spring for the Tigers.
2. Drew Smyly
Drew Smyly is a starter by trade, but was forced to work from the bullpen last season as the Tigers were loaded with starting pitching. Smyly was used primarily as the setup man for Joaquin Benoit, who signed with the San Diego Padres this offseason. With the trade of Doug Fister to the Washington Nationals, a spot is now open for Smyly in the rotation. In 2012, Smyly started 15 games for the Tigers, going 4-3 with a 3.79 ERA. After a successful year out of the pen where he finished with a 2.37 ERA with 81 Ks and only 17 walks, Smyly should be a solid option every fifth day for the Tigers.
1. Nick Castellanos
As Miguel Cabrera shifts over to first base after the trade of Prince Fielder, third base will become the roaming grounds for top prospect Nick Castellanos. Castellanos was named MVP of the 2012 All-Star Futures Game and has been constantly mentioned among the top prospects in all of baseball. He made his major league debut on September 1 of last season and will be starting everyday for the Tigers in 2014. After going 5-for-18 in his cameo appearance in 2013, the book is still out on the 21-year-old, but a strong spring will do wonders for him.