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2011 Draft Prep: Tiers by position

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It's not even that much of a secret anymore.

Over the last few years, more and more Fantasy owners have subscribed to the tier approach as the most reliable way to maximize each and every pick.

When you bundle together the similarly-regarded players at each position instead of assessing them one by one, you give yourself a round-by-round guide for drafting the deepest, most well-rounded team possible.

But it takes discipline. You have to be honest about your expectations for each player. Don't know who'll finish with the better numbers between Shin-Soo Choo and Jason Heyward? No one does. If you can look beyond your preference for Choo's consistency or Heyward's upside, you'll realize each is equally likely to help your team. They belong in the same tier.

Knowing you'd be equally happy with any of the players in that same tier, you can afford to wait until only one or two remain, concentrating on the positions closer to depleting their highest-available tier. If you have your heart set on an elite third baseman, for instance, but midway through the second round, four -- Jose Bautista, David Wright, Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Zimmerman -- remain, you can wait the extra round and go after the last remaining elite outfielder -- Matt Holliday, let's say -- instead.

If you play favorites and draft Zimmerman anyway because he's the one you like the most, someone else will take Holliday before your next pick and you'll have to settle for a lesser outfielder later in the draft. If you had just followed the tier approach, you could have had a third baseman as good as Zimmerman and an outfielder on the level of Holliday.

And that's the better overall team.

You can map out a plan for your entire draft using this approach. Maybe your first priority is one of the two elite shortstops because you know how big the drop-off is at the position. If neither falls to you, maybe your next target is Robinson Cano since he's in a class of his own atop the second base rankings. Can't get him either? Well, maybe that's when you look into Miguel Cabrera or Joey Votto since they're in the same tier as projected first overall pick Albert Pujols.

Come the second round, you might want to go after one of the elite third baseman to avoid the big drop-off at that position ... unless too many remain, of course. If that's the case, you might want to see if you can still snag an elite outfielder. If they're all gone, maybe that's when you consider dipping into the elite catcher trio of Joe Mauer, Victor Martinez and Buster Posey or settling for a near-elite second baseman like Chase Utley, Dustin Pedroia or Ian Kinsler (assuming you didn't draft Cano in Round 1, of course). And on and on and on.

The idea is to give yourself a blueprint for your draft -- a guide to knowing which position to target at what time in order to leave yourself without a hole anywhere and as well-fortified across the diamond as possible. If you establish rigid tiers and closely monitor them throughout the draft, your picks, with a little bit of luck, should become obvious.

If you haven't caught on to tiers yet, don't cry about it. Now is the perfect time to get started, and I have the goods to help.

I give you my tiers for 2011, which include every player I'd even remotely consider drafting in a standard mixed league. Be forewarned that my personal tiers reflect my personal level of comfort. For example, I list Nelson Cruz in the third tier of outfielders when most people would probably include him in the second. I recognize his potential but believe he's so likely to lose 150 at-bats to injury that I wouldn't feel nearly as comfortable with him as I would with Andrew McCutchen or Shane Victorino. I can't in all honesty place him in the same tier.

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Don't agree with me? Fine, move him up. Mix up the tiers as much as you'd like to match your own level of comfort. Or print these out and draft straight off them. It doesn't matter to me, really.

But if you want to ensure you maximize every roster spot and don't end up with a dud anywhere, you should use a tier approach of some sort.

You don't want to get left behind, do you?

Catcher

Buster Posey joins the familiar duo of Joe Mauer and Victor Martinez atop the catcher rankings. He along with a legitimate second tier of Brian McCann, Carlos Santana and Geovany Soto give the position rare high-end depth and explain why it no longer requires the urgency it once did.

And it's not like Kurt Suzuki is so bad as the Next-Best Thing.

After that, the position breaks down to its usual collection of unproven hopefuls and injury risks. It may no longer deserve an early-round-or-bust approach, but it's still shallow enough to force its share of middle-round reaches as Fantasy owners scramble for the few remaining players with upside, such as Miguel Montero and Matt Wieters and, later on, J.P. Arencibia and Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

The Elite: Joe Mauer, Victor Martinez, Buster Posey
The Near-Elite: Brian McCann, Carlos Santana, Geovany Soto
The Next-Best Thing: Kurt Suzuki
The Fallback Options: Miguel Montero, Mike Napoli, Matt Wieters, Jorge Posada
The Last Resorts: Russell Martin, Yadier Molina, J.P. Arencibia, Carlos Ruiz, A.J. Pierzynski, Chris Iannetta, John Jaso, John Buck, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Ryan Doumit, Miguel Olivo, Alex Avila, Rod Barajas, Chris Snyder, Ramon Hernandez, Josh Thole, Yorvit Torrealba

First base

Miguel Cabrera and Joey Votto closed the gap on Albert Pujols last year, making all three potential top-five picks. As usual, first base stands out as the deepest position in Fantasy, with even some of the second-tier players likely to go off the board in the first round of standard drafts.

