Posted July 07, 2013

Manny Machado continues to amaze, proves he’s the future for Orioles

Baltimore Orioles, Manny Machado
(Gail Burton/AP Photos)

(Gail Burton/AP Photos)

One of the first impressions of many who have so far parsed the American League’s All-Star roster is that this is a rather uninspiring year for junior circuit shortstops. The starter, the Orioles’ J.J. Hardy, is hitting .251. The backup, the Tigers’ Jhonny Peralta, has seven home runs. Nothing against those fine players, but this will be just the third season since 1984 in which the AL’s starting shortstop is named something other than Ripken, Rodriguez, Garciaparra or Jeter, and it’s quite clear that neither Hardy or Peralta represents the heir to any of them.

The man who very likely will become the next great AL shortstop – the man who is likely the AL’s best shortstop at this very moment – will be on the field at some point next week in Queens, just thirty feet or so to the right of Hardy or Peralta. He is Manny Machado, the 20-year-old Oriole who just about a year ago, at his organization’s request, started taking groundballs at third base four days a week before the gates opened in Double-A, so no one would know what he was up to, then was promoted to play the position last Aug. 9, and hasn’t looked back.

Much of the focus on Machado this year has involved his precocious offense – he’s tenth in the AL in batting average (.312), and is on pace to hit 71 doubles, which would break Earl Webb’s 82-year-old record – but perhaps even more quietly impressive has been his defense, at a position at which he is still a relative neophyte. He makes the routine plays just fine: his fielding percentage of .978 ranks him fifth among third basemen, and his six errors are easily the fewest among any of the four in the All-Star Game. But it is his ability to commit few mistakes while also consistently pulling off the spectacular play that makes him stand out, and that makes the basis of his value far greater than just what he does with a bat in his hands.

According to FanGraphs.com’s Ultimate Zone Rating statistic, Machado is not only the best defensive third baseman in the game by a mile, but the best defensive player in the game, period. 

For exceedingly recent visual proof of Machado’s ability at the hot corner, I invite you to check out this play he made against the Yankees’ Luis Cruz on Sunday afternoon, which is probably the best play I’ve seen by an infielder all year:

manny machado

If you are wondering why many of the advanced stats, like Wins Above Replacement, have Machado up with Miguel Cabrera as the American League’s best player (they are tied at 4.9): Impact plays like that, consistently executed, are why.

All of this is to say that Peralta and Hardy should enjoy their day as the AL’s All-Star shortstops, just as Hardy should enjoy his dwindling time as the starting shortstop for the Orioles – though it should be noted that he has another year left on his contract. Once Machado moves back to his natural position, which could happen next year and certainly by 2015, that All-Star spot will be locked down, and might stay that way for the next decade or more.

16 comments
birdsgirl
birdsgirl

MUCHO MANNY is a phenom and will be for years to come at 3RD BASE. How do you know he won't choose to stay there? HARDY is more than holding his own at SS and I don't see the ORIOLES simply letting him go. HARDY, MUCHADO, & DAVIS have great chemistry out there even with 2nd base constantly changing so the O's won't let that go. But MANNY will have a great career in BALTIMORE

TylerMorrissey
TylerMorrissey

So he recovers from a misplayed grounder... wow! Sure, it's a great throw, but I've seen Brett Lawrie make similar plays. Machado may be a great player (I don't pay much attention to the Orioles), but that's poor visual evidence.

awcarrick
awcarrick

Great analysis of Machado's talent. HOwever, I hate when people like this make sweeping statements with little knowledge of the team. Hardy ain't no slouch with more than twice as many HRs as any other SS in the AL. Oh, and he won a gold glove last year, so he's not exactly struggling to hold down the position. I'm sure Machado eventually makes the move to SS, but I'm not sure how soon that would be. Machado was called up last year to fill a void at 3B. The Os have no one else to fill that hole at this point and no prospects at 3B that I'm aware of. 

Rickapolis
Rickapolis

Being a life long Oriole fan, and watching then stink up the league for so long, it's nice to see positive stories about them at last. 

Michael10
Michael10

My grandma could throw out Luis Cruz...from her grave.

Lyle F
Lyle F

That's the key. 6 errors is fine, but if all he does is field what's hit at him, he shouldn't make many errors. But when he covers the ground he does, and still makes plays like this one, you know he's special.

DEJ1948
DEJ1948

@TylerMorrissey My thoughts exactly.  A backhanded short hop moving to your right is a very difficult play and he did make an impressive recovery, but at the major league level, this should have been a lot cleaner from the get go.  Good thing for him Luis Cruz runs like he's got a piano on his back of he might have been looking at an E5.

Zmann845
Zmann845

@TylerMorrissey If you don't pay attention to the O's, then don't make an uneducated comment about them. If you had paid any attention to him this season, you wouldn't make a silly comparison with Lawrie. 

DugoutBoyz
DugoutBoyz

@awcarrick There's no way that Machado will move to SS.  NONE!  The O's cost themselves a lot of pennants by coddling Cal Ripken, Jr., at SS....going thru something like 15 3rd basemen during his years compiling his stupid streak.


Machado is going to stay at the hot corner.


Furhtermore....nobody in the league has better numbers over the current years than JJ Hardy....and that includes Jeter.

EasyGoer
EasyGoer

@Rickapolis I'm a Yankees fan but  I agree. Good for the team, city and smaller market baseball in general. Same goes for Pittsburgh.

mattyg7
mattyg7

@Rickapolis Agreed. I'm enjoying every second of it. It's been a great few years for Baltimore sports.

chris o
chris o

@Zmann845 @TylerMorrissey So true Zmann,only idiots criticize players whom hey have seen only once or twice.Manny machado is way above Lawrie in all categories,especially health


DugoutBoyz
DugoutBoyz

@EasyGoer @Rickapolis   The Pirates are going to suffer like last year.....SI does a cover story on their success....they play a series against the eventual WILDCARD Orioles and poof.....they dropped like a stone in the standings.


It's already happening again already...At least last year they waited until AFTER the AS GAME.