The 2013 Major League Baseball season opens Sunday evening with an all-Texas matchup between the Rangers and hometown Houston Astros, the American League’s newcomers, followed by action on 12 fronts on "Opening Day" April 1.

It’s a time when optimism will reign in several cities across the major leagues as many believe it could be one of the more wide-open seasons in recent memory.

But make no mistake. There are questions to go with the optimism.

Will Canadian closer John Axford turn in a rebound season in Milwaukee? Can Washington’s Stephen Strasburg dominate National League hitters pitching a full season with his 96 mile-per-hour fastball? And will Joey Votto remain healthy and return to his MVP form of 2010 for Cincinnati?

All three men are featured in the gallery above as players to watch in the NL this season. In some cases, these aren’t the best players on each team but those that bear watching, from a health or performance perspective.