Each of the 18 players listed in the first four tiers figures to start somewhere for someone in your league. Unfortunately, two of them -- Kevin Youkilis and Buster Posey -- will get drafted to play positions other than first base, meaning at least one owner in a 12-team league will have to settle for one of The Fallback Options as his primary first baseman.

You'll notice some players have asterisks (*) next to their names, which means they only qualify at DH. Yeah, I had to put those DH-only players somewhere. Can't really divide six players into tiers, so I decided to throw them in with the first basemen. Most people look to first base to fill their DH slots anyway.

The Elite: Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, Joey Votto
The Near-Elite: Mark Teixeira, Prince Fielder, Adrian Gonzalez, Ryan Howard, Kevin Youkilis
The Next-Best Things: Justin Morneau, Kendry Morales, Buster Posey, Adam Dunn, Billy Butler
The Fallback Options: Paul Konerko, Adam Lind*, David Ortiz*, Aubrey Huff, Carlos Pena, Ike Davis
The Last Resorts: Vladimir Guerrero*, Michael Cuddyer, Carlos Lee, Gaby Sanchez, Luke Scott*, Lance Berkman, Mike Napoli, James Loney, Derrek Lee, Adam LaRoche, Daric Barton, Hideki Matsui*, Garrett Jones, Justin Smoak, Mitch Moreland, Freddie Freeman, Jim Thome*

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Second base

Second base has been a surprising source of high-end talent in recent years, but this year, it's shaky at the top and deep at the bottom.

True, Chase Utley, Dustin Pedroia and Ian Kinsler have as much upside as anyone, but their injury concerns set Robinson Cano apart as the only elite option and clear-cut first-rounder at the position.

Fortunately, if you don't want to take the chance on them, you'll still get excellent production from any of the six Next-Best Things, and even the five Fallback Options offer high-end potential.

Given its topsy-turvy breakdown, with so many of the early-round options presenting as much risk as the middle- and late-round options, second base is probably a position to wait on this year.

The Elite: Robinson Cano
The Near-Elite: Chase Utley, Dustin Pedroia, Ian Kinsler
The Next-Best Things: Dan Uggla, Rickie Weeks, Brandon Phillips, Martin Prado, Ben Zobrist, Kelly Johnson
The Fallback Options: Brian Roberts, Aaron Hill, Gordon Beckham, Neil Walker, Chone Figgins
The Last Resorts: Howard Kendrick, Jed Lowrie, Juan Uribe, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Sean Rodriguez, Danny Espinosa, Eric Young, Ty Wigginton, Ryan Theriot, Omar Infante, Dustin Ackley, Mike Aviles, Orlando Hudson, Reid Brignac, Bill Hall, Freddy Sanchez

Shortstop

What once was weak has only gotten weaker this year.

Jimmy Rollins and Derek Jeter no longer qualify as high-end shortstops, making Hanley Ramirez and Troy Tulowitzki even more valuable at the top of the position. Jose Reyes is still viable in the early rounds, but even he comes with enough risk that you might just want to wait until the end of the draft to fill the position if you don't get Ramirez or Tulowitzki in the first round.

You'll find some upside later in the draft in players like Elvis Andrus, Stephen Drew and, to a lesser extent, Starlin Castro and Ian Desmond, but most Fantasy owners are so desperate to fill the position that anyone with any measure of upside is at risk of going too early.

The Elite: Hanley Ramirez, Troy Tulowitzki
The Near-Elite: Jose Reyes
The Next-Best Things: Jimmy Rollins, Derek Jeter, Elvis Andrus, Stephen Drew
The Fallback Options: Rafael Furcal, Alexei Ramirez, Starlin Castro
The Last Resorts: Ian Desmond, Jed Lowrie, Cliff Pennington, Yunel Escobar, Juan Uribe, Marco Scutaro, Miguel Tejada, Alex Gonzalez, Asdrubal Cabrera, Ryan Theriot, Jhonny Peralta, Reid Brignac, Jason Bartlett, J.J. Hardy

Third base

With the regression of players like Mark Reynolds, Pablo Sandoval, Aramis Ramirez and Chipper Jones last year, third base has become surprisingly short on high-end talent. Even Alex Rodriguez, a first-round mainstay, barely qualifies as elite anymore after another injury-plagued career-worst season.

