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MLB 49 43 Here's what to keep an eye on on Opening Day 31666645 How many people will watch the Marlins play? +How+many+people+will+watch+the+Marlins+play%3F+ MLB

Not many, which is certain to be a source of widespread schadenfreude in the sport. The passion for baseball in South Florida was evident in the raucous crowds for World Baseball Classic games at Marlins Park, but the same fans are likely to stay away in droves during the season — largely because of public contempt surrounding owner Jeffrey Loria’s latest firesale. We know the crowds will be small, because that was the case late in the publicly funded stadium’s debut season; the question is whether they will be so tiny that a frustrated Loria puts the team up for sale.

Steve Mitchell - USA TODAY Sports
MLB 49 43 Here's what to keep an eye on on Opening Day 31666644 How many innings will Strasburg throw this year? How+many+innings+will+Strasburg+throw+this+year%3F+ MLB

Stephen Strasburg reported to Nationals’ camp in terrific shape and should be able to reach 190 or 200 innings during the regular season. Then we’ll see how much stamina he has in the playoffs — the exclusive land to which he was denied entry by the team’s pitch-counters last year. The Nats will be one of the most fascinating teams to follow this year, chiefly because their caution with Strasburg in 2012 must result in a World Series title — while the star right-hander is wearing a Washington uniform — in order to be judged the proper course of action. Washington has a great chance to do that this year.

Brad Barr - USA TODAY Sports
MLB 49 43 Here's what to keep an eye on on Opening Day 31666641 Is this David Price’s final season with the Rays? Is+this+David+Price%26rsquo%3Bs+final+season+with+the+Rays%3F+ MLB

The answer to this question probably won’t be apparent until late July, if then, but the extent of Price’s availability could be the most dominant trade-related story in baseball this year. The skyrocketing cost of pitching (see the recent Justin Verlander and Felix Hernandez deals) suggests the low-budget Rays can’t come close to making a competitive offer to sign Price long term. So, general manager Andrew Friedman could be compelled to deal Price at the non-waiver trade deadline or during the offseason. The Rays probably need to struggle in the first half for that to occur in season. Stay tuned.

Kim Klement - USA TODAY Sports
MLB 49 43 Here's what to keep an eye on on Opening Day 31666639 Will the Dodgers follow the Lakers’ script? Will+the+Dodgers+follow+the+Lakers%26rsquo%3B+script%3F MLB

Tell me if this Hollywood script sounds familiar: Marquee franchise accumulates high-paying stars, then sustains injuries and struggles to develop chemistry. It happened to the Lakers, and it won’t surprise me at all if the same fate befalls the Dodgers. Hanley Ramirez will start the season on the disabled list, and new or old injuries compromised the spring preparations of Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford and Zack Greinke, among others. That’s no way to begin a season with immense expectations — not to mention the game’s highest projected payroll.

Photobucket - Special to
MLB 49 43 Here's what to keep an eye on on Opening Day 31666635 Can a team stun us the way the O's and A's did in 2012? Can+a+team+stun+us+the+way+the+O%27s+and+A%27s+did+in+2012%3F+ MLB

Because of new analytics and ubiquitous information, the entirely unforeseen commodity is rare in baseball today. But the Orioles and A’s shocked us last year, and now the Kansas City Royals have a chance to do the same in 2013. They have a vastly improved rotation, stout bullpen and a position-player core in the early stages of its prime. If the AL Central-favorite Tigers sustain a key injury or regress even a little bit, the Royals are poised to steal the division away from them.

Jake Roth - USA TODAY Sports
MLB 49 43 Here's what to keep an eye on on Opening Day 31661834 OK, so who are the next Trout and Harper? OK%2C+so+who+are+the+next+Trout+and+Harper%3F+ MLB

It will be a surprise if baseball has a celebrity rookie this year on the order of Trout or Harper, but the majors should see a substantial influx of young talent. Jackie Bradley Jr. (pictured) was a spring sensation with the Red Sox and will open the season in the big leagues. He probably has the best chance among rookies to become a megawatt star in 2013. Jurickson Profar (Texas), Wil Myers (Tampa Bay) and Dylan Bundy (Baltimore) are elite prospects who will begin the year in the high minor leagues.

Kim Klement - USA TODAY Sports
MLB 49 43 Here's what to keep an eye on on Opening Day 31666638 What can we expect from sophomores Trout and Harper? What+can+we+expect+from+sophomores+Trout+and+Harper%3F+ MLB

It’s unfair to say Mike Trout and Bryce Harper should be as good in 2013 as they were in 2012, but that’s what happens with sublimely talented players coming off mirror Rookie of the Year seasons. Trout, in particular, will have difficultly duplicating last season, if only because he had one of the all-time best years for a young center fielder. One thing that could work against Trout: The free-swinging Erick Aybar is expected to replace veteran Torii Hunter in the No. 2 spot, directly behind Trout in the Angels’ order.

H. Darr Beiser - USA TODAY Sports
MLB 49 43 Here's what to keep an eye on on Opening Day 31661833 Will the Jays’ expensive chemistry experiment work? Will+the+Jays%26rsquo%3B+expensive+chemistry+experiment+work%3F+ MLB

I’m a believer. Despite Ricky Romero’s demotion to Class A, the Jays are encouraged by the springs of fellow starters Josh Johnson (pictured) and J.A. Happ. The Toronto rotation is probably the division’s second-best, after Tampa Bay. Most importantly, the Jays’ everyday lineup made it through camp in relatively good health — a positive development for the likes of Jose Bautista and Jose Reyes, who have suffered injuries in the past. The one concern remains an unsettled bullpen.

Kim Klement - USA TODAY Sports
MLB 49 43 Here's what to keep an eye on on Opening Day 31666636 Can the Yankees possibly be as bad as they look? Can+the+Yankees+possibly+be+as+bad+as+they+look%3F+ MLB

I picked them last in the AL East, so, to me, the answer is a resounding yes. Others may disagree, but the warning signs are there: Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson (pictured), Mark Teixeira, Phil Hughes, and, oh yeah, Alex Rodriguez on the disabled list. The Yankees have collected discarded veterans (Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbay) in recent days as candidates for their Opening Day lineup. Their division is too deep, and their questions too numerous, for the Yankees to make the playoffs — even with Robinson Cano.

Kim Klement - USA TODAY Sports
MLB 49 43 Here's what to keep an eye on on Opening Day 31666643 Are you ready for daily interleague play? Are+you+ready+for+daily+interleague+play%3F+ MLB

I hope so, because it’s here. Thanks to the Astros’ move to the American League, this will be the first year with season-long interleague play. And it’s not as if the schedule-makers are easing into it. The inaugural interleague opener features the Cincinnati Reds — who always play at home on Opening Day, per ancient tradition — against the star-studded Los Angeles Angels. Bonus: Josh Hamilton makes his Angels debut against the Reds, his first major league team.

Rick Scuteri - USA TODAY Sports
MLB 49 43 Here's what to keep an eye on on Opening Day 31666640 Opening Day storylines Opening+Day+storylines MLB

After weeks of hype and predictions and odd spring lineups, our patience is being rewarded: Opening Day is upon us. Here are 10 questions to ponder while waiting on the concourse for your ceremonial first hot dog.


— Jon Paul Morosi

Chris Humphreys - USA TODAY Sports
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