There's plenty in store this year for baseball fans as the 2013 MLB season nears. There'll be many pleasant surprises, and it's always exciting to see which players break out and have career years.
As history books await what should be yet another thrilling baseball season, I present my 10 bold predictions for 2013.
The AL East has been considered baseball's best division, and now it makes a great case for being the toughest division in all of sports.
The Toronto Blue Jays went on a shopping spree this offseason, acquiring numerous big names such as Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera, R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson. With the Jays' new-look club, the AL East could potentially have five contenders this season.
The division had three teams (the New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays) with 90-plus wins in 2012.
If the Boston Red Sox stay healthy and Toronto plays even close to its potential, they could all very possibly be in the mix in mid-September.
As talented as the Tampa Bay Rays roster is entering the season, they're once again the underdog to win the division.
On paper, they may not appear to be the best, but there are a few reasons why I believe they'll be able to tally between 95 and 100 wins in 2013.
Outstanding pitching will lead the Rays to success again this year. Not only is their starting rotation the deepest and arguably the best in the league, but they also have an excellent bullpen.
Despite a boatload of injuries, including franchise cornerstone Evan Longoria missing over half of the season, the Rays still managed to win 90 games in 2012 with their unique way of doing things under skipper Joe Maddon.
The 2013 Rays shouldn't be worse than the 2012 Rays, with better offensive and defensive depth. If they can stay relatively healthy, I would be surprised to see them win fewer than 90 games this year.
The Dodgers may be the talk of the West right now, but let's not forget who the defending World Series champions are.
The Giants' roster is nearly the same as it was during their postseason run last October, so they should be the favorite to win the division coming into the season.
They have one of the best starting rotations in the game and have been a "find a way to win"-type of club. The two World Series rings won in the past three seasons speak for themselves.
Phenom slugger Giancarlo Stanton is really the only thing the Miami Marlins have going for them at the moment. The new-look Marlins dumped all but one of their big-name players this offseason, retaining just the 23-year-old outfielder.
Ever since his minor league days, analysts have projected this guy to win an MLB home run title one day. His huge 6'5", 245-pound frame provides him with monster power, which he has displayed in an exciting way during his first three seasons.
Stanton blasted 37 long balls in 123 games last year, which was seven short of the MLB high. What's incredible is that Stanton is only getting better, as he continues to improve overall as a player as well as a power hitter.
He's also never played more than 150 games in a season, so we can expect him to hit more homers if he can stay completely healthy throughout the season.
Many thought Mike Moustakas would break out in 2012, but he failed to reach expectations with the bat, hitting just .242/.296/.412 with 20 home runs and 73 RBI with Kansas City. At the ripe age of 24, the future is still very bright for Moustakas, who looks primed for a huge 2013 season.
He's already proved he can be one of the best defensive third basemen in all of baseball; now all he has to do is hit like the Royals know he can. The 20-plus-homer power is already there; it's only getting on base that holds him back from an All-Star-caliber season.
Moustakas may not have hit so well last season, but he is off to a red-hot start in spring training. He's batting .579 with six RBI and four extra-base hits in 19 at-bats.
He's definitely an intriguing player to keep an eye on.
Jacoby Ellsbury has been the subject of numerous trade rumors throughout the offseason, and they're bound to heat up this summer.
Ellsbury's contract expires at the end of the 2013 season, so the Red Sox will definitely look into trading him if they're not in contention by July.
Boston lacks both starting pitching talent and depth, and trading away its star center fielder could be the best way to address its weaknesses in the near future.
There's a lot to like about Anthony Rizzo, who could be on the verge of a big year in 2013.
He enjoyed a solid rookie year in 2012, hitting .285/.342/.463 with 15 homers and 48 RBI in just 87 games.
Barring injuries, he'll play his first full season this year. If he continues where he left off last season, he'll put up All-Star numbers.
Chicago Cubs fans should be very excited about their new starting first baseman, who has a high ceiling of potential at the young age of 23.
Top pitching prospect Dylan Bundy could be an X-factor for the Orioles in 2013.
Bundy will likely start the season in Double-A and probably won't join the O's until late in the year. He may not play many games, but his presence will be much needed down the stretch as his team battles in what will be a very tight AL pennant race.
Baltimore's rotation could use all the help it can get, as it's clearly not one of the better ones in the league.
Matt Cain has been simply tremendous in his past six seasons with San Francisco, compiling 200-plus innings each year while putting up All-Star numbers and contributing heavily to both of the Giants' world championships.
Cain has been one of baseball's most underrated stars in recent years (mainly due to the fact he's on the same team as Tim Lincecum), and I believe 2013 will finally be the year that he gets the hardware he deserves.
The 28-year-old is in the prime of his career, and he seems to be only getting better. He went 16-5 last year with a 2.79 ERA in 219.1 innings pitched.
Even with the likes of Clayton Kershaw and Johnny Cueto up against him, Cain has what it takes to win the Cy Young.
The Cincinnati Reds were very successful in 2012, winning 97 games and falling just short of beating the Giants in the NLDS, and they should only improve in 2013.
The Reds were nearly good enough to win the pennant last year, and with a roster that's a bit better, they could very possibly get it done this time.
Their starting rotation should only get better, as they keep all the starters from last year and add flame-thrower Aroldis Chapman to the mix.
Not much is changed with the lineup, but the main difference is a positive one for the Reds: Shin-Soo Choo replacing the weaker-hitting Drew Stubbs. Also, if Joey Votto can stay healthy and play a full season this year, that would obviously be a big plus.
The Reds are also a very well-rounded club with no weaknesses that stand out. Last season, Cincinnati ranked in the top 10 in runs scored, ERA and UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating).