Welcome to Talkin' Tigers, a weekly piece recapping the most important talking point from the week before about the Detroit Tigers while taking a look ahead.
When the 2014 season began well over a month ago, the Detroit Tigers had plenty of question marks. The back end of the rotation, the bullpen, run production and breaking in a new manager counted among the biggest concerns.
Quietly, though, the largest worry should have been rookie third baseman Nick Castellanos. Despite the fact that many touted his poise and progression through the minors, major league baseball is a different animal. Castellanos could have become overwhelmed early, creating a whole different issue for the Tigers, perhaps one warranting a band-aid.
Yet, so far, so good for Castellanos, who has seen his batting average drop to an ugly looking .232, yet remains one of the leading statistical hitters on the team. Saturday and Sunday, it was Castellanos who got the hit parade started in Kansas City, first with a sacrifice fly and then with a deep solo home run in the series finale.
His hits have been clutch, and his home run power (an impressive four early on) as well as RBI prowess (18 overall, good for second place on the team) have been refreshing. Young players tend to struggle at the plate immediately against big league pitching, but Castellanos hasn't looked overwhelmed at all. He puts the ball in play, hits to the opposite field and has all the fundamentals. There will be peaks and valleys like an 0-11 stretch from April 26-30, but the raw power, smarts and swing Castellanos has shown makes those numbers bearable.
Defensively, despite a few notable mistakes in memorable moments, Castellanos has improved and looks to be getting more comfortable by the day at third base. He's learning Comerica Park's dynamics and making enough plays in the field to basically break even in the process as a defender.
That's all the Tigers could have hoped for heading into the season and more. Castellanos has been a breath of fresh air for a team that needed a talented young player to rise up through their system to quiet some criticism.
Though the season isn't yet old, the young Castellanos is going about his business and passing his biggest test to date in a very impressive way.
Player Of The Week: Torii Hunter. Riding an 11 game hitting streak, the very streaky Hunter's impact has been loud and impressive again for Detroit, and he's starting to collect the RBI's and consistent hits he's been accustomed to finding over his career. Should Hunter keep setting the table in excellent fashion and driving in runs when given the chance, Detroit's lineup will continue to feast.
Play Of The Week: Alex Avila's back-to-back home runs. Lost in the shuffle of everyone else's hitting was the fact that Avila, the once-struggling catcher, found a return to power over the weekend, socking two home runs for the Tigers. If Avila starts to hit, Detroit becomes all the more dangerous and deep offensively.
The Challenge Ahead: Maintaining focus. Four games with the lowly Houston Astros can help a team sleepwalk a bit, so the Tigers will have to remain hungry and focused right away. The Astros, despite their record, are capable of stealing games from unmotivated foes, so Detroit will have to carry over the aggressive mindset and hitting early.
Question For This Week: Can the obscene hitting keep going? The Tigers' offense hasn't shown this much spunk on the road in some time. The challenge will be carrying that aggression over back home, where the weather figures to be unpredictable again. Will Detroit be able to ride the wave and keep the pressure on the opponent's pitching staff? It will be interesting to watch.Alex Avila, Baseball, Detroit, Detroit Tigers, MLB, Nick Castellanos, Torii Hunter