It's gotten so bad that nobody fits in the usual second tier -- The Near-Elite -- and only two players, Adrian Beltre and Martin Prado, qualify as surefire starters after the five elite options have gone off the board.

The good news is both Kevin Youkilis and Chone Figgins will gain eligibility at the position within the first week, adding one player to each of The Elite and The Fallback Options, but even if you include them at the position on Draft Day, third base should clearly be a high priority in the early rounds of this year's draft.

The Elite: Evan Longoria, Ryan Zimmerman, Jose Bautista, David Wright, Alex Rodriguez
The Next-Best Things: Adrian Beltre, Martin Prado
The Fallback Options: Mark Reynolds, Aramis Ramirez, Michael Young, Casey McGehee, Pablo Sandoval, Pedro Alvarez
The Last Resorts: Chris Johnson, Chipper Jones, Ian Stewart, Placido Polanco, Chase Headley, Juan Uribe, Scott Rolen, Miguel Tejada, Danny Valencia, Jose Lopez, David Freese, Edwin Encarnacion, Ty Wigginton, Omar Infante, Jhonny Peralta, Brent Morel, Kevin Kouzmanoff, Wilson Betemit, Alberto Callaspo

Outfield

Because Fantasy owners start more than one outfielder -- and in some leagues, as many as five -- the position requires a different approach from any of the infield positions. You shouldn't necessarily wait until the end of a tier to draft a player because, in many cases, you'll want to draft more than one player from the same tier.

If you hope to have one of the top outfields in your league, you'll want to make sure you have your top three outfielders in place by the end of the third tier. You don't necessarily have to draft one of The Elite, who should all be off the board by the end of the second round, but if you don't, you'll want to make sure you double up on The Near-Elite or The Next-Best Things.

The Fallback Options contain many of the position's sleepers -- the kind you'll see going off the board in the middle rounds in some leagues -- but some sleepers -- the ones with more risk attached to them like Ryan Raburn, Travis Snider and Nate McLouth -- will last into the late rounds and, thus, belong with The Last Resorts.

The Elite: Carlos Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Ryan Braun, Josh Hamilton, Matt Holliday, Jose Bautista
The Near-Elite: Shin-Soo Choo, Andrew McCutchen, Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth, Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, Andre Ethier
The Next-Best Things: Nelson Cruz, Matt Kemp, Ichiro Suzuki, Jacoby Ellsbury, Alex Rios, Chris Young, Hunter Pence, Ben Zobrist, B.J. Upton, Corey Hart, Jay Bruce, Nick Markakis, Brett Gardner, Nick Swisher
The Fallback Options: Drew Stubbs, Delmon Young, Mike Stanton, Aubrey Huff, Curtis Granderson, Juan Pierre, Vernon Wells, Michael Bourn, Bobby Abreu, Angel Pagan, Carlos Quentin, Colby Rasmus, Torii Hunter, Logan Morrison, Jose Tabata, Jason Bay, Denard Span, Grady Sizemore, Coco Crisp
The Last Resorts: Carlos Beltran, Adam Jones, Rajai Davis, Andres Torres, Michael Cuddyer, Carlos Lee, Ryan Raburn, Travis Snider, Austin Jackson, Alfonso Soriano, Dexter Fowler, Domonic Brown, Josh Willingham, Jason Kubel, Chris Coghlan, Manny Ramirez, Raul Ibanez, Nyjer Morgan, Magglio Ordonez, Nate McLouth, Sean Rodriguez, Pat Burrell, Marlon Byrd, David DeJesus, Garrett Jones, Omar Infante, Matt Joyce, Tyler Colvin, Will Venable, Bill Hall, Michael Morse

Starting pitcher

Pitchers, like outfielders, get drafted in bunches, with most Fantasy leagues requiring you to start at least five. And so, like with outfielders, you'll find yourself wanting to draft more than one pitcher from the same tier.

