The 2013 MLB season starts in less than four months, and pitchers and catchers can start reporting to spring training exactly two months from today.
The 2012 season featured breakout seasons from several unexpected sources and dismal years from stars who were expected to shine.
The 2012 season also featured the first Triple Crown winner in 45 years (Miguel Cabrera), a season for the ages from a rookie (Mike Trout) and a knuckleball pitcher winning a Cy Young Award (R.A. Dickey).
That's exactly what makes baseball so enjoyable to watch: the unexpected can happen at any given time.
Predicting the top 50 players for next season is no small task. Any number of factors can change the course of a player's season.
This list will take into account past performance and projected performance next year as well.
2012 Stats: .256/.365/.429, 11 HR, 45 RBI, 11 SB, .793 OPS
Second baseman Chase Utley has seen both his production and his health deteriorate over the course of the past three seasons. Utley's knees caused him to miss half of the 2012 season.
However, Utley will head to spring training in full health this coming February, unlike the two previous seasons. The bat still has plenty of life, and he's heading into a contract year.
Projected 2013 Stats: .278/.395/.500, 23 HR, 84 HR, .895 OPS
2012 Stats: 19-9, 2.78 ERA, 2 CG, 170 K, 1.171 WHIP, 7.1 K/9, 8.5 H/9
Cincinnati Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto took a nice step forward during the regular season, but his oblique injury just six pitches into his Game 1 outing in the ALDS ended his season.
Still, the 26-year-old has become the unquestioned ace of the Reds and should continue to shine as long as his health holds out.
Projected 2013 Stats: 16-8, 2.95 ERA, 1 CG, 172 K, 1.205 WHIP, 7.0 K/9, 8.6 H/9
2012 Stats: .307/.354/.522, 22 HR, 92 RBI, .876 OPS
If first baseman Allen Craig could stay healthy for an entire season, the St. Louis Cardinals offense would be an even bigger threat than it was last year.
Craig put up big numbers through 120 games, becoming a force in the middle of the lineup. The key is good health, though, and thus far, Craig has yet to show he can be durable.
Projected 2013 Stats: .300/.350/.515, 21 HR, 82 RBI, .865 OPS
2012 Stats: .319/.416/.446, 10 HR, 85 RBI, .861 OPS
Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer played in the most games of his career last season, largely because of less time behind the plate.
With Ryan Doumit signed to a contract extension, Mauer should expect to continue getting help for his balky knees and receiving more time at DH and at first base next season as well.
That certainly can't hurt the production.
Projected 2013 Stats: .315/.410/.455, 15 HR, 87 RBI, .865 OPS
2012 Stats: .306/.391/.492, 21 HR, 93 RBI, 15 SB, .883 OPS
With the pressure and the worries of a long-term contract now behind him, New York Mets third baseman David Wright can look forward to a year without stress.
Well, not entirely.
Wright will be counted on to continue providing as much production as possible. It's a limited offense in New York, and with limited financing, Wright likely won't be getting much help.
Projected 2013 Stats: .300/.375/.485, 20 HR, 90 RBI, .860 OPS
2012 Stats: .300/.377/.479, 16 HR, 66 RBI, 12 SB, .856 OPS
Part of the reason for the success of the Detroit Tigers last season was the breakout season of their leadoff hitter, Austin Jackson.
Jackson shined in 2012, hitting a league-leading 10 triples and providing a consistent spark at the top of the Tigers' lineup. At just 25 years of age, Jackson should continue to develop and fine-tune his considerable skills.
Projected Stats: .300/.380/.485, 19 HR, 78 RBI, 14 SB, .865 OPS
2012 Stats: .300/.360/.540, 27 HR, 105 RBI, .901 OPS
Third baseman Aramis Ramirez made himself right at home in his first season with the Milwaukee Brewers.
Ramirez led the National League with 50 doubles and finished ninth in voting for the NL MVP Award. A solid third baseman who just simply continues to hit.
Projected 2013 Stats: .295/.360/.530, 29 HR, 98 RBI, .880 OPS
2012 Stats: .287/.347/.433, 11 HR, 57 RBI, 40 SB, .780 OPS
In making the move to the American League in 2013, shortstop Jose Reyes is in uncharted territory.
However, the artificial surface at Rogers Centre could be a huge help to Reyes' offense, and his presence at the top of the lineup hitting in front of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion could be exciting to watch.
