Note: Spring training will arrive before you know it. To get you ready, we'll take a look at every position between now and February, when pitchers and catchers report to Surprise, Ariz.
Today's position: Third base
The hot corner has remained a constantly strong position under the unorthodox, yet extremely effective, defense of veteran Adrian Beltre.
For the second consecutive season, Beltre was named the Texas Rangers Player of the Year by the Dallas-Fort Worth chapter of the BBWAA. His numbers are strong and steady. He hit .315, good enough for fourth in the league. Beltre pounded out 30 homers and 92 RBIs. He played in 161 games, fighting manager Ron Washington (and usually winning) every time Washington wanted to give him a break. He was top-10 in the league in games played and slugging percentage (.509). And he finished tied for seventh in the AL MVP voting.
Of course, Beltre is much more than his offensive numbers. He was a Gold Glove finalist again last season and has won four in his career (two in Texas). He's fun to watch at third base, charging dribblers up the line and making off-balance, yet accurate, throws and showing his quick reflexes on hard-hit balls.
Beltre also provides critical leadership for his teammates. He isn't the rah-rah type, but he leads by example.
"But if he sees you’re not playing the game the right way, he’ll take you off to the side and let you know," pitcher Matt Harrison said.
OUTLOOK: Beltre, who turns 35 shortly after the season starts, gives the Rangers a reliable, elite third baseman. He can hit for power and average and handles things well defensively. The biggest worry with Beltre is staying healthy and not allowing any hamstring issues to keep him out of the lineup. He did play 161 games last year and has a high tolerance for pain, something Rangers fans have figured out in his three seasons (heck, the guy once hit a winning home run against the Angels in 2012 with scar tissue rubbing against his abdomen, causing major pain).
Third base is one spot the Rangers don't have to worry about heading into 2014. They put Beltre in that spot, write his name in at the cleanup spot (or somewhere in the heart of the order) and let him do his thing.