But unlike with outfielders, the distinctions between the tiers aren't so clear. Really, any of The Next-Best Things could end up performing like The Near-Elite, if not The Elite. Also, coming off a year in which pitching stats improved across the league, the position is overrun with high-end talent, with 21 pitchers fitting into the first two tiers compared to only 11 last year.

Even if you don't buy into the argument that starting pitchers come with too much risk to draft in the early rounds, you still shouldn't be aiming to fill the position early this year. It's become one of the deepest in Fantasy.

Due to the surplus of Fantasy-relevant options, I've included an additional tier -- Strictly Late-Rounders -- after The Last Resorts. Even at that point in the draft, you'll find some attractive sleepers like Jonathon Niese, Jordan Zimmermann, Homer Bailey and Kyle Drabek.

The Elite: Roy Halladay, Felix Hernandez, Tim Lincecum, CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, Justin Verlander, Jon Lester, Josh Johnson, Jered Weaver, Ubaldo Jimenez, David Price, Cole Hamels, Clayton Kershaw
The Near-Elite: Zack Greinke, Dan Haren, Chris Carpenter, Francisco Liriano, Roy Oswalt, Mat Latos, Tommy Hanson, Matt Cain
The Next-Best Things: Clay Buchholz, Yovani Gallardo, Max Scherzer, Josh Beckett, Daniel Hudson, Brett Anderson, Colby Lewis, Brett Myers, Wandy Rodriguez, Chad Billingsley, Trevor Cahill, Phil Hughes, Shaun Marcum
The Fallback Options: Tim Hudson, Ted Lilly, John Danks, Matt Garza, Brandon Morrow, Ricky Romero, Gio Gonzalez, Jonathan Sanchez, Ryan Dempster, Edinson Volquez, John Lackey, Edwin Jackson, C.J. Wilson, Ricky Nolasco, Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto
The Last Resorts: Ervin Santana, Ian Kennedy, Carlos Zambrano, Brian Matusz, Jaime Garcia, Jeff Niemann, Jair Jurrjens, Bronson Arroyo, Hiroki Kuroda, Jhoulys Chacin, Anibal Sanchez, Gavin Floyd, James Shields, Travis Wood, Wade Davis, Mike Pelfrey
Strictly Late-Rounders: J.A. Happ, Scott Baker, Jorge De La Rosa, R.A. Dickey, Javier Vazquez, Fausto Carmona, Carl Pavano, Jake Peavy, Jonathon Niese, Jordan Zimmermann, Homer Bailey, Dallas Braden, Brian Duensing, Brett Cecil, Daisuke Matsuzaka, A.J. Burnett, Kevin Slowey, Michael Pineda, Kyle Drabek, Jeremy Guthrie, Mark Buehrle, Johan Santana, James McDonald, Tim Stauffer, Derek Lowe, Joel Pineiro, Jason Hammel, Carlos Carrasco, Jake Westbrook, Brandon Webb, Clayton Richard, Bud Norris, Mike Minor, Randy Wolf, Chris Narveson, Chris Young, Tommy Hunter, Rick Porcello, Ross Ohlendorf, Derek Holland, Erik Bedard, Barry Enright, Brad Penny

Relief pitcher

This section obviously focuses on closers, where again the top three tiers aren't nearly as exclusive as they are with hitters. Based on factors beyond a pitcher's control -- such as supporting cast, manager decision and just pure luck -- The Elite, The Near-Elite and The Next-Best Things should be a well-blended mess by the end of the season.

With that in mind, you shouldn't feel like you have to draft one of the top options to have a good forecast at the position. True, Brian Wilson, Heath Bell and Joakim Soria are each in position to accumulate a high number of saves this year, but who's to say Andrew Bailey can't do the same behind an improving Oakland pitching staff? Or Brad Lidge, for that matter?

Given the volatile nature of the position, you might want to wait and draft two of The Next-Best Things rather than reaching for any of the earlier options. Hey, that's what Wilson and Bell were this time a year ago.

An additional tier -- Worth Monitoring, But Not Drafting -- lists the relievers in legitimate contention for saves, but not considered the favorites for them. If they beat out their competition, they'll obviously move up the rankings.

