Which Player Can Solve Each MLB Team's Biggest Weakness Heading into 2013?

Mark MillerCorrespondent IFebruary 8, 2013

Which Player Can Solve Each MLB Team's Biggest Weakness Heading into 2013?

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    Whether we're talking about players who have been with their team for years, recent offseason signings and trade acquisitions or even prospects looking to make big impacts, every team will have players in position to make up for weaknesses it has had in the past.

    We saw plenty of those types of moves take place, as pitchers signed some of the richest contracts we've ever seen and blockbuster trades reshaped the look of multiple rosters.

    Time is running out for outside maneuvering as spring training looms less than a week away but with plenty of shuffling to take place once teams head to camp, here are some names who will be difference-makers in 2013.

Arizona Diamondbacks: Cody Ross

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    An important part of past championship teams, Cody Ross established himself as a moderately viable option for the Boston Red Sox in 2012.

    He struggled a bit throughout the season, though he did manage to go deep 22 times and post an on-base percentage around .330.

    If he continues to produce with the Diamondbacks, his efforts will go a long way toward filling the void left from Justin Upton's departure.

Atlanta Braves: The Uptons

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    With the prospect of Michael Bourn leaving Atlanta for a new organization, you can't blame the Braves for making a big splash in the free-agent market by signing B.J. Upton.

    Signing Upton to a five-year, $75 million contract ensures the Braves will have center field covered for the next few years, but it's hard to ignore the fact that he's batted under .250 in each of the past four seasons and is coming off a career-low .298 on-base percentage.

    He is still a power-hitting threat, however, and with great speed on the base paths, he should be able to do some good things in a Braves uniform together with brother Justin.

Baltimore Orioles: Manny Machado

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    The Baltimore Orioles surpassed the expectations of most analysts in the baseball world last season when they rose from the depths of the AL East to make a postseason appearance.

    They'll look to continue their ascent this season but with the improvement in the division, it certainly won't be an easy task.

    Manny Machado's much-anticipated debut in 2012 led to seven home runs and 26 RBI in just over 50 games with the team but as he stands to see far more time in 2013, he'll no doubt play an even more crucial role for the O's chances.

Boston Red Sox: Ryan Dempster

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    Since removing Josh Beckett from the starting rotation last offseason, the Boston Red Sox reloaded with a veteran arm, signing Ryan Dempster to a two-year contract.

    Dempster won 17 games in 2008 and posted a sub-3.00 ERA, though he's won fewer games and seen his ERA creep higher each season since.

    He'll turn 36 just a month into the season but has shown more control over his pitches of late and should help offset the losses the rotation has seen in the past six months.

Chicago Cubs: Edwin Jackson

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    There are certainly concerns that can arise when significant dollars are handed out on a rebuilding team.

    In the case of Edwin Jackson, however, the pitcher could end up a very valuable part of the Cubs as they look to get back to where they were.

    He's got a proven track record in the NL Central, has remained healthy throughout his career and is seeing improved control on the mound, all things that point to the potential for a solid tenure at Wrigley Field.

Chicago White Sox: Tyler Flowers

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    After narrowly missing out on a postseason berth last season, the Chicago White Sox may have their work cut out for them but can take advantage of a subpar AL Central.

    They'll certainly miss the production that A.J. Pierzynski brought to the lineup while in Chicago but seem to have a backstop waiting in Tyler Flowers.

    Flowers struggled when up with the big club over the past few years but has notched a .275 average in the minor leagues while going deep at least 15 times in each of his last four seasons in the organization.

Cincinnati Reds: Todd Frazier

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    The Cincinnati Reds are replacing a veteran third baseman this season as Todd Frazier stands to take over the position that Scott Rolen held for so long.

    Frazier doesn't have much in the way of major league experience, but he is a career .280 hitter in the minor leagues with 300 RBI in just over 500 games and a strong .353 on-base percentage.

    The Reds have enough power in the lineup to ensure that Frazier should see his share of pitches, and if the team hopes to make it past the division series this fall, his offense will be a welcome addition.

Cleveland Indians: Nick Swisher

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    Having spent the past four seasons in pinstripes, Nick Swisher has been one of the most animated players the Yankees have seen come through the clubhouse in recent years.

    For every bit of animation he may bring to the table, he has also been very consistent, batting .268 over the past four seasons while posting an on-base percentage of nearly .370.

    The Indians may be in a bit of a rebuilding mode but bringing in a veteran player like Swisher, with his clubhouse-leading ability, could prove to be a good move over the next few seasons.

Colorado Rockies: Michael Cuddyer

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    After giving Michael Cuddyer a big payday last offseason, the Colorado Rockies expected that he might be the answer to the team's problems and lead them back to the postseason.

    The team still struggled, however, and if the Rockies expect to make a run at things in 2013, they'll need Cuddyer to be healthy all season long and produce like he did during his best days in Minnesota.

Detroit Tigers: Torii Hunter

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    Heading back to the division where he got his start, Hunter's strong defense will be a big plus in the spacious confines of Comerica Park, and if he can put up another offensive effort similar to his 2012 output, the team will be in a good position to make a run in the postseason once again.

