The 2013 baseball season is just around the corner.  At some point in the coming months, I’ll delve into each league in more detail.  Today, however, we’ll just take an overall look at things to watch for in 2013.

Players to watch

Mike Trout – Trout’s season was a historically great season.  He hit .326 with 30 homers and 49 steals in just 139 games, and also provided great defense at a premium position, center field.  It’s very possible that Trout will never again have a season as good as his 2012 season.  In fact, this is pretty likely.  If Trout averages .300 with 20 homers and 30 steals for 15 more years (he’d be 36 at the end of that span) while playing above average defense in center field, those numbers would most likely get him into the Hall of Fame.  Don’t engrave the plaque yet, though – a lot can happen in 15 years.  Some are worried that Trout’s body type (stocky) won’t be able to retain his blazing speed for very long.  This could be true, but it might also be true that he’s just a freak.  Trout still is several years away from a player’s traditional peak years, so it’s possible that he might actually get better …

Bryce Harper – Harper was a far more highly touted high school player, but he was completely overshadowed by Trout in 2012.  However, Harper still had a very good season, hitting .270 with  22 homers and stealing 18 bases.  He’ll need to kick those numbers up a fair amount to reach the potential people see for him, but the fact that he was able to hold his own in the majors at age 19 is extremely impressive – this is a rare achievement.

Jurrickson Profar – The top prospect in baseball was promoted by the Rangers at the end of the year.  He had a cup of coffee in the majors and put up fairly bad offensive numbers in the very limited action.  If Profar can hold his own in 2013 – and I think he can – this will create an excess of middle infielders for the Rangers.  The smart move would be to trade Elvis Andrus.  They could also trade Ian Kinsler and move Andrus to second base, but this would actually destroy value.  Shortstop is a more valuable position than second base, and converted Andrus to a second baseman would make him a less valuable player.

Shohei Otani – Otani announced that he wanted to sign with a Major League team out of high school rather than a Japanese professional team.  He was then drafted by the Nippon Ham Fighters, which could put a wrinkle in the plans.  The consensus seems to be that Otani is still free to sign with an MLB team, although this might straning relations between MLB and the Nippon Professional Baseball League.  Otani is 6’4″ and boasts a 100 mph fastball.

Josh Hamilton – Hamilton is a free agent and will get a lot of money from somebody.  There are a couple of things that should scare some teams.  First is the history of off-field problems, most notably with drug abuse.  Everyone is cheering for Hamilton to stay clean and sober, but realistically, Hamilton’s risk is greater than that of some random player (Peter Bourjos, for example).  A related concerns is whether the drug abuse in his earlier years have caused damage to his body that will cause him to break down in a few years.  Major League contracts are fully guaranteed, which means a team could be on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars if something bad happens.

Teams to watch

Toronto Blue Jays – The Blue Jays made a trade with the Marlins that netted them Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, and Jose Reyes.  This is a big influx of talent and I’d expect the Blue Jays to make a big jump in the standings.

Florida Marlins – The Marlins won just 69 games last year … and then dumped most of their good players (with the exception of Giancarlo Stanton).  This could be a historically awful season.

The 2012 playoff teams – The Yankees are getting older.  The Orioles have a great bullpen – but can they sustain their incredible record in one run games?  Can the Nationals close the deal with Strasburg pitching an entire year?  Are the A’s for real?  Can the Angels avoid digging a big early hole again and win the West?