Last season, we all got to see something magical happen; something that defied the logic of baseball itself. Mike Trout, at the ripe old age of 21, went on to have an MVP-type season. Many thought he should have won, but it went to Miguel Cabrera, who became the first player to win the Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. Regardless, Trout put of one of the greatest statistical seasons by a rookie, not only in baseball, but also in any sport.
This leads us to young Manny Machado. All assumed Machado was not ready for the majors and would likely make his debut sometime in the early part of 2013. This did not stop the Orioles from calling up Machado in August to help make a push for the playoffs. And a push he made.
In his first major league game, he hit two home runs. Three days later, he hit another homer. He showed flashes, but also struggled to get on base (9 BB in 202 PA). Those flashes led Machado to quickly become one of the hottest waiver-wire pickups of the month. After 10 games, he had procured the elusive SS/3B eligibility, which made him almost a must-start in most leagues. By the end of the season, his numbers were respectable. Now, with just barely 200 at-bats under his belt, one must ask the question: Is this the year of Manny Machado?
Like most super-prospects, Machado has been under the spotlight his whole professional career. He was selected third overall in the 2010 draft by the Baltimore Orioles, and he quickly rose to one of the top-tier prospects in the game. His game has been broken down and processed by many elite talent evaluators, and most point to the Alex Rodriguez comparison as a likely upside for Machado.
Presently speaking, Machado is ranked as the 178th player to be taken and the 17th-best third baseman in the draft, according to ESPN. Numbers experts, such as Bill James, remain very skeptical of any major jump in Machado’s numbers from last year. Unlike Brett Lawrie, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Delmon Young, to name a few in years past, Machado may end up being a steal.
Machado has shown the wrist and hip quickness to get around on most pitches. He was very aggressive at the plate last season because he has the ability to hit almost any pitch he sees. Which must be absolutely scary for pitchers facing a batter who can produce that much torque. Though he only walked a total of nine times last season, he showed decent plate discipline.
From the chart listed above, Machado is clearly holding his own in terms of plate discipline compared to other 3B (I threw Trout in there simply to show how insane his plate discipline is). He’s clearly taking too many swings outside the zone (33.20 O-Swing%), which is simply a learning curve he must overcome. If he comes down to around 30% O-Swing, would he be comparable to Lawrie? Could he out produce Lawrie? If so, that would put him into top 10 for 3B and an absolute steal at his current pre-ranking.
Finally, if Machado is going to be compared to A-Rod, lets look at Rodriguez’s numbers from his rookie year to his second year.
All PED jokes aside, if you compare Rodriguez’s numbers in 1995 they look very similar to Machado’s; only difference is Machado has better numbers. Will Machado explode this season like Rodriguez did in 1996? The question remains. One thing I know is fantasy owners gambled by drafting Trout last season, and most of those guys finished at or near the top. Me? I’m willing to take a chance on Machado and hope he takes off. To what heights? I do not know? But as long as the risk is worth the gamble, I am in.