    The Tigers ran into trouble in the AL Central last season and spent much of the season looking up at the White Sox in the standings, though the addition of Hunter as well as getting Victor Martinez back into the swing of things should give the team a new look.

Houston Astros: Carlos Pena

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    Carlos Pena spent the 2012 season with the Tampa Bay Rays, his second stint on a team with which he has recorded some of the best numbers of his career.

    He batted under .200 last season but managed to go deep 19 times and drive in 61 runs for a Rays team that was in the thick of things in the AL East once again.

    Pena will be a crucial part of one of the lowest payrolls the team has seen in quite some time, so anything he can do to give fans in Houston a reason to show up at the ballpark will be welcomed with open arms.

Kansas City Royals: James Shields

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    In a bold move that surprised many in the baseball world, the Kansas City Royals traded away some top prospects, including Wil Myers, in an effort to shore up their starting rotation.

    Adding James Shields as the team's ace will no doubt help their chances to contend in an AL Central that has some very beatable teams.

Los Angeles Angels: Josh Hamilton

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    With an astounding offensive outburst last summer, Josh Hamilton gave the entire league notice of what he's still capable of.

    He slowed a bit toward the middle of the season but rebounded down the stretch and finished with 43 home runs and 128 RBI.

    Hamilton initially set his expected value at seven years, $175 million but ultimately settled for five years and $123 million with the Los Angeles Angels.

    Offense definitely wasn't a "weakness" for the Halos last season but with Torii Hunter gone, L.A. won't miss a beat now that Hamilton is in the lineup.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Zack Greinke

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    When you're talking about a team that's got Clayton Kershaw heading up a solid starting rotation, adding Zack Greinke won't necessarily address a weakness on the roster.

    What it does do is give the Dodgers' starting rotation a great amount of depth—the team will have one of the top rotations in baseball with Josh Beckett and Hyun-Jin Ryu also on board.

    There's no shortage of offense in the NL West, so the new-look Dodgers will need everything they can get out of their starters to put the bullpen in position to close out games.

Miami Marlins: Placido Polanco

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    The Miami Marlins don't have much to look forward to this season as the ownership has taken the initiative to dismantle the foundation they put together just a year ago.

    They do have a star in Giancarlo Stanton, though his status with the team for the long-term also remains in question.

    With few places to look for offense after seeing Hanley Ramirez and Jose Reyes sent out of town, Placido Polanco could be a bright spot with a career .299 average and better than 60 RBI average per season.

Milwaukee Brewers: Mat Gamel

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    As the Milwaukee Brewers look to get back into the postseason picture in 2013, the lineup will obviously rely on another MVP-caliber effort from Ryan Braun all season long.

    With Prince Fielder now a year removed from Miller Park and Corey Hart also set to miss some time early on, the impact that Mat Gamel makes in the lineup will be crucial.

    He struggled somewhat in the 21 games that he played with Milwaukee last season but with a .310 average and 28 home runs during his last full season in the minors, the organization has high expectations for what he can add to the lineup as he battles back from a torn ACL.

Minnesota Twins: Kyle Gibson

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    The Minnesota Twins' dismal 2011 and 2012 seasons can be attributed to a number of factors, none bigger than the lack of viable starting pitching at their disposal.

    Kyle Gibson has been one of the team's top prospects since he was drafted and was set to be on the Opening Day roster in 2012 until Tommy John surgery in 2011 derailed those plans.

    The team has made some big changes in its rotation for 2013 and with Gibson healthy and determined to crack the major league roster, he should be giving it everything he has in spring training.

New York Mets: Johan Santana

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    With one of the best individual stories in baseball last season, the New York Mets were helped throughout the 2012 season with R.A. Dickey's improbable Cy Young run.

    Dickey wasn't part of the team's long-term plans, however, as he was traded to Toronto after the team couldn't agree on a contract.

    With Dickey gone, the Mets look to get a strong effort from Johan Santana. Though Santana hasn't played a full season since 2008, we all know what he's capable of when he's at his best.

New York Yankees: Kevin Youkilis

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    After spending the majority of his major league career playing for the Boston Red Sox, Kevin Youkilis' tenure in Fenway ended last season when he was shipped off to Chicago where he became a welcome addition to the White Sox.

    Youkilis made another change this winter when he signed on to play third base for the New York Yankees, a team that he spent years playing against in highly contested games.

    With Alex Rodriguez sidelined for an extended duration heading into 2013, the signing makes plenty of sense and should pay dividends as the season moves along.

Oakland Athletics: Jed Lowrie

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    The Oakland Athletics were another big surprise in 2012, rebounding from unloading some top talent during the prior offseason to make a return to postseason action.

    They had a solid lineup as it stood this offseason but with the middle infield posing the biggest question mark, the front office took the initiative to make a move in trading for Jed Lowrie.

    Lowrie has a career .250 batting average and with a 16 home run outburst last season, the A's are hoping he can hit for some more power in 2013.