Projected 2013 Stats: .310/.365/.465, 12 HR, 70 RBI, 42 SB, .830 OPS
2012 Stats: 15-5, 3.48 ERA, zero CG, 200 K, 1.196 WHIP, 8.5 K/9, 8.5 H/9
Freshly armed with a six-year, $147 million contract, new Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke is expected to join fellow Cy Young Award-winner Clayton Kershaw at the top of the Dodgers rotation.
The plan is for both to wreak havoc on opponents two out of every five days, and Greinke's game certainly plays well at home in spacious Dodger Stadium.
2013 Projected Stats: 16-9, 3.30 ERA, 1 CG, 195 K, 1.205 WHIP, 8.4 K/9, 8.6 H/9
2012 Stats: .269/.335/.479, 27 HR, 82 RBI, 21 SB, .814 OPS
After suffering through a sophomore slump in 2011, Atlanta Braves right fielder Jason Heyward rebounded nicely in 2012.
Now, with the added power of B.J. Upton, the Braves have a trio of bats in Heyward, Upton and Dan Uggla who can provide more than enough power in the middle of the lineup. If catcher Brian McCann can overcome his shoulder issues, the Braves will indeed sport a potent lineup.
Projected 2013 Stats: .270/.350/.485, 30 HR, 90 RBI, 22 SB, .835 OPS
2012 Stats: 6-9, 3.16 ERA, zero CG, 207 K, 1.114 WHIP, 8.8 K/9, 8.8 H/9
Just a quick look at the win-loss record for Philadelphia Phillies starter Cliff Lee doesn't come close to telling the entire story.
His peripheral numbers suggest lousy run support, and that was certainly the case for Lee, especially early in the season, when both Ryan Howard and Chase Utley were still sidelined with injuries.
Lee should benefit from a healthy Howard and Utley in 2009, and the addition of Ben Revere and Michael Young should help as well.
Projected 2013 Stats: 15-8, 3.15 ERA, 2 CG, 203 K, 1.095 WHIP, 8.5 K/9, 8.5 H/9
2012 Stats: .271/.313/.370, four HR, 26 RBI, 14 SB, .682 OPS
After a runner-up finish in MVP Award balloting in 2011 with a career year, Boston Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury suffered through another injury-marred season. This time, Ellsbury missed three months with a separated shoulder.
Ellsbury played in just 18 games in 2010 as well, so the injury question will without question continue to dog him.
However, he's heading into a contract year, so expect elevated numbers as he vies for a long-term contract.
Projected 2013 Stats: .295/.355/.515, 24 HR, 88 RBI, 36 SB, .870 OPS
2012 Stats: .299/.344/.463, 18 HR, 108 RBI, .806 OPS
First baseman Adrian Gonzalez experienced a bit of regression last season after a fabulous 2011 campaign. Considering all the drama that unfolded in Boston, he still managed decent numbers.
The home run totals could take a hit with Gonzalez playing in spacious Dodger Stadium, but a full season with no drama should help his totals significantly.
Projected 2013 Stats: .305/.380/.515, 26 HR, 112 RBI, .895 OPS
2012 Stats: .287/.334/.505, 32 HR, 82 RBI, 16 SB, .839 OPS
Much like his counterpart in Pittsburgh, Andrew McCutchen, Baltimore Orioles center fielder Adam Jones continues to get better and better with each passing year.
Jones added a second Gold Glove Award along with a sixth-place finish in MVP Award balloting, capping off a special season for both him and the Orioles.
Jones is just 27 years old and figures to continue maturing and developing into one of the best players in the American League.
Projected 2013 Stats: .295/.360/.510, 33 HR, 95 RBI, 18 SB, .870 OPS
2012 Stats: 2.49 ERA, 51 SV, 1.019 WHIP, 5.4 K/9, 7.2 H/9
Closer Jim Johnson isn't going to scare hitters with a high-90s fastball like Craig Kimbrel, but it's obvious that we he did in 2012 worked for him and the Baltimore Orioles.
Johnson couldn't replicate his success in the postseason, with two particularly ugly performances. However, it's clear that he has the closer mentality, even if he doesn't possess the blazing fastball.
