Even though the Detroit Tigers are coming off a last-place finish in 2015, early vibes from spring training in Lakeland, Florida have been surprisingly upbeat. The team's busy offseason is one reason to be excited, but more encouraging still might be that everyone is finally healthy.
This is a far cry from last spring, when seemingly everyone on the roster was dealing with an ailment or two. Victor Martinez underwent left knee surgery before the team even reached Lakeland, while Justin Verlander and Bruce Rondon started the season on the disabled list. Even Miguel Cabrera missed time on the DL at one point during last season's freefall.
In 2016, the headlines are far more cheerful. The saddest storylines out of camp are even taking a happy turn, with JaCoby Jones calling his 50-game suspension a "reality check." Bruce Rondon is also ready to put 2015 behind him. The only real drawback seems to be closer Francisco Rodriguez, who is having visa issues back in Venezuela.
Other than that? It's all roses so far. Bobby Parnell feels like a million bucks. Shane Greene is getting there as his blood clots clear up. James McCann is eating kale. Steven Moya looks like a superhero.
Photo of Steven Moya and his hair, Steven Moya approved. pic.twitter.com/LXG661KPmB— Jason Beck (@beckjason) February 21, 2016
While there is still a long way to go before the Tigers even get to Opening Day -- let alone enter playoff contention -- things are moving in the right direction.
Having prospects is fun
The Tigers' farm system is still somewhat of a hot mess, but things are definitely trending upward. ESPN's Keith Law detailed his top 10 prospects in the Tigers' organization last week, and you get one guess who's in the top spot. Minor League Ball's John Sickels did the same, and he had some great things to say about Christin Stewart.
Power is genuine in my view, mixed with solid pure hitting skills. Defense not great but should be okay in left field if he hits as expected. Best bat in the system by far.
He wasn't so high on Derek Hill, though.
Projection systems are not
Statistical projection models offer an educated way of predicting the results of the upcoming season, but are by no means a way of fortune-telling who will win every game. PECOTA wasn't all high on the Tigers, projecting them to finish third in the division. The catching tandem of James McCann and Jarrod Saltalamacchia -- projected as the worst in baseball -- is a big reason why. Justin Verlander says the club is better than others think, while a certain Detroit News scribe is just plain confused.
Elsewhere in the division
Things are perking up in Cleveland, as Juan Uribe agreed to a one-year deal with the club over the weekend. They also signed reliever Craig Stammen recently, who is recovering from surgery. Michael Brantley's recovery seems to be going well, but that hasn't stopped the Tribe from pursuing former Tigers outfielder Austin Jackson.
The Royals signed a bunch of dudes as well, including former Braves lefty Mike Minor. Minor missed 2015 with a torn labrum in his left shoulder, but still earned a two-year deal. The Twins haven't done much, but one doesn't have to when your farm system is this loaded. Their fans are too busy grieving over Nick Punto's retirement anyway.