MLB Detroit Tigers

Detroit Tigers Spring Training: Ranking the Top 5 Early Standouts

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Detroit Tigers Spring Training: Ranking the Top 5 Early Standouts

Brad Ausmus
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Tigers are a new-look team this spring.

Gone from last year's team is manager Jim Leyland and a number of key players from both the field and the pitching staff. Under Leyland, the Tigers returned to relevance, winning two AL Pennants and three AL Central division title since 2006.

Brad Ausmus was hired to replace Leyland, and he will be managing a new-look team. Gone from last year's team are two hitters from the middle of the lineup, Prince Fielder and Jhonny Peralta, second baseman Omar Infante, starting pitcher Doug Fister and reliever Joaquin Benoit.

The Tigers opened Spring Training looking for replacements for those players, as well as improved production from some returning players. One of the big areas that needed improvement was the bullpen. The bullpen has been an Achilles heel for the Tigers in recent years. A lack of a consistent closer has been the big problem, but a number of other pitchers in the bullpen had down years last season.

The departures have turned the Tigers into a new-look team. With the additions of Ian Kinsler and Rajai Davis, the Tigers have been transformed into a more athletic team that is more of a threat on the base paths and should be better defensively.

The Tigers are off to a 5-3 start in Spring Training behind some strong performances from players who really needed to step up.

Here's a look at five players who have stood out for the Tigers so far during Spring Training.

Spencer Impellizzeri is a MLB writer covering the Detroit Tigers for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @Spence_I or on Google +

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5. Don Kelly

Don Kelly
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Don Kelly's start to Spring Training has him well on his way to being a utility player on the Tigers' Opening Day roster. Kelly has gone 5-for-12, a .417 average, to start the spring to go along with three RBIs. Of his five hits, three have been for extra bases and he has scored two runs. With Andy Dirks out with a back injury, Kelly could be a candidate to see some time in left field.

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4. Victor Martinez

Victor Martinez
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

With Prince Fielder's departure, Victor Martinez will be asked to step in as the cleanup hitter this year, and he has responded with a very good start to Spring Training. Martinez is currently hitting .412, 7-for-17, with 3 RBIs. Martinez will be key to the Tigers lineup this season, as he will provide protection for reigning AL MVP Miguel Cabrera.

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3. The Bullpen

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Tigers' bullpen as a whole has looked good during Spring Training, so instead of singling certain performers out, I am going to look at it as a whole. Five different players who figure to be a part of the bullpen come Opening Day have yet to allow an earned run, led by new closer Joe Nathan. Nathan hasn't allowed a hit in three innings pitched and looks to be the solution to the Tigers' closer problem. Luke Putkonen has struck out four batters and allowed just two hits in four innings pitched, holding batters to a .154 average. Newcomer Ian Krol has allowed just one hit and has struck out four in three innings of work. Batters are hitting just .100 against Krol. Al Alburquerque and Joba Chamberlain have also pitched well, sporting 0.00 ERAs through three innings pitched.

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2. Nick Castellanos

Nick Castellanos
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The Tigers are expecting a lot of prospect Nick Castellanos at third base this season, and he is off to a great start this spring. He is currently 6-for-14, a .429 average, with a home run and seven RBIs in five games played. That is great news for the Tigers as they seem to have gone all in with him as their third baseman.

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1. Austin Jackson

Austin Jackson
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Austin Jackson is off to a torrid start to Spring Training. He is currently hitting .615, 8-for-13, with a home run and seven RBIs. Jackson has been the leadoff batter for the past three seasons for the Tigers, but after struggling last year, his spot in that role has been questioned. Jackson looks like an improved player this spring which bodes well for the Tigers.