Projected 2013 Stats: 2.50 ERA, 43 SV, 1.350 WHIP, 5.5 K/9, 7.5 H/9
2012 Stats: .283/.342/.447, 12 HR, 63 RBI, .789 OPS
Injuries kept Pablo Sandoval limited to 108 games last season, but his postseason performance (.363, six HR, 13 RBI) more than made up for it.
Sandoval showed the baseball world that he was clearly ready for prime time. Manager Bruce Bochy stayed with Sandoval after benching him for much of the postseason in 2010, and Sandoval rewarded Bochy with his overall play.
If Sandoval can stay healthy, the bat is a huge weapon in the Giants offense.
Projected 2013 Stats: .285/.355/.520, 23 HR, 80 RBI, .875 OPS
2012 Stats: 13-9, 3.06 ERA, 5 CG, 223 K, 1.142 WHIP, 8.7 K/9, 8.1 H/9
A miserable final month of the season (0-4, 6.62 ERA in six starts) ruined Felix Hernandez's chances for Cy Young consideration, but his overall numbers were still impressive nonetheless.
Hernandez mixed in a perfect game along the way and dealt with a Mariners offense that was last in the league in runs scored for the fourth straight season.
Imagine what Hernandez's won-loss record could be over the past three seasons with any offense at all.
Projected 2013 Stats: 16-8, 3.25 ERA, 4 CG, 225 K, 1.195 WHIP, 9.1 K/9, 8.4 H/9
Hernandez's numbers could inflate a tad with the fences being moved in at Safeco Field next season.
2012 Stats: .270/.340/.477, 22 HR, 59 RBI, 18 SB, .817 OPS
Washington Nationals rookie outfielder Bryce Harper went through quite the learning curve last season as a teenager.
When all was said and done, he walked away with the Rookie of the Year Award in a very close vote.
Could the 20-year-old experience a sophomore slump?
Harper will likely take over in left field and will have the benefit of a full season behind him. Much like Mike Trout, his maturity between the chalk lines belies his age.
Projected 2013 Stats: .290/.360/.505, 28 HR, 86 RBI, 24 SB, .865 OPS
2012 Stats: .315/.373/.501, 22 HR, 76 RBI, .874 OPS
St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina captured his fifth consecutive Gold Glove Award last season. He also put up career highs in home runs and RBI as he sought to help replace the offense lost with the departure of friend and teammate Albert Pujols.
He largely succeeded.
Projected 2013 Stats: .305/.370/.485, 20 HR, 82 RBI, .855 OPS
2012 Stats: .290/.347/.449, 15 HR, 65 RBI, 20 SB, .797 OPS
Second baseman Dustin Pedroia played through some nagging injuries last year, not to mention nagging side issues that affected virtually everyone in a Boston Red Sox uniform.
With manager John Farrell now in the fold, Pedroia and the rest of his mates can get back to the business of playing baseball. And in Pedroia's case, he can get back to the business of producing as well.
Projected 2013 Stats: .300/.375/.485, 21 HR, 88 RBI, 22 SB, .860 OPS
2012 Stats: 0.60 ERA, 48 SV, 0.777 WHIP, 9.2 K/9, 5.2 H/9
For the bargain basement rate of $1.75 million, closer Fernando Rodney gave the Tampa Bay Rays a performance that was both unexpected and special.
Rodney was spot on all year long, plowing through opposing hitters with each ninth-inning outing.
Even at his 2013 salary ($2.5 milion), it would have been a tremendous bargain.
Projected Stats: 1.90 ERA, 38 SV, 1.105 WHIP, 8.9 K/9, 6.5 H/9
It would be difficult for Rodney to achieve his 2012 numbers again, but the above would be more than good enough for the Rays.
2012 Stats: 1.01 ERA, 42 SV, 0.654 WHIP, 16.7 K/9, 3.9 H/9
If you thought Atlanta Braves closer Craig Kimbrel was special in his rookie season, then his sophomore season was practically stratospheric.
Kimbrel set a new all-time record for the highest K/9 rate in history and became the first pitcher in history to strike out at least half of the hitters he faced.
Oh yeah, and opposing batters hit just .126 against Kimbrel as well.
What can he do for an encore?
