Envy his 10-year $252 million paycheck if you must, but when 26-year-old Alex "A-Rod" Rodriguez connects stick to ball, big things happen for the Texas Ranger. Take last year's numbers: 135 RBIs, 52 home runs, and a .318 average. Pretty good if you're the Rangers, who've spiced up this year's season with the addition of pitcher John Rocker and center fielder Carl Everett. Now if the rest of the team can perform at A-Rod's level, they could be contenders. Speaking of the Rangers' deep pockets, Juan Gonzalez has settled into a new/old home (where he holds the team's all-time RBI and home run records) to the tune of $24 million. Apparently transition doesn't distract this 32-year-old outfielder when he's up to bat. After nearly becoming one of the Mets, and bouncing around the league the past three years from Texas to Detroit to Cleveland, Gonzalez still managed to hit 35 out-of-the-parkers and 140 RBIs, logging a .325 average for 2001.

After seven seasons with the Oakland Athletics, 2002 marks big-slugger Jason Giambi's first full year in a Yankee uniform. Along with his bat and first-base glove, Giambi brings a .308 overall average to the pinstriped lineup. After the 31-year-old left-handed swatter won the MVP award in 2000 and came in second in 2001, you've got to expect a good run in 2002.

Which brings us to the player who did win the MVP in 2001 - Ichiro Suzuki, who played a crucial role in Seattle's race for the pennant last year, batting an American League-leading .421 in the postseason. The Japanese-born right fielder finished up his rookie year with a .350 batting average and a whopping 69 RBIs. Oh yeah, he also was named the AL Rookie of the Year, an accomplishment the confident young man says "was an award I should have won without any doubt." That he only knocked eight over the wall in 2001 just adds to the heated debate over whether he'll really deliver the goods this season.