Philadelphia Phillies: Ben Revere

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    Free agent names like B.J. Upton and Michael Bourn were likely candidates to fit in as the center fielder of the future for the Philadelphia Phillies, but in the end the team opted to pull off a trade to get their guy.

    Coming over from Minnesota in exchange for Trevor May and Vance Worley, Ben Revere will be under team control through 2017. and possesses a great deal of speed on the base paths.

    While he possesses a great deal of speed on the base paths, there isn't any pop in his bat (0 home runs in 989 at-bats) and his arm strength and accuracy are sub-par. Still, Revere's full-steam-ahead play should give the Phillies lineup a spark.

Pitsburgh Pirates: Russell Martin

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    The Pittsburgh Pirates are slowly working their way up from the basement of the NL Central and with some solid play from role players, they could very well be in wild-card contention in 2013.

    From a career standpoint, Martin's track record is more polished than his recent efforts, with three 18-plus home run seasons and a career batting average more than 20 points higher than what he hit while in New York.

    He's more stout defensively as well, with a career .991 fielding percentage while throwing out 30 percent of stolen-base attempts.

San Diego Padres: Casey Kelly

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    In desperate need of a top-flight starter to add to their rotation in 2013, the San Diego Padres have a number of strong pitching prospects that could fit the bill in due time.

    Casey Kelly is no exception as the young righty has a number of strong pitches that he can command. Though he struggled to a 2-3 record after making his major league debut last August, he should join the Padres rotation at some point in 2013 if he can post strong enough numbers.

    It likely won't be a quick ascent but as the Padres continue to look for a front-end starter, they may have one in the making with Kelly.

San Francisco Giants: Marco Scutaro

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    Of all the acquisitions that took place during this past summer, the San Francisco Giants' trade to bring in Marco Scutaro was arguably the biggest.

    After coming over from Colorado, Scutaro batted .362, driving in 44 runs in 61 games.

    Scutaro's performance in the postseason propelled the Giants to their second World Series title in three years; he batted .500 during the NLCS, good enough to earn him series MVP honors.

    He'll be back in the saddle with the Giants in 2013, and while he may not be able to replicate the numbers he put up last fall, getting within reach of them will help the Giants in their effort to defend the World Series title.

Seattle Mariners: Kendrys Morales

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    The Seattle Mariners' biggest move of the offseason came just this week as they agreed to terms with Felix Hernandez that will make him the highest paid pitcher in baseball history.

    Along with King Felix, the Mariners have some great pitching talent in the organization and should be strong for years to come in the rotation.

    Their offense has been suspect at times, however, so the addition of Kendrys Morales should help to get Seattle going in the right direction as it looks to put run support behind its ace.

St. Louis Cardinals: Adam Wainwright

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    After missing the entire 2011 season, Adam Wainwright showed some signs of struggles in 2012 but still managed to win 14 games while posting a sub-4.00 ERA.

    Leading into 2013, he'll hope to build off his strong finish and should have a solid spring training that Cardinals fans hope will lead to a big season.

    With Kyle Lohse out of the picture in St. Louis and Chris Carpenter now lost for the season, Wainwright's contributions have become all that much more important.

Tampa Bay Rays: Wil Myers

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    The future of the Kansas City Royals was waiting in the wings as Wil Myers was working his way through the minor league ranks as one of the top prospects in all of baseball.

    His plans changed this offseason when the Royals sent him to Tampa Bay in exchange for ace James Shields, a move that will help offset the void created in the outfield when B.J. Upton signed with Atlanta.

    Myers no doubt wants to see major league action soon, and a strong performance in spring training could go a long way towards making his dream a reality.

Texas Rangers: Lance Berkman

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    The Texas Rangers offense took a big hit this offseason when outfielder Josh Hamilton signed a lucrative contract with division rival Los Angeles.

    In response, the Rangers brought Lance Berkman back to the Lone Star state, where the slugger spent a great deal of his career in Houston.

    Berkman may be in the twilight of his career, but he has a great deal of talent and should be looking to prove he's still got something left in the tank this season.

Toronto Blue Jays: Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, R.A. Dickey

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    Just a year ago, the Toronto Blue Jays were struggling to stay afloat in the AL East, due mostly to a starting rotation that simply didn't stack up.

    With enough offensive weapons to get the job done, the front office embarked on a huge rotation makeover this offseason, adding Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle from the Marlins and trading for reigning NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey.

    We're seeing the balance of power shift in the AL East. While there may be an adjustment period while this new-look rotation gets acclimated, this trio will definitely be a force in 2013.

Washington Nationals: Denard Span

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    Denard Span was a bright spot for the Minnesota Twins in 2012, though his name still came up in trade rumors during the season, much like in 2011 when the Nationals discussed a potential deal.

    They finally got the deal done this offseason when Span was sent to Washington in exchange for pitching prospect Alex Meyer.

    Span will join a strong outfield in 2013 and has all the tools necessary to break out on a bigger stage in helping the Nationals to a deeper postseason run this time around.