Projected 2013 Stats: 1.25 ERA, 44 SV, 0.750 WHIP, 14.5 K/9, 4.3 H/9
2012 Stats: 15-6, 3.38 ERA, 2 CG, 197 K, 1.140 WHIP, 8.9 K/9, 8.3 H/9
Despite experiencing elbow issues, New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia still put up numbers worthy of an All-Star.
Sabathia underwent minor surgery to remove bone chips from his left elbow and is expected to be fully healthy by spring training. Dr. James Andrews performed the procedure and pronounced the elbow as sound otherwise.
Sabathia will be again expected to lead the Yankees rotation, which brought back Hiroki Kuroda as well.
2013 Projected Stats: 17-8, 3.35 ERA, 3 CG, 205 K, 1.205 WHIP, 9.0 K/9, 8.4 H/9
2012 Stats: .337/.474/.567, 14 HR, 56 RBI, 1.041 OPS
Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto missed almost two months of action last season, yet still managed to collect 44 doubles in just 374 at-bats.
He should have earned the nickname "Gap Man" by now.
Votto adds the element of power to his ability to hit the gaps as well, making him a threat in many different ways.
2013 Projected Stats: .319/.425/.550, 27 HR, 120 RBI, .975 OPS
2012 Stats: .287/.360/.486, 8 HR, 27 RBI, .846 OPS
Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is set to resume baseball activities sometime this month.
After undergoing surgery to remove scar tissue from his left groin, Tulowitzki has finally progressed to the point where he can start getting ready for spring training. He's expected to be fully recovered at that point.
That's good news, considering he played in just 42 games last season.
2013 Projected Stats: .290/.370/.500, 27 HR, 95 RBI, .870 OPS
2012 Stats: .290/.361/.608, 37 HR, 86 RBI, .969 OPS
Miami Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton deserves a higher spot on this list.
Stanton has developed into one of the most feared sluggers in the National League. The problem is, he's going to have fewer options next season in terms of run production. With the mini-fire sale conducted by the Marlins, Stanton could be alone on an island next season.
Projected 2013 Stats: .285/.365/.600, 40 HR, 95 RBI, .965 OPS
2012 Stats: .286/.376/.498, 31 HR, 115 RBI, 17 SB, .875 OPS
It's safe to say that by collecting a Gold Glove Award, a Silver Slugger Award and an All-Star selection, third baseman Chase Headley took a major step forward in his career.
Projected 2013 Stats: .279/.390/.495, 28 HR, 105 RBI, 18 SB, .885 OPS
2012 Stats: .327/.400/.553, 31 HR, 96 RBI, 20 SB, .953 OPS
Each year, Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen continues to mature and develop into one of the elite players in the National League.
The 2012 season was no exception.
McCutchen led the NL in hits and captured his first-ever Gold Glove Award.
Now, he'll have hard-hitting catcher Russell Martin supporting him in the lineup as well.
Projected 2013 Stats: .315/.391/.545, 30 HR, 97 RBI, 23 SB, .936 OPS
2012 Stats: .318/.415/.611, 23 HR, 60 RBI, 1.026 OPS
Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz is looking forward to putting a difficult year behind him.
Ortiz missed most of the second half of the season with Achilles heel issues. In addition, he had to deal with issues concerning management, specifically former manager Bobby Valentine.
“Hopefully, we go back to a normal year and we don’t have that much controversy and stuff going on,” Ortiz said.
"Every year you learn in baseball that you deal with different people. Different things happen every year. It can’t be part of the good side always. … The good thing is that we are trying to fix things, and they tried to correct that by getting John [Farrell] as the new manager to make things better."
While Ortiz never mentioned Valentine, it's clear what he was referring to.
Ortiz also said his Achilles has still not fully recovered, but that he expects to be fully healthy by spring training.
Projected 2013 Stats: .295/.390/.575, 29 HR, 95 RBI, .965 OPS
2012 Stats: 21-8, 2.89 ERA, 2 CG, 207 K, 1.129 WHIP, 9.3 K/9, 6.7 H/9
Starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez made his transition to the National League look easy last season.
Finishing third in the Cy Young Award balloting, Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg the Washington Nationals a formidable one-two punch at the top of the rotation.
Coming from cavernous O.co Coliseum, Gonzalez had no problems adjusting to a somewhat smaller home field at Nationals Park. In fact, Gonzalez was 9-4 with a 2.38 ERA at home.
