That time of the year has finally arrived, Detroit Tigers baseball is officially back! The buzz around town about this "new look" Tigers team is surely not as high as in previous years. Ron Gardernhire will be leading the team for his first tenure as Tigers manager and he hopes to provide great veteran leadership to what will be a much younger team than in years past, and they will need a lot more guidance to help grow within in the clubhouse. The 2018 season will all be about seeing which prospects the Tigers currently have will actually make the next step and make an impact on the big league club this upcoming spring. Sure, veterans like Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Jordan Zimmerman are still on the team, but a lot more eyes will be on players like, Jeimer Candelairo, Michael Fulmer, Daniel Norris, Matt Boyd, Joe Jimenez to just name a few. If the Tigers want to be competitive at a somewhat high level this season at all, they will need to receive pretty solid contributions from players like those and a couple of "surprise" breakout seasons from players that weren't expected to make any big steps towards competing at a major league level this season. Here are a couple players to watch for this spring who should make the major league club going into opening day. First, let's start with Joe Jimenez who just turned only 23 years old. He was asked to step into a big role when he was called up into the big leagues last year as a setup man, and was clearly not ready for those big moments yet in his young career. The Tigers will be really counting on him to take that next big step and get himself to feel comfortable in those late game one run lead situations to get them over the hump and to a possible close victory. His high velocity will need to be more consistent and not fluctuate as much as it did last season. Secondly, let's take a look at Nicholas Castellanos who was asked to take a much bigger role last season in the lineup. He will be playing right field this season after switching from third baseball to the outfield this off season. He played both outfield and infield in college and while in the Tigers minor league system before ultimately being named the teams starting third baseman. Keep an eye out on how much of a defensive impact he will have out there this season, and what kind of arm and range he will bring each and every game he plays. If this turns out well, he may draw a great trade interest for teams that will be scouting the outfield for help at the trade deadline in July. Hopefully, the near future of this team competing at a high level for the postseason and a World Series run will be sooner rather than later, but it all starts with building within and letting the young guys grow and continue to improve their own skills. The days of just plugging in guys via free agency are over and it is time to win with younger and leaner guys. The new era of Tigers baseball is here! Best of luck to the boys of summer.
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