Drafted 3rd overall in the 2010 Major League Draft, Manny Machado was promoted to Baltimore on August 9th this past year. His production over the next 51 games had a tremendous impact on the Orioles, and their push into the 2012 American League Playoffs.
What can we expect from Machado during his first full-season in the bigs here in ’13?
To answer that, we first have to review what we saw this past year.
Let’s start with his defense. Statisticians will tell you that you need several years of sample size for UZR/150 to carry much legitimacy. So while Machado’s UZR/150 at 3rd of 13.2, matched what our eyes were seeing; we have to keep in-mind that at-least statistically his 51 games and 468 innings at the position is a fairly limited sample. Meaning that the stats confirmed our thoughts, but further time at the position is needed to give real credence to those numbers.
I had argued prior to his promotion to the Majors, that if Machado could be average defensively at 3rd, the Orioles would be upgraded overall. I anticipated that as a SS by trade, he could provide representative defense at 3rd, with minimal time at the position. Like many others, I was extremely surprised by how good his defense at the hot-corner looked. Outstanding reactions, good hands, and an extremely strong arm. Of course we also all got a glimpse of his awareness on this play. For a guy that won’t turn 21 until July 6th, and had only limited time at 3rd prior to that play; it just spoke volumes about his Baseball IQ.
As long as Hardy remains with the O’s, Machado figures to remain at 3rd. Many Orioles fans wonder how this will impact Machado’s long-term development as a SS. Last September, while working with TBS, Cal Ripken Jr. notably stated that he expects Machado will go back to SS but not for a year or two. That he thinks playing 3B that much will help Machado be a better SS when he does move back there, and said playing 3B in the MiL helped him (Ripken) be better at SS, as it helped him understand how the two positions must play in concert.
Offensively, Machado produced the following:
191 ab’s, .262 baa, 7 hr’s, 26 rbi’s, 9 bb’s, 38 k’s, .294 on-base %, .445 slugging % (.739 OPS), .317 wOBA, 8 doubles, 3 triples.
It’s not particularly surprising that a young hitter had that level of disparity in his walks and k’s during his initial 200 (+/-) ab’s. What we’ve heard repeatedly since Machado was drafted, is that he has a strong knowledge of the strike zone, and is very patient. Prior to the promotion, he had 48 bb’s, and 70 k’s at Bowie. Bill James has projected Machado to have 46 bb’s, and 93 k’s in ’13. James’ projection mirrors my expectation of some improvement in that regard.
One of the things I liked best about what we saw from Machado offensively, is that he has the ability to go opposite field with power. He has strong plate coverage, and he can fill the gaps. Then when pitchers come in on him, he can turn and pull as well. 18 extra-base hits in those initial 200 (+/-) ab’s is a great sign.
His spray chart shows his willingness to use all fields:
I think offensively Machado also exceeded expectations that many O’s fans had for him when promoted. That was understandable, as Machado was not overwhelming the Eastern League (.266/.352/.438).
Machado spoke to the reasons why in some respects, it was easier for him in the Majors, with his September Q&A with FanGraphs, as he pointed out: “It’s different up here. You have video on the pitchers you’re going to face, and you can see your swing every day. In between [at bats] you can come in and watch yourself hit. You can see what he threw you in your last at bat and have an idea of what he’s going to throw you in your next at bat. That’s an advantage of being in the big leagues.”
In 2012, Machado saw the following pitches:
Nobody doubts Machado’s physical talents, or his work-ethic. By all accounts he is a guy that loves he game and is constantly working to improve. When you combine work-ethic and talent; you have to expect success. 2013 for Machado will mostly be about adjustments. As shown in the pitch results above, the league got a look at him, and they will adjust their Scouting Reports accordingly. I would expect there will be stretches where Machado looks lost, and stretches where he is on fire. I think it will be interesting to see if he can limit the slumps, and avoid any prolonged stretches of minimal production.
For me, I think his Floor /Ceiling / and Likely breaks down as:
Floor: .245 /.310 /.425
Ceiling: .285 /.335 /.475
Likely: .275 /.320 /.450