2013 Projected Stats: 17-9, 3.13 ERA, 2 CG, 200 K, 1.145 WHIP, 8.9 K/9, 7.0 H/9
2012 Stats: 20-5, 2.81 ERA, 3 CG, 142 K, 1.018 WHIP, 6.8 K/9, 7.0 H/9
Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Jered Weaver missed a couple of starts last season and suffered through a bout of shoulder tendinitis. Yet he still won 20 games for the first time in his career.
And he did it with a fastball that barely touches 90 mph.
Weaver's game is all about location and pitch selection. Yes, the fastball won't overpower anyone, but he's also armed with a terrific curveball and a devastating changeup. He uses his arsenal of pitches with great effectiveness and does it all with great command.
Weaver is a shining example of the fact that you don't have to overpower every hitter in order to dominate.
Projected 2013 Stats: 17-9, 2.95 ERA, 2 CG, 150 K, 1.045 WHIP, 6.4 K/9, 7.1 H/9
2012 Stats: .280/.384/.557, 42 HR, 110 RBI, .941 OPS
In 2012, Toronto Blue Jays designated hitter/first baseman Edwin Encarnacion enjoyed a breakout season, and he achieved it with minimal support.
With fellow slugger Jose Bautista sidelined for much of the second half, Encarnacion still put forth a career year. The Blue Jays rewarded his efforts with a three-year contract extension as well.
In 2013, Encarnacion should benefit from having a healthy Bautista back in the lineup, along with table-setters Jose Reyes and Emilio Bonifacio hitting in front of him.
Projected 2013 Stats: .275/.383/.565, 36 HR, 104 RBI, .948 OPS
2012 Stats: .321/.359/.561, 36 HR, 102 RBI, .921 OPS
Texas Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre will be entering his 16th season in the majors next year, and he'll be just 34 years old when the season starts.
He seems to be getting better with age.
Beltre provided outstanding production as well as stellar defense in 2012, winning his fourth overall Gold Glove Award.
With Mike Napoli and Michael Young now departed, Beltre will be relied upon to continue that solid production from the right side of the plate. Considering how his first two seasons in Texas have played out, he certainly appears to be up for the task once again.
Projected 2013 Stats: .310/.355/.550, 30 HR, 99 RBI, .905 OPS
2012 Stats: 20-5, 2.56 ERA, 2 CG, 205 K, 1.100 WHIP, 8.7 K/9, 7.4 H/9
After winning his first Cy Young Award, David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays sits on top of the heap as the most dominant southpaw in the American League.
With James Shields now with the Kansas City Royals, Price is the unquestioned ace of the Rays' staff and will be counted on to continue dominating and leading the rotation by example.
There's no reason to think he's not up for the task.
Projected 2013 Stats: 18-7, 2.65 ERA, 3 CG, 217 K, 1.125 WHIP, 8.8 K/9, 7.8 H/9
2012 Stats: .289/.369/.527, 17 HR, 55 RBI, .896 OPS
A torn hamstring kept Evan Longoria out of the Tampa Bay Rays lineup for over three months last season.
His stats projected over a full season could have meant a 40 HR/120 RBI line for the gifted third baseman.
Now armed with a contract extension that takes him through the rest of the decade, expect Longoria to continue raking at the plate and wreaking havoc against opposing pitchers.
Projected 2013 Stats: .285/.370/.565, 38 HR, 110 RBI, .935 OPS
2012 Stats: .336/.408/.549, 24 HR, 103 RBI, .957 OPS
After winning two World Series titles in his first three seasons, along with a Rookie of the Year Award and MVP Award, Buster Posey has already achieved what the vast majority of players in history have never accomplished.
After suffering a broken ankle in an ugly home-plate collision in 2011, Posey returned last season with a vengeance.
Coming up on his 26th birthday, it's hard to imagine him not continuing to excel.
Projected 2013 Stats: .315/.395/.540, 23 HR, 98 RBI, .935 OPS
2012 Stats: .313/.412/.528, 30 HR, 108 RBI, .940 OPS
Considering the success of teammates Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder actually flew under the radar for much of the season.
After signing a nine-year, $2104 million contract, Fielder put up impressive numbers in his first season in Motown. While the Tigers struggled at times with consistency throughout the season, it's hard to say that Fielder struggled much at all.
In addition, his durability was showcased once again, playing every single game for the third time in four seasons.
