Manny Machado and Possibilities

He won’t turn 21 years old until July. Youth allows for endless possibilities for Manny Machado, the Orioles third baseman. Machado is preparing to enter his second full season after getting a surprising promotion during the Orioles’ playoff run of 2012. While those possibilities seemed to vanish after a scary leg injury against the Tampa Bay Rays, Machado has been recently cleared to resume baseball activities and appears to be on pace to return early in the 2014 season. Because of the presence of Mike Trout, Machado’s historic age 20 season has been lost amongst the general public. That’s a shame because most outside of Baltimore are missing the potential rise of Baseball’s next great all around player.

{Discuss Machado’s Future on the BSL Boards}

Perhaps it was coincidence that Machado made his Major League debut in the same season that the Orioles broke a 14 year streak of playing losing baseball. Out of any sport, baseball is the one sport where one superstar cannot carry a team. Machado didn’t even carry the Orioles to the playoffs, but his presence not only solidified the team defense, but gave the Orioles a foundation to build its next winning run. That’s a heavy thing to put on a 20 year old, but Machado responded.

At 20 years old and in his first full season,  he batted .283/.314/.432 with a league leading 51 doubles, 3 triples, and 14 home runs in a league leading 667 at bats. Defensive metrics show Machado as the best defensive third baseman in the sport. His defensive runs saved of 36 was fourth best in the entire sport, trailing only outfielders Gerardo Parra and Carlos Gomez, and shortstop Andrelton Simmons. Amongst third basemen, he ranked first with only Colorado’s Nolan Arenado close. The term elite gets thrown around the sports vernacular quite a bit. Machado’s defense is elite in every sense of the word.

In the lens of Trout, Machado’s season looked mortal, just like most. Machado’s season, however, gives Orioles’ fans the legitimate hope that they now have the next cornerstone. While difficult to project a ceiling, Machado’s ceiling still seems quite high. In his brief minor league career, he did show some patience at the plate. As an 18 year old, he posted a .335 on base percentage in 430 plate appearances. He posted an 11 percent walk rate. As a 19 year old, at double-A, he posted a career best .352 on base percentage in 459 plate appearances. That worked out to a 10.5 percent walk rate. His Major League strikeout rate of 16.2 percent is close to his Minor League rate of 15 percent.

That adds up to a player who should get more comfortable and more selective at the plate as he ages. He may never be a player who posts a .400 on base percentage and he will likely have his on base percentage tied to his batting average, but he has shown he is capable of taking a walk. Once his plate discipline catches up to his above average ability to make contact, Machado’s line could look similar to Robinson Cano. The Mariners’ second baseman made his Major League debut at 22 years old and posted a .297/.320/.458 season. Machado is capable of that this season, his age 21 season. A .280/.330/.450 year is well within reach. There is the always the possibility of better.

There is a tendency of overrating young players. Young players light this curiosity in baseball fans. He could be the next great player. Manny Machado is different. Since he stepped foot on a Major League diamond, he has looked as if he belonged. Perhaps it was the elite defense that made it appear that way. It allowed us to overlook his over-aggressiveness at the plate. But, the list of 19 and 20 year olds who put together seasons as good or better is quite short. Names like Griffey, Mantle, and Mays were better. Baseball royalty performed better at the plate. When you have to look at baseball royalty for better starts, it is a good sign of excellence to come.

2014 will be interesting for both the Orioles and Machado. The organization has spent most of the winter making small moves. This type of winter puts pressure on the core of the Orioles. It puts some pressure on Machado to recover from his injury and also take another step forward at the plate. The Orioles do have quite a talented core, but of them all, Machado has the most room to improve. If the current Orioles are to contend in an improved American League East, they need improved offensive production. Chris Davis, Adam Jones, and JJ Hardy appear to be at their height. Nick Markakis could bounce back from an awful 2013. Matt Wieters could improve. None of that is significant. Perhaps this is the year Machado takes the next step. History shows that it will be a modest improvement. But, special players tend to defy history. Perhaps Machado will be better. There is that possibility.

Hopefully, Machado will be evaluate on the proper scale. He clearly isn’t in the tier of Mike Trout or Bryce Harper. Not many are. He likely won’t be the 30 to 40 home run hitter many dream about. But, his power should develop into a solid 20-25 home run hitter. He should develop into an above average hitter. His defense must be taken into account. He projects to be one of the better all around players in the game. The Orioles look as if they have their Evan Longoria, the third baseman that is the central everyday figure for the Tampa Bay Rays.

Manny Machado is just at the beginning of what looks like a very long career. You can never be too sure about the future of a player, but there is a feeling when he steps into the batters box. There is the feeling when he fields a ground ball. There is the feeling of possibility. Right now, Machado has nothing but possibilities. We like our athletes that way. That’s why we get so into someone like Mike Trout or Bryce Harper. They’ve had historic seasons and they are still at the beginning. Machado is just starting.

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About the author


Gary Armida  

Orioles Analyst

Gary Armida is a Father to the best little girl in the world. After that, he is a writer who has been covering Major League Baseball since 2007. During that time, Gary operated FullCountpitch.com, one of the first independent online sites that gained Major League Baseball media credentials. Over the years, he has covered two Winter Meetings and has written feature articles for a variety of outlets while interviewing Major League personnel such as Rick Peterson, Jason Giambi, Zack Wheeler, Jeff Luhnow, Jack Zduriencik, Michael Bourn, and many others. In addition to his work at BSL, Gary contributes to USA Today Sports Weekly and maintains his personal site, garyarmida.com, that serves as his portfolio as well as a place for additional content.


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