The highest Orioles draft pick since 1989, shortstop prospect Manny Machado was taken with the third overall pick in Major League Baseball’s 2010 June Amateur Draft. Selected out of Brito Miami Private (high school), Machado was considered the top prep infielder of his Bryce Harper-headlined draft class. A good student with a fairly strong commitment to Florida International University, Machado inked a gaudy $5.25 million dollar contract on August 17th 2010. His signing bonus was second-largest– behind only Matt Wieters’ $6 million– among Orioles’ draft picks in franchise history.
A life-long shortstop, playing the position since he began his baseball career at age six, Machado has drawn comparison’s to fellow Miami native Alex Rodriguez– the very player he spent his life emulating. Lauded for his dedication to baseball, the young shortstop has put together an extraordinary amateur career, filling his trophy case in the process. Playing for coach Pedro Guerra’s Panthers in high school, he literally began his career with a bang, hitting a game-winning triple against Westminster-Christian Academy in his varsity debut. Machado spent the next four years tearing apart opposing pitchers. While playing for the tiny baseball school, Machado earned honors as first-team Rawlings All-American, All-Regional (2010) and was named to the Miami Herald’s All-Area team (2010). After batting .636 with eight homers and 53 RBI as a junior, Machado finished-off his Brito high career with a monster senior campaign. Establishing himself as the dictionary definition of phenom, the kid posted a .639 batting average, mashed twelve homers and drove in 68 RBI.
Along with fellow blue-chip prospects Bryce Harper and Jameson Taillon, Machado helped lead the US 18-and-under national team to its first Gold Medal in the 2009 Pan American Junior Championships. He wowed crowds with his athleticism as well as his cool demeanor as he ignited a six-run seventh inning rally against Cuba in the gold-medal game. Through eight games, he hit .367/.472/.600 and turned four double-plays in the field. He led the squad with two homeruns, and his batting average and seventeen total bases each ranked second among starters. He did his best work early in the Pan Ams, facing-off against Aruba. He flashed his power-potential when he hit a long home run, and later put his club ahead with a go-ahead single. Manny also advertised his defensive proficiency with smooth back-handed grabs and strong throws from deep in the hole.
As a pro, Machado has continued to play like a truly gifted athlete and like a veteran. Playing with an easy, Robinson Cano-like feel and pace, the game appears come naturally to him. Following his promising 9-game professional debut the fall before, the Orioles pushed Machado and sent him to the Delmarva Shorebirds of the (class-A) South Atlantic League. Facing much older competion, the teenager proved up to task. After opening the season by going a luke-warm 16 for 58 (.275 average) at the plate, Machado caught fire in at the end of April, belting 5 home runs and collecting 14 hits in 28 at bats during the month’s final week. He took home honors as South Atlantic Player of the Week (April 25 through May 1), wowing the circuit with his torrid hitting and advanced glove. Still just eighteen years old at that point in the season, Machado’s performance with Delmarva earned him a place at the 2011 Futures Game as well as an early-summer promotion to the Carolina League. He finished his South Atlantic League stint with a .276/.376/.483 triple-slash line, six home runs and sixteen extra-base hits through 38 games.
As the Carolina League’s youngest everyday player, Machado struggled during his first month playing shortstop for the Frederick Keys, going 14 for 63 (.222 batting average) with four extra base hits through eighteen games. He broke out of his slump by late July however, and flashed all-five tools with a particularly impressive game against the Salem Red Sox on July 25th– belting two doubles, driving in a couple of runs and stealing two bases. Though his .245/.308/.384 line with Frederick brought down his season totals, the young shortstop finished the year with a memorable performance in the Carolina League postseason. To cap off the Keys’ record-setting 80-win season, the young shortstop was named Mills Cup Most Valuable Player after hitting .344 with nine RBI en route to the championship trophy.
While he’s a true five-tool athlete, it’s no secret that Machado’s hitting prowess is skill that has made him a first-tier prospect. Blessed with phenomenal hand-eye coordination and plate-vision, his quiet swing is mechanically near-perfect. He easily and consistently barrels pitches anywhere in–or near– the strike zone and his swing already generates loft and carry to all fields. His strong hands stay inside the toughest fastballs and he already makes smooth adjustments to breaking and offspeed pitches. Like all young hitters he can get pull-happy at times, but he’s remarkably proficient at using the whole field and driving outside pitches to right field. He stays on top of the ball with a chopping-wood swing-plane. His already-remarkable bat control will only improve with added strength. When he’s at his best, he’s an aggressive-but-controlled hitter and covers the entire plate with his repeatable line-drive stroke.
