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Jeff Banister calls Prince Fielder a beast

ARLINGTON, Texas -- It's too early, very early, to talk lineups for the Texas Rangers, given that the roster isn't finalized and how GM Jon Daniels still wants a power-hitting left fielder, a No. 3 pitcher and a veteran backup catcher.

But you can talk about at least one thing, new manager Jeff Banister thinks Prince Fielder will be something positive in the lineup.

"He's a beast in the middle of that lineup," Banister said. "It's where he deserves to be."

Banister said it's too early to say where Fielder will end up -- third, fourth, fifth or sixth -- but the majority of Fielder's career has been spent as the No. 4 man.

In 1,060 career games as a cleanup man, Fielder has batted .290/.400/.535 with 236 home runs and 728 RBIs. In a shortened season in 2014, due to neck surgery, Fielder hit .293 with three homers and 12 RBIs in the cleanup spot.

The theory is a healthy Fielder, who Daniels said has been working out five days a week in Orlando, will be the anchor of the lineup and take pressure off Adrian Beltre, who became the power threat the Rangers needed last season.

However, Fielder's power numbers have declined in recent years.

In 2013, when he played for the Detroit Tigers, Fielder hit 25 home runs with 106 RBIs, which marked a decline in those numbers for the third consecutive season. Fielder's .457 slugging percentage was also the lowest of his career before the trade to the Texas Rangers.

You could say Fielder's numbers in 2013 were just one of those things that happens from time to time, yet the neck issues delayed judgement in terms of saying he's on the decline.

If Fielder remains healthy in 2015, it will be worth noting if he's worth the $24 million the Rangers are paying him for 2015.