With the rise of Austin Jackson in the leadoff spot and the addition of Torii Hunter, there's no reason to think that Fielder can't at least replicate last season's success.
Projected 2013 Stats: .305/.405/.540, 34 HR, 112 RBI, .945 OPS
2012 Stats: 17-6, 3.05 ERA, 2 CG, 216 K, 1.124 WHIP, 9.0 K/9, 7.9 H/9
Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cole Hamels has a new six-year, $144 million contract extension tucked away. With the uncertainty of his future now behind him, it's scary to think what he can do without that distraction.
Even with the distractions, Hamels put together a pretty terrific season in 2012.
Hamels will be 29 years old on Dec. 27, so it's safe to say he'll continue to be one of the most dominant left-handers in the game today.
Projected 2013 Stats: 18-8, 2.95 ERA, 3 CG, 212 K, 1.090 WHIP, 9.1 K/9, 7.6 H/9
2012 Stats: .241/.358/.527, 27 HR, 65 RBI, .886 OPS
Much like Matt Kemp of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Jose Bautista suffered through an injury-plagued 2012 season.
Bautista hurt his left wrist swinging the bat in a game against the New York Yankees on July 16. After spending five weeks on the disabled list, Bautista came back and reaggravated the injury in his second game off the DL, ending his season for good.
He underwent successful surgery to repair the tendon sheath in his left wrist and is expected to be fully recovered by spring training.
With the emergence of Edwin Encarnacion and the additions of Jose Reyes and Emilio Bonifacio at the top of the lineup, a healthy Bautista could put up monster numbers in 2013.
Projected 2013 Stats: .280/.415/.595, 43 HR, 125 RBI, 1.010 OPS
2012 Stats: .303/.367/.538, 23 HR, 69 RBI, 9 SB, .906 OPS
After four seasons in which he appeared in no less than 155 games, Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp suffered through hamstring injuries that led to two stints on the disabled list.
A crash with the center field wall at Coors Field in late August added more misery to Kemp's season as well.
Kemp should be 100 percent healthy when spring training arrives. He'll also have protection around him in the lineup, so expect more of a return to 2011 numbers.
Projected 2013 Stats: .320/.395/.585, 37 HR, 109 RBI, 28 SB, .980 OPS
2012 Stats: .285/.343/.516, 30 HR, 105 RBI, .859 OPS
In his first season with the Los Angeles Angels, Albert Pujols took a bit of time to get his season started. While he rebounded to hit at least 30 home runs with 100 RBI for the 11th time in 12 seasons, his slash line was a career low, as was his OPS.
Pujols had minor surgery to clean out his right knee on Oct. 9 and will be 100 percent by the time spring training stars. He tweaked the knee while sliding in a game in late August.
If Pujols can avoid the slow start that plagued him last season, there's no reason to think he can't continue being one of the dominant right-handed hitters in the game.
Projected 2013 Stats: .307/.364/.560, 36 HR, 116 RBI, .924 OPS
2012 Stats: 16-5, 2.79 ERA, , 2 CG, 193 K, 1.040 WHIP, 7.3 H/9
In 2012, San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Matt Cain clearly established himself as the ace of the staff. The Giants certainly think he's worthy of the title, inking him to a five-year, $112.5 million extension.
Cain's perfect game was just one example of how dominant he can be, and he showed once again his toughness when it counts in the postseason as well.
Projected 2013 Stats: 19-7, 2.92 ERA, 3 CG, 187 K, 1.075 WHIP, 7.4 H/9
2012 Stats: 15-6, 3.16 ERA, 197 K, 1.155 WHIP, 11.1 K/9, 7.7 H/9
It's probably a safe bet that Washington Nationals starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg is already itching to get back out on the mound.
After sitting out the final weeks of the regular season and the entire postseason due to a team-imposed innings limit, Strasburg will be raring to go and ready to reassert his dominance.
A full season of Strasburg, along with Gio Gonzalez, at the top of the Nationals rotation is a scary proposition for any opposing team.
Projected 2013 Stats: 19-9, 3.05 ERA, 227 K, 1.175 WHIP, 10.8 K/9, 7.6 H/9
2012 Stats: .285/.354/.577, 43 HR, 128 RBI, .930 OPS
Free-agent outfielder Josh Hamilton took two months off and still put up incredible power numbers.