The Elite: Brian Wilson, Heath Bell, Joakim Soria
The Near-Elite: Neftali Feliz, Mariano Rivera, Jonathan Papelbon, Carlos Marmol
The Next-Best Things: John Axford, Andrew Bailey, Francisco Cordero, Jose Valverde, Francisco Rodriguez, Jeremy Hellickson, Chris Perez, J.J. Putz, Brad Lidge, Huston Street, Jonathan Broxton
The Fallback Options: Craig Kimbrel, Joe Nathan, Ryan Franklin, Matt Thornton, Leo Nunez, Joel Hanrahan
The Last Resorts: Koji Uehara, Brandon Lyon, David Aardsma, Drew Storen, Jake McGee, Octavio Dotel, Fernando Rodney
Worth Monitoring, But Not Drafting: Chris Sale, Matt Capps, Kevin Gregg, Frank Francisco, Brandon League, Scott Downs, Jordan Walden, Jon Rauch, Jonny Venters, Kevin Jepsen, Alexi Ogando

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter . You can e-mail us your Fantasy Baseball questions to DMFantasyBaseball@cbs.com . Be sure to put Tiers in the subject field. Please include your full name, hometown and state.

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Player News
Rockies' Tulowitzki, Gonzalez to start running bases next week
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:32 pm ET) Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and outfielder Carlos Gonzalez are slated to start running the bases next week, MLB.com reports.

The team is taking it slow with both players after they lost a significant part of the 2014 season to injuries after undergoing surgeries in August. Neither player will see time in Wednesday's Cactus League opener.

"There are still some things they need to do on the field before they're even ready to go into a game -- running bases, specifically," manager Walt Weiss said Saturday. "Last year, we'd have been very happy with the way they're at right now when we thought about their recovery and everything they had to go through. With where they are now, we're very encouraged by it."


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(6:24 pm ET) Twins catcher Kurt Suzuki said he would be fine after taking a pitch off his kneecap area Saturday, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.

Ryan Pressly slipped while attempting to deliver a changeup during a live batting practice session Saturday, and the ball crossed up the catcher.

"It was my fault," Pressly said. "I just slipped on the mound and yanked a changeup down. The ball caught (Suzuki) in the meaty part right between the shinguard and the padding. There's a little spot where he's vulnerable."

Manager Paul Molitor said Suzuki wasn't added to the team's post-workout injury report.


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(6:15 pm ET) The Yankees are taking things slow with outfielder Carlos Beltran, and he won't be rushed into full throwing drills until he indicates he's ready, NJ.com reports.

"We're just taking it slow," manager Joe Girardi said. "He's done some throwing. We don't feel, with five weeks of games, there's really any reason to rush him. Guys do their work. But let's make sure he feels really good where he's at and we feel really good about where he's at."

Beltran had a bone spur removed from his elbow in October. He dealt with the issue throughout last season and hit just .233/.301/.402 with 15 home runs and 49 RBI in 403 at-bats. Beltran has performed light throwing drills and taken part in batting practice since reporting to camp Wednesday.


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(6:00 pm ET) New Cubs catcher Miguel Montero played the third most games behind the plate of all catchers in 2014 and he's not asking for any extra time off heading into 2015, reports MLB.com.

"I think the results of how you're playing as a team will dictate how you feel," Montero said. "You go to the playoffs, you're never tired. Your adrenaline goes so fast. You don't have time to think about, 'Oh, I've been catching 140 games.' Your mindset is, 'Let's go.'"

Manager Joe Maddon loves what he's seen from Montero, but knows expecting 162 games out of him is just too much.

"It won't be 162," Maddon said, "but we'll talk and try to figure out a nice little program to keep him on top of his game and provide that opportunity for other guys to play, too."


Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer focused bouncing back in 2015
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(5:56 pm ET) Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer is ready to get back on the field in 2015. After posting a 5-8 record with a 4.18 ERA in 26 starts last year, Bauer is starting to throw earlier than he usually does, reports MLB.com.

"This is the first time I've finished a year in the big leagues, so I had a month extra of season," Bauer said. "So that's one less month of the offseason. I'm used to targeting about the middle of February to be ready to go in games, so when I come to spring training I'm at peak level to try to make the team. That was really tough to do this offseason, just because I couldn't start throwing until Nov. 1."

Manager Terry Francona is not worried about his pitcher's focus for the upcoming season.

"Regardless of what you tell him, I think he has his own things that drive him every time he goes out," Francona said. "There's maybe a different purpose every time, but there's something he's trying to strive for. I don't think he really picks up a ball very often without a goal. Sometimes, I know he even charts it, just because it keeps him motivated to do the things he's aiming for."


