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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Daniel Murphy isn’t sure whether he’ll be ready for Opening Day as he continues to recover from offseason knee surgery.

“I’m generally optimistic that when they put me in the lineup, I won’t come out,” Murphy said Tuesday when asked about his chances of being ready for the Washington Nationals‘ season opener against the Cincinnati Reds on March 29.

“You see these guys bouncing around and playing, you want to participate and be playing with your teammates,” said Murphy, who was the only position player not to participate in team drills Tuesday, one day before the Nats’ first official full-squad workout. “But I think it’s the understanding of when they loose me, when the training staff lets me go and it’s time to play, you only want to come off the DL once. I don’t want to start playing games and then have to stop. So that’s kind of the mindset we’re taking right now.”

New manager Dave Martinez echoed the sentiments of his veteran second baseman.

“I’m more concerned about rushing him and him not being fully ready,” Martinez said. “When we get him back, we don’t want him to go back on the DL, we want to get him back for the whole season.”

Murphy had debridement and microfracture surgery on his right knee in mid-October, shortly after Washington fell to the Chicago Cubs in the National League Division Series. More than four months later, he has regained full range of motion and is running at 60 percent weight-bearing on a treadmill, though he hasn’t yet been cleared to take swings.

“I’m excited about the progress,” said the 32-year old veteran, whose .322 average last season ranked second in the National League. “I think the work has been good. Currently right now, a lot of strengthening in the weight room, starting to get introduced to some baseball activities. Right now, it’s mostly just laying on the strength as much as we can to get my body and my leg ready.”

If Murphy isn’t ready by Opening Day, Washington has multiple options. Among them are 25-year-old infielder Wilmer Difo, who hit .271 in 124 games last season and played stellar defense while filling in for injured shortstop Trea Turner. Veteran utility man Howie Kendrick, who re-signed with the Nationals this offseason (two years, $7 million), also has extensive experience at second base.

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Marla Miller retiring as MLB’s head of special events after 21-year run

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NEW YORK — Marla Miller is stepping down after 21 years as Major League Baseball’s senior vice president of special events.

Miller, MLB’s first female senior vice president, has been in charge of planning for the All-Star Game and World Series, arranging ceremonies and entertainment, including national anthem singers.

She helped launch the All-Star FanFest, the All-Star red carpet show, the All-Century team, Memorable Moments campaign and special events such as the Little League Classic since 2017, the 2016 game at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and this year’s Field of Dreams game at Dyersville, Iowa.

She also took charge of planning the winter meetings and owners meetings.

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Atlanta Braves extend contract of manager Brian Snitker

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The Atlanta Braves have extended the contract of manager Brian Snitker through the 2023 season with a club option for 2024, it was announced Friday.

“I am thrilled that Brian will continue to lead our club on the field and in the clubhouse,” Braves president and general manager Alex Anthopoulos said in a statement. “Three consecutive division titles speak to the impact of Brian and his staff, and we are pleased that he will continue to guide our club through 2023.”

Snitker, 65, who is in his 45th season with the organization, has a 353-317 record as a manager, a position he took over full time in October 2016. He guided the Braves to a 35-25 record during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, winning the National League East for the third consecutive season.

He is the only manager in franchise history to take the Braves to the postseason in three of his first four seasons.

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Kiley McDaniel’s 2021 MLB draft rankings 1.0 — There’s a No. 1 prospect ahead of Vanderbilt’s two aces

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The 2020 MLB draft was obviously tricky for teams to navigate, with very limited information and a much shorter draft. This year it will be a little bit easier, but with a different set of limitations.

Because summer high school showcases still largely went on as planned, a number of prep prospects, particularly in the Southeast where the events happened, have been seen as much as they usually are, while college prospects are at a disadvantage. With almost no summer collegiate leagues and almost no 2020 season, the performance-heavy-profile college player simply has no performance on which to be evaluated. The biggest challenge clubs will have this spring is quickly identifying this year’s Justin Foscue: a big-time performer and first-round talent who doesn’t really look the part but grows on you over time with bulk performance against good competition. The mid-major prospect who had late helium, like Wright State/Marlins RF Peyton Burdick, might not be scouted at all by some teams’ high-level evaluators.

The college hitter crop is down a bit due to this and the fact that hitter evaluation in general is linear. A pitcher can have one good outing with better stuff and shoot up the board, whereas hitters improve more slowly and prove it over a longer period of time. This also means that the top tier of prep prospects will have as much or more data (and thus certainty for teams) than most college players, so they won’t be seen as a more risky subset of prospect as they usually are. Due to the lack of rising college players this early in the spring (I think it will change in a month or so), the 11-20 area of the list feels blank, and those players ranked there now feel like 21-30 overall type talents.

One other factor to keep an eye on is the shrinking of the minor leagues. Each club is losing something like 30 roster spots, and organizations will want to hold on to/not release players they haven’t seen for over a year, thus signing classes in the draft will be smaller than usual. With a likely 20-round draft and some clubs not signing close to 20 players, that means more money will be going to fewer players, which creates more demand for the top bonuses, with less demand for the low-six-figure types. Combine that with the likely diverse opinions on prospects with short histories and scouts will have plenty of opportunities to influence the draft board, since plenty of prospects can be undervalued without needing data to enter the equation.

Lastly, with so many college prospects not signing last year who normally would, there are more 22- and 23-year-old prospects, making draft-day age a more important factor than it normally is. That’s the number in parentheses after each name listed. Future value (FV) is, in short, the ranking system I use and will help you slot players in a top 100 for when they turn pro.

Here are my top 50 prospects for 2021 along with an early top 15 for 2022, featuring a particularly intriguing No. 1 player, and top 10 for 2023.

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