Hamilton went through a slump in June and July that kept him from putting up stats that would have been worthy of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Still, his bat is feared regardless.
It's still up in the air as to where Hamilton will be playing next season, but it's a safe bet that he will continue to rake as long as his health holds out.
Projected 2013 Stats: .300/.392/.585, 38 HR, 115 RBI, .977 OPS
2012 Stats: .313/.379/.550, 33 HR, 94 RBI, .929 OPS
New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano has become a leader and an anchor in the lineup. In 2012, Cano collected over 40 doubles for the sixth time in seven seasons, hit a career-high 34 home runs and his .929 OPS was a career best as well.
At some point, the Yankees will extend Cano and keep him in pinstripes for the rest of his career. The rest of the league will have to watch and continue to contain him as best as possible.
Cano has proven that's not easy to do.
Projected 2013 Stats: .310/.369/.540, 30 HR, 105 RBI, .909 OPS
2012 Stats: 14-9, 2.53 ERA, 2 CG, 229 K, 1.023 WHIP, 6.7 H/9
If a knuckleball pitcher hadn't emerged with an incredible season, Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw would have captured back-to-back Cy Young awards.
Even in the final weeks of the season when it was revealed that Kershaw had hip issues, he continued to dominate, closing out the season with two stellar eight-inning performances.
Now, with an offense behind him that could offer more support, Kershaw should continue to show why he's the most dominant southpaw in the game today.
Projected 2013 Stats: 19-7, 2.65 ERA, 3 CG, 237 K, 1.050 WHIP, 7.0 H/9
2012 Stats: 17-8, 2.64 ERA, 6 CG, 239 K, 1.057 WHIP, 7.3 H/9
Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander had such a dominant season in 2011 that it would have been near impossible to top the following year.
He certainly did his best.
Verlander nearly pulled off back-to-back Cy Young Award seasons, losing out to David Price in one of the closest votes in history.
Verlander shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon and could easily continue to dominate for years to come.
Projected 2013 Stats: 19-7, 2.72 ERA, 5 CG, 225 K, 1.10 WHIP, 7.6 H/9
2012 Stats: .319/.391/.595, 41 HR, 112 RBI, 30 SB, .987 OPS
It would've been easy to assume that Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun would have a down year in 2012.
Braun captured the MVP Award in 2011 and then had to spend the entire winter defending himself against a positive test for PED use.
After winning the appeal in February, Braun then set out to show that his performance on the field in 2011 was not chemically enhanced.
Braun hit a career-high 41 home runs to lead the league, his 108 runs scored was tops in the NL and his .987 OPS and 356 total bases were league-leaders as well. In many respects, Braun's 2012 season was better than his MVP performance the prior year.
Braun continues to display the qualities that led the Brewers to essentially give him a lifetime contract—in baseball terms, that is—and continues to prove that he is among the most feared hitters in all of baseball.
Projected 2013 Stats: .328/.404/.574, 37 HR, 104 RBI, 26 SB, .978 OPS
2012 Stats: .326/.399/.564, 30 HR, 83 RBI, 49 SB, .963 OPS
Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout put together a rookie season for the ages.
If not for the Triple Crown effort of Miguel Cabrera, Trout would top this list.
Calling Trout a five-tool player doesn't really do him justice. His performance last season in every facet of the game was nothing short of incredible.
Robbing home runs, scoring from first base with blazing speed, a 91 percent success rate in stolen bases and 400-foot home runs to lead off a game are just some of the highlights to his 2012 season.
And he's not even 22 years of age.
Projected 2013 Stats: .325/.410/.595, 35 HR, 103 RBI, 62 SB, 1.005 OPS
2012 Stats: .330/.393/.606, 44 HR, 139 RBI, .999 OPS
After becoming the first player to win the Triple Crown in 45 years and capturing the American League Most Valuable Player Award, Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera may have punched his ticket for the baseball Hall of Fame.
Cabrera already had a batting title, a home run title and an RBI title in separate seasons. Capturing them all in one season is even more rare than pitching a perfect game.
Still on the plus side of 30, Cabrera continues to show that not only is he one of the most feared hitters in the game today, but he's making a strong case for his elite place in baseball history as well.
Projected 2013 Stats: .322/.395/.595, 38 HR, 126 RBI, .990 OPS