The New York Yankees are less than a month away from seeing their pitchers and catchers reporting to Steinbrenner Field. On February 12th, the Yankees will officially begin their quest for World Series title No. 28.
Coming off a terrible defeat to the Detroit Tigers during last season's playoffs, the Yankees enter 2013 with plenty of strengths and weaknesses.
Yankee universe will also have a handful of important storylines to follow along the way.
Here's what every fan needs to know about the Yankees heading into 2013.
Like most football fans do, baseball fans should also look at their team's schedule to get an idea of how the season could shape up.
Even though every game matters, the first and last months of the season always draw the most attention.
For the Yankees, April shapes up to be a wild ride of a first month. The Yanks start the season at home with three games against arch-rivals Boston.
The Yanks follow that series with a trip to the team that ended their season last year in Detroit.
Add in 13 games against the rest of their division, including seven with the revamped Toronto Blue Jays, and a quick start could be crucial.
The New York Yankee outfield is shaping out to be one of the fastest in MLB.
In recent years, the Yankees have had sluggers like Hideki Matsui, Raul Ibanez and Nick Swisher roaming their corner outfield positions.
Entering 2013, a healthy outfield will consist of Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson and Ichiro Suzuki.
Last season, according to FanGraphs.com, Ichiro finished sixth among all outfielders in UZR.
In 2011, Gardner topped all outfielders in UZR at 25.8, well ahead of any other player.
Granderson is the weakest link of the three, but with the quality around him, he will be asked to do a lot less.
That outfield speed should help a pitcher like Phil Hughes, who has a tendency to give up a lot of fly balls.
As much ground as the outfield will be able to cover next season, the left side of the Yankee infield will be able to cover much less.
Derek Jeter and Kevin Youkilis rank as two of the worst players in terms of range at their respective positions.
According to FanGraphs.com, among all third basemen with at least 850 innings played, Youkilis ranked second-worst in RngR. He was only able to beat AL MVP Miguel Cabrera.
Youkilis can get a bye if he starts to rake like Miggy does.
Jeter finished 2012 dead-last among all qualifying shortstops in RngR. In fact, Jeter ranks as one of the worst defensive shortstops in baseball over the past several seasons.
Throw in the fact that Jeter is coming off ankle surgery, and those numbers could possibly get worse.
That is a scary thought for Yankee pitching, especially for a guy like Andy Pettitte, who thrives on getting ground balls.
Yankees fans could see a special season from Ichiro Suzuki.
Acquiring Ichiro before last season's deadline was a major boost to the Yankee lineup.
In 67 games, Ichiro batted .322 and stole 14 bases. He was even able to use the short porch in right to his advantage, smacking five home runs in only 240 plate appearances.
It would be amazing if Ichiro is able to maintain that pace over the course of the entire season with the Yankees. At his advanced age, there are plenty of reasons to believe he won't.
However, Ichiro has recently told CBSNewYork that "signing with the Yankees has given me a new sense of determination."
A re-energized Ichiro could wreak havoc against opponents at the top of the Yankee lineup.
The Yankees enter 2013 knowing that their success depends on their pitching staff.
As they clearly saw this past postseason, hitting isn't always reliable, so having guys in their rotation to keep them in every game will be key.
The Yanks feature a very strong top three in CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, and Andy Pettitte. The three veterans will anchor the staff; they know what it takes to succeed in the Bronx.
The back end of the rotation is better than most teams. Phil Hughes will look to build off of last season, Ivan Nova will try and replicate his early-season success, and David Phelps provides excellent depth and a solid option.
A key to that bullpen could be whether Joba Chamberlain can ever regain the dominating stuff he once had.
Outside of adding Ichiro, the Yankees were pretty quiet around the trade deadline last season.
Expect the same to happen this year for two reasons:
The first, of course, is that the Yankees plan to keep their 2014 payroll below $189 million. In order to do so, they won't be making any big splashes on high-salaried players.
The second reason is that they could be receiving a boost from a pair of their own players around that time.
Alex Rodriguez is having surgery on his injured hip today. The surgeon operating on A-Rod is hopeful he will be able to return sometime around the All-Star game or shortly after. Despite his struggles, adding his bat to the lineup will help.
Then there is Michael Pineda. He was lost of all of last season. He has had several setbacks in his rehab to get back. He is not expected to make a major impact on the 2013 Yankees.
However, it is possible to see him pitch in the second half of the season. Even if it is in a minimal role out of the bullpen, his power arm could be a boost during the hot summer months of the season.
The Yankees have many key players on either one-year deals or reaching the end of their long-term contracts.
The three biggest names on that list are Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson and Phil Hughes. All three are vastly important to the success of the Yankees. Odds are only one of them will return at the end of the season.
The trouble with all three being free agents is that their success could be their undoing in New York.
Cano will be the most likely to return to the Bronx, as he very well might be the Yankees' best player.
Granderson seems like the most likely to depart. But, if he returns to his 2011 form, where he smacked over 40 home runs and finished with over 100 RBI and runs scored, he would be a tough guy to let walk. You can't just find guys who can hit over 120 home runs in three seasons on the market these days.
As for Hughes, he is their homegrown darling who has never quite reached the potential most advanced scouts saw in him. He is coming off his best season, and if he improves he will receive a lucrative contract in free agency.
Odds say that this is more than likely the last time Yankees fans will see Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera don the pinstripes.
Andy Pettitte has pitched in more big playoffs games than any Yankee pitcher ever. His heart has always been in New York. He has left twice and always finds his way back home. He will be missed once he officially hangs them up.
Mariano Rivera is not only the greatest closer the game has ever seen, he very well may be the most dominating pitcher ever, too.
His numbers speak for themselves, and there will be no question about his future induction into the Hall of Fame. Yankees fans have been spoiled seeing him enter games in the ninth, and when he leaves it will take a long time to fill that void.
Enjoy this season and appreciate everything these two have done throughout their careers.