Machado: Cornerstone of Baltimore’s Roster for the Next Decade

July 08, 2013 | Ben Heck

Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado just celebrated his 21st birthday on Saturday, yet he’s already considered to be the next big thing in Baltimore. And with good reason, too.

Machado, selected with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2010 MLB Amateur Draft, started out in Double-A Bowie at the beginning of last season after spending all of 2011 in Single-A Delmarva and Single-A+ Frederick.

While in Bowie in 2012, Machado played 109 games at shortstop, hitting 11 homers, batting in 59 runs with 13 stolen bases and an average of .266.

As an intern for covering the Baysox last summer, I was around him in the clubhouse after nearly every home game, and let me just say he didn’t act like a 19-year old. Had you not been aware of his backstory, it’s likely that you would have thought Machado were a seasoned veteran.

With the O’s making a push towards the postseason in the second half of 2012, Machado received a surprise call-up from Manager Buck Showalter, skipping Triple-A Norfolk altogether.

While many saw the early-August call-up as a mistake, and that it could end up ruining the progress the now-20-year old Machado had made all season, it was clear that Machado would be able to adapt to the Major League level quickly.

Primarily a shortstop throughout high school and the minors, Buck switched the youngster to the hot corner upon his August 9, 2012 ML debut with the O’s. Considering J.J. Hardy was at short, and the inconsistency the Orioles had been experiencing at third base throughout the season, the move would be beneficial despite the risk involved.

In his 51 games to finish out the 2012 campaign, Machado made an impact in both the batter’s box and in the field. His glove, not his bat, may be what benefited the Orioles the most during the final stretch of the regular season. Wilson Betemit and Mark Reynolds struggled to stay consistent with their gloves while playing third, but Machado came in and made a near-flawless transition from short to third.

Not only did he handle the transition really well, but it also gave Baltimore an everyday third baseman. Prior to Machado’s call-up, Baltimore had started five different players at third––Reynolds, Betemit, Ryan Flaherty, Robert Andino and Steven Tolleson.

His 3 HRs and 7 RBIs in his first four starts in August gave O’s fans something to get excited about, and the energy he has brought with him to the Major League squad is priceless.

Machado struggled to produce at the plate in his six postseason games (3/19, 1 HR, 2 RBIs, 6 Ks, .158 BA), but being able to shake off the nerves and put some postseason experience under his belt after his first season could prove vital down the road.

Entering his first full season in 2013, Machado has taken his game to a new level through the first three-plus months of the season. There’s been no signs of a sophomore slump for Manny, as he’s been selected to his first career AL All-Star team as a reserve.

Starting all 89 of Baltimore’s games at third base this season, Manny leads the majors in at bats (382), doubles (39) and is second in hits (119) behind Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera. In the American League, he leads in Defensive WAR (Wins Above Replacement) with 2.6, and his current .312 batting average is well above his career average in the minors.

Not known as a power hitter, Machado has just 13 career homers in his 606 plate appearances, yet he’s more valuable to this team than the rest of Baltimore’s lineup. Especially considering what the Orioles are currently paying him––obviously a contract extension could be in Machado’s near future. Perhaps the biggest adjustment made this season, aside from moving McLouth to lead-off, could be bumping Machado up to the 2-spot in the order. There’s a shot that Manny could push 80-90 runs batted in this season while batting ahead of Davis and Jones.

Manny’s production has been much more than what has been expected this early in his career, but the best part about his game is his play-making ability at the hot corner and the excitement and youth he brings to the clubhouse. You can expect more and more of this over the next decade, as he’s already drawn comparisons to a much-younger Alex Rodriguez––pre-Yankee days, of course.