Spring Training is just around the corner. Each team will be wiping the slate clean and getting a fresh start. Many players are anxious to get started. Some are more anxious than others.
For some players, the stakes going into spring training are very high. Many of them may be coming off an injury, a bad 2010 season or it could be a rookie trying to make the team.
Careers are on the line. This is make or break time.
The following is a list of individual players, one from each team, who have the most to gain or lose heading into the 2011 season.
The Baltimore Orioles hope their offense is going to get the injection of life that it needs from Vladamir Guerrero. The O's signed him on February 4, 2011 to an $8 million, one-year deal.
The right-handed outfielder and power hitter will turn 36 years old this month. With the Rangers in 2010, he batted .300 with 29 homers and 115 RBI.
Based on his career 436 home runs plus his performance last year, the O's are expecting a lot from Guerrero. If he can stay healthy and put up similar numbers, Guerrero may buy himself a few more good years in baseball.
But if age catches up to him, 2011 may signal the end of an amazing career.
Daisuke Matsuzaka came to the Red Sox in 2007 as a Japanese superstar pitcher with big potential. Unfortunately, Matsuzaka has not lived up to the hype.
Before both the 2010 and 2009 season, Matsuzaka's training and conditioning came under fire. In 2009, the Sox ordered him to Fort Myers midseason for what basically amounted to a second spring training.
Matsuzaka is only 30 years old, so he is not a lost cause just yet. But if he cannot show improvement over 2010's 9-6 record with a 4.69 ERA, the Sox have options.
Tim Wakefield is back and could fill the spot in the rotation. Also, Felix Doubront is waiting for his shot as well. If Matsuzaka does not come out firing in spring training, he may find himself out of a job.
With Andy Pettitte announcing his retirement, the New York Yankees now have a gaping hole to fill in their starting rotation. Twenty-four-year-old Ivan Nova may have the inside track for that spot.
Nova pitched in 10 games for the Yankees in 2010, ending up with a 4.50 ERA, but he showed potential. The Yankees seem to like this kid, but his inexperience and trouble getting though lineups once they have seen him are issues.
However, it appears that the hole in the rotation is Nova's to win. If he can withstand the pressure during spring training, Nova has a shot. This is a huge opportunity for the young pitcher. Nova has a lot riding on this spring training.
As the USA Today Minor League Player of the Year in 2010, pitcher Jeremy Hellickson is expected to do great things. The Rays anticipate that Hellickson will make the team out of spring training and fill the hole left by Matt Garza, who was traded to the Cubs.
In 2010, Hellickson went 4-0 with a 3.27 ERA after being called up in August. But this rookie needs to prove himself in spring training to win the job.
Hellickson has the potential to become a No. 1 or No. 2 starter down the road. To get his career off on the right foot, Hellickson needs to shine this spring.
Going into spring training, Travis Snider will be in a battle with himself for the right field starting position. Coming off two straight seasons where he was plagued by injuries, Snider needs to prove he can be an everyday player and stay healthy.
Snider's biggest competition in the outfield is gone. Fred Lewis went to the Reds, and Vernon Wells was traded to the Angels. But that does not mean the Jays are going to settle on Snider if he does not perform.
As an average corner outfielder, Snider is going to need to make a statement with his bat. In 82 games last year, Snider hit 14 home runs and drove in 32. If he can hit at a similar pace this spring with some improvement, the job should be his.
In December, the White Sox signed Adam Dunn to a four-year, $56 million contract. They are banking on Dunn to bring serious power to their lineup.
Dunn has hit at least 38 home runs in seven consecutive seasons and has also missed only 26 games since 2003. The Sox plan on using Dunn as their DH as Paul Konerko has been resigned and will stay at first base.
With Dunn's huge paycheck, there will be a lot of pressure on him to perform. In a tight division, if Dunn struggles early to find his rhythm, the Sox will be in an awkward position.
When the Indians began to rebuild in 2008, Matt LaPorta was to be one of the big pieces to the puzzle. But since that time, LaPorta has not lived up to expectations.
To make matters worse, LaPorta had two surgeries in October of 2010, one on his left hip and another for turf toe. After an offseason of rehab, LaPorta needs to make a big impression this spring.
The Indians need LaPorta to be the right-handed power bat they originally projected he would be. If he does not perform, the Indians may be forced to move on.
In his 2010 rookie season, Austin Jackson led all league rookies with a .345 on-base percentage and 34 doubles. He also led the Tigers in plate appearances while batting .293 for the year.
In short, Jackson will enter his sophomore season with huge expectations. He will also need to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump.
As the Tigers leadoff hitter, Jackson will need to get off to a good start, or the Tigers could find themselves in trouble early.
The big question is, was Jackson's rookie season the product of a truly talented player? Or did his rookie mistakes pay off by taking a lot of unusual chances and getting lucky making contact while swinging at bad pitches?
The Tigers should have the answer to that question very soon.
Lorenzo Cain will enter spring training with a heap of competition for the Royals starting center field position. That list is headed by Melky Cabrera and also includes Mitch Maier, Jarrod Dyson and Gregor Blanco.
