Almost everyone on the Tigers has something to prove this season.
Justin Verlander, who gained twenty-five pounds this off-season, recently was quoted as saying “I feel better than I have in three or four years.” JV needs to prove that he can pitch the way he did three or four years ago—at something closer to a Cy Young level. With Max Scherzer gone, JV needs to step up his game; it sounds like he recognizes that.
Down in the bullpen, Joe Nathan has said, “I want to prove to myself and other people I still have something left in the tank.” Other people—like the boo-birds he gave the finger to at Comerica last season. Like the teammates he let down by blowing saves. Like the management who shelled out top dollar for a closer who looked like he was running on empty for much of the season.
Anibal Sanchez needs to prove he can stay healthy for a whole season and complete the process of maturing into a complete, consistent ace starter.
Jose Iglesias also must prove he is healthy again and capable of being the defensive wizard the Tigers are counting on to anchor their infield.
Nick Castellanos has to prove he can play third base at least at a minimum major league skill level rather than at the Miguel Cabrera level.
Even Cabrera has something to prove—that if his feet and legs are finally sturdy again, he can regain his mammoth power stroke and once again be the most feared hitter in all of baseball.
J.D. Martinez needs to prove that last season—when for awhile he performed more like Babe Ruth than like the pre-2014 J.D. Martinez—was not a complete fluke.
Alfredo Simon also must prove much the same thing: that his conversion from decent reliever to a whole new man in Cincinnati last year, a reliable starter, is a repeatable phenomenon. Simon faded at the end of 2014, probably due to his unprecedented innings load, but Detroit is counting on him in 2015.
Yoenis Cespedes must show that he still has the firepower that made jaws drop in his rookie year—as well as displaying the incredible arm that made the highlight reels last year. If so, Cespedes may prove to be a big hit in Motown.
Anthony Gose must prove he is more than a fourth-outfielder type best used as a pinch runner and defensive replacement. He’s been given a shot at the center field job: can he hit enough to seize the opportunity?
Rajai Davis has to prove he can play defense well enough to hold down center field in the likely case Gose cannot do the job at the plate.
Bruce Rondon must prove his potential as the long-heralded closer of the future now that he’s reportedly healthy and the future is now the present.
Alex Avila must prove he can avoid concussions and play often enough to remain a reliable No. 1 catcher.
Dave Dombrowski must prove he knew what he was doing when he shed Robbie Ray—for whom he traded so much talent last winter—and is now right to be placing his bets on Shane Green as a fifth starter.
And Victor Martinez—he has absolutely nothing he has to prove.