Beltre: Fielder will win AL MVP

GRAPEVINE, Texas -- Texas Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre said Friday he thinks Prince Fielder will win the AL MVP in 2014.

And while Beltre was smiling as he said it, he didn't appear to be joking.

If Fielder is to win the award, Beltre will have plenty to do with it. The 34-year-old third baseman hit .315 with 30 home runs and 92 RBIs and finished seventh in the MVP balloting in 2013. Now he's charged with protecting Fielder, who is slated to bat third for the Rangers.

Fielder, of course, knows plenty about protecting top hitters. He was the cleanup hitter behind Miguel Cabrera, who won consecutive MVPs in Detroit, and also hit behind Ryan Braun in 2011, when Braun won the NL MVP with Milwaukee.

Now, Fielder will get a chance to have Beltre, who led the AL in hits with 199 this past season, bat behind him.

How does Fielder feel about it?

"I think it's going to be outstanding," Fielder said Friday before the Rangers' awards banquet. "I like it a lot. I'm definitely not upset about it. No. 1, he's a great hitter. He has power. He can hit for average and drive in runs. So any time you get to hit in front of a guy like that, it's not going to hurt."

Beltre expressed excitement over having both Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo hitting in front of him.

"We added two great hitters," Beltre said. "One big producing guy that we know in Fielder, playing against him over the years he's been unbelievable. And Choo, I know him for a while back when I played with him in Seattle and we know what kind of guy he is. He's going to get on base however he can, plus he's got some pop, too, and some defense. The additions we got are really good."

Rangers manager Ron Washington has said that he plans on going with Choo, Elvis Andrus, Fielder and Beltre as his top four hitters, giving Texas the ability to put men on base where Fielder and Beltre can drive them in. Bolstering the lineup was the club's top priority this offseason, and the team hopes the additions of Fielder and Choo, along with Beltre's consistency, make a big difference in its ability to score runs.