Cain was acquired by the Royals in the Zach Greinke trade. Prior to this, they signed Cabrera as a free agent, thinking he would take over center field.
But as a very hot prospect with some big league experience with the Brewers in 2010, Cain could outplay Cabrera and win the spot.
Cain batted .306 in 43 games last season. This spring, Cain will need to produce similarly in order to win the job.
Scott Baker has garnered a few nicknames in his six years pitching for the Brewers. But the nickname "Jekyll and Hyde" is likely one which he wishes would go away.
This right-hander has great potential, but sometimes, he pitches like an ace, and sometimes, he pitches like a minor leaguer. Baker needs to quell the inconsistencies if he wants to become a great pitcher.
A notoriously slow starter, Baker has a lot on the line this spring. He missed time this past September with elbow surgery for tendinitis. So not only will Baker have to show he is healthy, he will also have to show he is in this game to stay.
In his 15th major league season, right fielder Bobby Abreu accumulated the lowest batting average since 1997 with a .255 mark.
Abreu will be 37 years old heading into the 2011 season. With the acquisition of Vernon Wells, Abreu will likely be moved to the designated hitter role. And his career may be on the line.
With age a concern and his swiftly declining performance, Abreu may find himself retired very soon if he cannot produce early.
Coming off right patella tendinitis surgery that ended his season in July of 2010, Ryan Sweeney may have some competition for a starting spot in the A's outfield.
The A's also have outfielders Josh Willingham, Coco Crisp and David DeJesus on the roster. In addition, prospect Chris Carter is itching to stay out of the minors.
While Sweeney did hit .294 in the first half of 2010, the injury is a major concern. And with all the talent on the roster, Sweeney is going to have to fight tooth and nail this spring to have a shot at a starting role.
Second baseman Chone Figgins was the subject of many trade rumors this offseason. But recently, Figgins stated that he wants to remain with the Mariners, and the club says the feeling is mutual.
Figgins is coming off a very disappointing season where he hit only .259 with a total of 35 RBI in 161 games. The Mariners were expecting a lot more when they picked him up before the 2010 season.
Going into spring training, Figgins needs to hit a lot better or those rumors could turn into a reality.
Brandon Webb has not pitched since the start of the 2009 season when right shoulder bursitis put him on the DL while playing for the Diamondbacks. After surgery, Webb spent the rest of 2009 and all of 2010 rehabbing the shoulder.
Prior to the injury, Webb was a top of the rotation pitcher, going 22-7 with a 3.30 ERA in 2008. He is known for a ferocious sinker ball.
But after nearly two seasons on the sidelines, Webb will have to prove he is healthy and still able to mow down hitters if the Rangers are going to keep him. If he cannot regain his form, Webb's career may come to an abrupt end.
The Braves have had a revolving door at first base for a long time now. Since 1998, 15 different players have spent significant time at that position.
Freddie Freeman won the International League Rookie of the Year in 2010 at first base and is expected to be No. 16. In the minors, Freeman batted .319 with 18 home runs and 87 RBI.
If Freeman is to replace Troy Glaus, who is currently a free agent, he will need to duplicate that type of performance at the major league level.
Anibal Sanchez posted his first injury-free season in 2010 since joining the Marlins in 2006. He had shoulder surgery in 2007 and has battled a variety of injuries ever since.
In 2010, Sanchez posted a 13-12 record with a 3.55 ERA and managed to pitch 195 total innings. That seems promising for the 27-year-old right-hander.
But going into spring training, Sanchez has a lot to prove. He will need to stay healthy and show that those 195 innings did not have any effect on his delicate shoulder.
If Sanchez gets hurt again, the one-year contract he just signed could be his last.
Carlos Beltran's time in New York has been quite an odyssey. His disagreements with Mets management over a 2010 knee surgery and then a horrible second-half performance all weigh on the minds of Mets fans.
In the final year of his contract, Beltran will most likely be looking for a new home in 2012, unless the Mets trade him first. So 2011 will be a very important year for the center fielder.
This spring, Beltran has to redeem himself in order to cement his future in baseball. After batting only .255 last season, if Beltran cannot improve, he has a lot to lose.
Outfielder Domonic Brown is ranked by Baseball America as the No. 1 prospect in the entire Eastern League. But his short time in the majors last season exposed many of his weaknesses.
In addition, Brown ran into trouble this offseason while playing in the Dominican Winter League. Citing fatigue as an issue, Brown was sent home early to recuperate and prepare for spring training.
The departure of right fielder Jayson Werth leaves a hole in the Phillies outfield that needs to be filled. However, Brown will have to compete for the spot with veteran players like Ben Francisco and Ross Gload, plus younger guys like John Mayberry Jr.
If Brown does not dominate this spring, he will be forced to spend another year in the minors to work out the kinks.
Once a good prospect, Nyjer Morgan saw his production severely decline from 2009's .307 batting average to .253 in 2010. Attitude issues became a problem as well.
