Uncertainty surrounds the Detroit Tigers

It has since the end of their virtually nonexistent postseason run last October when they were swept by the Baltimore Orioles, and it became more prevalent as the offseason saw their offensive stars, Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez, go under the knife. And just because spring training is off and running, the question marks will not subside.

However, while the murkiness might start with the health and performance of veterans, including pitchers David Price, Anibal Sanchez and Justin Verlander, it does not end there. It ends with, and could be cleared up by, some of the team’s youth performing throughout the lineup.

While J.D. Martinez provided that boost last season, this year the Tigers are looking to players like Jose Iglesias, Nick Castellanos, Anthony Gose and possibly Steven Moya. Even Yoenis Cespedes could be a surprise contributor if he becomes more than just a bopper.

Whoever it might be, the Tigers need at least one of them to prove he is a major league offensive force to alleviate any potential health or production concerns that seem inevitable for this club, not to mention the loss of pitcher Max Scherzer in free agency and Rick Porcello as part of the trade that landed Cespedes from the Boston Red Sox.

Aside from Martinez, this spring has given Gose an early stage to shine. And while we are only about a week into games, what he has done is still impressive.

In 14 Grapefruit League at-bats, Gose has eight hits, a double, a triple, two walks and is 3-for-3 stealing bases. He has also created havoc on the bases with his speed, drawing errant pickoff throws and forcing errors while running the bases when the ball is in play.

While this is promising for a player who is expected to be a platooning center fielder when the season starts, Gose, 24, understands about not getting too high on spring training results or seeing himself as the full-time guy out there.

“It’s spring training,” Gose told The Detroit NewsChris McCosky. “It’s been four days. If I’m doing this at the All-Star break, then come talk to me.”

Gose is a long way from that point, especially when you consider he has had a full season’s worth of plate appearances in the big leagues—616 spread over three years—and produced a .234/.301/.332 line. All of those appearances came while with the Toronto Blue Jays before the Tigers traded for him in November.

The other man the Tigers are counting on this season, and to fill a much more prominent and permanent role, is 25-year-old shortstop Jose Iglesias. As a 23-year-old second-year player with the Red Sox and Tigers in 2013, Iglesias showed a ton of promise by hitting .303/.349/.386 over 382 plate appearances, most of them with Boston when he hit .330/.376/.409 in 63 games.

He was traded at the deadline of that season in the three-team deal that sent Jake Peavy to the Red Sox. But since that half-season with the Tigers, Iglesias has not played a single inning. He missed all of last season with stress fractures in both shins, and, of course, the Tigers felt his pain as their shortstops hit a league-worst .223 and played poor defense.

Hope for Iglesias is once again prevalent this spring as he is healthy—he had a minor scare last week when he was hit by a batting-practice line drive in, of all places, his shin—and expects to be productive.

“He doesn’t look like he’s missed a year of baseball,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus told Yahoo! Sports’ Tim Brown last week. “I really don’t think missing a year is going to be an issue.”

If it is not, and Iglesias can return to being a .300 hitter and the kind of threat who gets on base nearly 38 percent of the time, he will go a long way in easing any time Cabrera or Martinez might miss.

While Moya, 23, probably will head to the minors for some more seasoning, another 23-year-old, Castellanos, is around to stay as long as he is reasonably productive. Last year, in his first full season in the majors, he was about that with a 93 OPS-plus, although he was worth a minus-1.5 WAR (Baseball-Reference) because of shoddy defense.

The Tigers need more from him this year. While ZiPS projects him to again be awful defensively—minus-12 runs saved—it also believes he can reach 17 home runs, 77 RBIs, with a .335 weighted OBA and a 108 OPS-plus. If he can give them at least that kind of production and outdo his low defensive projections, he will become a solid contributor in a lineup that needs every piece of certainty it can get going forward.

For all their injury concerns, potential declines and regression, and future uncertainty—Price, the ace, can be a free agent after this season—the Tigers remain the favorites in the American League Central for 2015. That would give them a fifth consecutive division title, but the gap between them and the rest is closing.

The Chicago White Sox improved. The Cleveland Indians might have the best rotation in baseball. The Kansas City Royals will be defending their pennant after missing a World Series title by one mighty whack of the bat. Even the Minnesota Twins should be slightly better than they were last season, if nothing else.

That kind of competition means the Tigers will no longer roll through the Central, and it will require one of the aforementioned young players to become a significant contributor this summer. They might not need to do the heavy lifting, but they will have to at least carry their own weight.

If the Tigers get that production from one or more of them, a fifth straight postseason ticket will undoubtedly be punched.


All quotes, unless otherwise specified, have been acquired firsthand by Anthony Witrado. Follow Anthony on Twitter @awitrado and talk baseball here.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com