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(5:52 pm ET) Royals outfielder Terrance Gore served a key role in the team's postseason run in 2014 as a speedy pinch runner, but he's set to begin the season back in the minors to continue working on his hitting, MLB.com reports.

"They know I can do that job," Gore said. "But I have to handle the stick a little better. My bunting can improve. My hitting can improve."

Gore hit just .218/.284/.258 with 36 stolen bases in 252 at-bats with high Class A Wilmington last season. He also added 11 stolen bases while going 5 for 20 with Triple-A Omaha.

"If I could just hit .260 or .270, I'd steal 100 bases," Gore said. "I was hitting like .220 last year and still stole almost 50."

Jarrod Dyson is set to serve as the team's primary reserve outfielder.


Reds' Bryan Price singles out Nick Travieso
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5:42 pm ET) Reds manager Bryan Price singled out the work of pitching prospect Nick Travieso before Saturday's workout, MLB.com reports.

"We get the reports, so we're looking at our players, but when you get to see these young guys perform, it leaves more of an impression than group of statistics. He's been great," Price said of Travieso. "He's a physical guy who's throwing at the bottom of the strike zone, which is very important to see guys that don't just have arm strength but bottom-of-the-strike-zone command. He's has a very, very good slider. He's a yes-sir, no-sir guy. The rest of the organization is excited about him too. It gave me even more excitement to see him personally."

Travieso wasn't completely satisfied with Saturday's live batting practice session but liked his finish.

"I think I started off trying to do a little too much," Travieso said. "I didn't have my best stuff today so I tried to compensate by throwing it harder. Tucker Barnhart behind the plate kind of calmed me down and told me to get in line with my front shoulder. After that, everything was pretty smooth."

Travieso, who was named the team's minor-league pitcher of the year in 2014, went 14-5 with a 3.04 ERA and 114:44 K:BB ratio in 142 1/3 innings with Class A Dayton last season.


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(5:42 pm ET) Astros first baseman Jon Singleton is ready to put the 2014 season in his rear view mirror. Singleton hit a woeful .168 with 13 home runs and 44 RBI in 310 plate appearances in 2014.

"To be honest, I believe the only competition I have is myself," Singleton said. "I feel like I'm the only person who can prevent myself from reaching the potential I need to reach or getting out of the game what I need to get out, but if I prepare and I work and I leave it all out there, there's nothing really else to worry about."

Manager A.J. Hinch thinks Singleton is a threat to hit 30 home runs this year.

"He's done what he needs to do this offseason to come in and improve off of, not only a tremendous Minor League career, but his start to the Major League career last year, which was mixed," general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "My money's on Jon Singleton to do the things he needs to do to make this club."


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(5:33 pm ET) Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal has impressed at Camp Boomer, presided over by Dodgers coach Steve "Boomer" Yeager, MLB.com reports.

"I like what I see and what I hear from him," Yeager said. "It takes time to gain the respect of the pitching staff and teammates whenever a catcher comes from somewhere else, but some of them already know him. In the old Dodger tradition, we've welcomed him with open arms. He has come in with a good attitude; you don't have to go looking for him. He's right there, ready to go to work."

Grandal was acquired this offseason as the centerpiece in the trade that sent outfielder Matt Kemp to San Diego.

"In a short time, I've already learned a lot," Grandal said. "Getting to know the guys, catching bullpens, I'm getting a feel for how they throw. Everything comes with time. Once the games start [on Wednesday], it'll definitely come a little faster. I need to get to know what guys are looking for in a catcher, what their mentality is. Some guys like you to give them a pat on the back. With others, it's a different approach."

Grandal is expected to share time behind the plate with incumbent starter A.J. Ellis this season.


Phillies backup catcher spot up for grabs
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(5:26 pm ET) The Phillies know Carlos Ruiz will be their opening day starter behind the plate. However, manager Ryne Sandberg is unclear as to who will backup Ruiz when the season begins, reports Philly.com.

"That's one of the areas in camp I think there's some competition," Sandberg said. "[I] need some game reps and game situations to really see them. I like the way that they're all going about it as a group. To get them into games and see how that goes, that will play big in that decision."

Cameron Rupp, Koyie Hill and John Hester are all vying for the position. Rupp is considered the favorite, according to the report, with the most pro experience, hitting .183 with six RBI and four runs scored in 60 plate appearances last season.

"Nothing's handed to anybody," Rupp said, "so I come out every day looking to get better, work on things that I need to improve on, and put my best foot forward."


 
 
 
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