In 2010, Morgan was accused of throwing a ball at a fan and hitting him in the head. He was also benched for bad behavior and dropped to eighth in the lineup. Public disputes with his manager made headlines as well.
With the addition of Jayson Werth, the Nationals could have a shot at competing in the near future, but much of that will depend on Morgan. If he can get his act together, Morgan could be a real impact player.
But if Morgan come to spring training with the same old bag of tricks, his career could be on the line.
To say Carlos Pena had a bad 2010 season might be an understatement. 2010 marked the worst year of Pena's career where he batted .196, officially the worst average in all of baseball for batters with at least 400 plate appearances.
Despite that fact, the Cubs signed Pena to a one-year, $10 million contract for 2011. They are banking on Pena to rebound and bring the power bat necessary to replace the departed Derrek Lee’s spot in the lineup.
With his career at stake, Pena must muster up some magic in spring training to get back on track.
Almost two years removed from Tommy John surgery, Edinson Volquez will enter spring training with a lot to prove. Either he will overcome the injury or be permanently labeled as damaged goods.
Since the 2008 season, Volquez has struggled with inconsistency and control issues. He posted a 4.31 ERA over 12 games in 2010.
The goal for Volquez heading into spring training is simple. He must rebound from injuries and attempt to resurrect his career.
Left-fielder Carlos Lee had a career-worst year in 2010, hitting only .246 with an on-base percentage of .291. His fielding was also so bad that the Astros moved him to first base after Lance Berkman was traded to the New York Yankees.
At 34 years old, no one is expecting miracles from Lee. But certainly, he is capable of improvement.
The Astros are mostly a young team, and for Lee, that is not great news. If he cannot rebound, there will be plenty of young players waiting to take his spot.
Prince Fielder has much to gain this year. In his final year before free agency, Fielder will be looking to impress possible suitors with large payrolls.
The one thing he does not need to gain is weight. At 5'11", his 270-pound frame might be a concern for teams interested in signing him after this year.
Also, his batting average slipped last year to a career-low .261 with only 83 RBI after hitting at least 100 RBI in the previous three seasons.
This is a huge year for Fielder. He will need to get off to a fast start in spring training, stay in shape and put up big numbers.
Catcher Ryan Doumit is the poster child for an injury-prone ball player. Since 2006, Doumit has battled everything from a broken thumb to a hamstring strain and even a wrist contusion.
The Pirates considered moving Doumit to the outfield, giving Chris Snyder the job behind the plate. But they have since signed first baseman Lyle Overbay, forcing Garrett Jones to right field.
Unless Doumit can dominate this spring, he may be the odd man out.
Kyle Lohse signed a four-year, $41 million deal with the Cardinals after a spectacular 2008 season. However, Lohse was injured in 2009 and has not been the same pitcher since then.
With a 4-8 record and 6.55 ERA in 2010, Lohse is not meeting expectations. This spring, Lohse will have to prove that he is healthy and capable of putting up his 2008 numbers.
With two years remaining on his contract, the Cardinals had better pray that Lohse can return to form.
Brandon Allen's career was off to an auspicious start when he smacked a grand slam on September 1, 2010 in his major league debut. His future looks promising.
With first baseman Adam LaRoche off to the Nationals, it looked like Allen might have the job. However, the D-backs acquired Juan Miranda in the offseason, and they will probably look to give him the spot.
The D-Backs could move Allen to the outfield or use him as a backup. But Allen has the ability to make this a very tough decision for the team. If he comes out swinging this spring, anything can happen.
Having avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $2.287 million deal, Ian Stewart has only his performance to concentrate on this spring.
The Rockies are assuming that Stewart can take over at third base on a full-time basis. However, they also signed infielder Ty Wigginton for two years and $8 million.
While Wigginton is more useful on the first base side, he could play third if Stewart bombs. Stewart strained an oblique late in 2010 so he will need to show he is healthy and ready for the job.
2011 is a contract year for Matt Kemp. While he did very well in 2009, the 2010 season was another story. Kemp hit only .249 over 162 games.
Kemp's personal life has not been without drama either. Throughout a year-long relationship with singer Rihanna, constant rumors of cheating plagued the couple who finally split this winter.
Perhaps with a bad year behind him, Kemp can return to his 2009 form and get a large payoff in free agency afterwards.
Not so long ago, Cameron Maybin was a highly touted prospect with what appeared to be a big future. But two straight bad years in Florida have left many with questions about the center fielder.
With the move to San Diego for the 2011 season, both the new scenery and gigantic ballpark may prompt Maybin to change his approach.
If Maybin intends to live up to his potential, the time to start is now. He needs to get off to a fast start in spring training and show the Padres he can be their everyday center fielder.
After an injury-plagued 2010 season and left wrist surgery, utility player Mark DeRosa is expected to compete for the left field position this year. But how the wrist issues will affect his performance remains to be seen.
DeRosa's main competition will be veteran Pat Burrell. A few years younger and less injury-prone, Burrell may have the advantage. DeRosa will need to fight for the job.
After batting only .194 in 26 games for the Giants last year, DeRosa has a lot of work to do.