A student of the game, Machado has tirelessly worked to perfect his hitting, and his polished approach and plate discipline illustrate his dedication. He works the count like a veteran and even when he began to press during his mid-summer cold streak he continued to grind-out productive at bats. Armed with lightening quick hands, he’s a dangerous two-strike hitter and he’s adept at spoiling well-placed pitches. Watching him foul off Sammy Solis’ perfectly placed knock-out changeups with ease before sending the Nats’ pitching prospects heater into orbit during a June 9th contest against the Suns, the (then) eighteen year old shortstop made it difficult to believe he hadn’t even celebrated his nineteenth birthday. Despite facing much older competition during his time playing professionally, Machado has done a nice job of limiting his strikeouts and making adjustments when needed.
At the plate, Machado’s hitting mechanics are fluid and well-coached. He starts with an open, quiet stance. His mechanics are completely balanced and built from the ground-up, stripped of any unnecessary movements. Loading easily and smoothly, he takes a medium-length, controlled stride. He stays back and behind the ball, showing textbook hand-body separation. Starting high, his hands are clean and move directly to his target. During his swing, he stays inside the ball well, and pulls his hands close to his belt buckle, creating the optimal “V” shape.
Boasting a tall and projectable frame, Machado uses his strong trunk to generate easy bast-speed. Though his youth shows in his build and he didn’t start lifting weights regularly until he entered professional baseball, his thick-bone structure has already allowed him to add lean muscle. He’s eliminated a wrap from his cut and has benefitted from the added bat speed. He gets nice barrel extension and his stroke offers plenty of leverage. With such strong, loose hands, Manny does a great job of pulling the bat toward his body, and his swing is rock-solid. He gets grate hand-body separation, and is extremely short to the ball. His swing generates natural loft, with a fluid short-to-long stroke. A low-maintenance cut, combined with his sturdy trunk, affords him plenty of present pop, and he launch big league drives to his pull-side when he gets his pitch middle-in. Though his approach will always make him more of a contact hitter, he has at least average raw power and his swing holds room for more once he fills out.
At shortstop, Manny has the tools to be an asset. In high school, Machado hit 90 mph off the mound and his arm is already one of the strongest among minor league shortstops. His big hands play well in the field, and despite his 6’3″ height, he shows easy, smooth actions at short. He boats plenty of lateral range, with a nice, low center of gravity. He shows nimble footwork around second base. His arm strength gives him the ability to make all the throws at short, and he’s surprisingly proficient at making back-handed-swipe-and-throw outs from deep in the hole. A premium, fluid athlete, he’s skilled at turning the double play, showing acrobatic footwork around second base. With soft hands, and a polished feel for shortstop, Machado has limited his mistakes, making just 20 errors in his first 105 professional starts.
Machado is mentally strong. He’s a smart kid, owning the makeup and dedication demanded of a Major League ballplayer. He’s calm but focused in the field, and works tirelessly to improve his game. Spending his childhood and adolescent years training–often day and night– at a neighborhood park with his uncle Geovany Brito, Machado has a deep love for baseball and the look of a player with Major League bloodlines. He’s confident — but not arrogant — and is one of the rare players who seems to see the game at a slower pace.
A blue-chip prospect and a true five-tool player, Machado’s game comes without any real weakness. He’s advanced well-beyond his years in every facet of the game and is one of the top young athletes in American baseball. His stock isn’t without risk however, as he’s still a ways away from putting it all together.
Machado’s batting eye and pitch recognition are advanced but he’ll still lose track of good offspeed pitches. He had some difficulty adjusting to the Carolina League’s more advanced pitching once he was promoted and showed that he could be fooled by hard, late-breaking pitches as well as heat in on his hands. Combining with his uncanny ability to make contact, his aggressive approach can get him in to trouble– as he’ll try to put tough pitches in play rather than waiting for something he can drive. Like most young hitters, he has trouble handling same-side breaking stuff on the outer-half of the plate. It shouldn’t be a problem with more work, but he’ll needs some time to figure out polished right-handers once he reaches the Major Leagues.
Capable of 6.9 60 yard dash times, Machado’s speed rates as average though he’ll almost certainly slow down as he grows and fills out. On the basepaths, his offensive profile will allow him to (easily) survive losing a few ticks of speed, but he’ll have trouble staying at shortstop long-term if he loses his quickness and limber footwork. Though he’s lean and youthful, his thick-boned frame is conducive to adding muscle and bulk, and he’ll have to focus on maintaining his athleticism if he wants to postpone a move to third base– or atleast the media focusing on a position-change. Sharing the diamond with fellow top-shelf infield prospect Jonathan Schoop cuts even more slack from his defensive development.
“Manny Machado” is a name that has staying power in professional baseball. A young five-tool shortstop with premium potential at the plate, Machado is the franchise prospect in an organization that boasts some of the position’s best– Cal Ripken Jr, Luis Aparicio, Mark Belanger, Mike Bordick… His feel for the game is reminiscent of a young Derek Jeter, as even the most difficult athletic feats seem possible when he plays. While comparisons to superstars like Jeter and Rodriguez are unfair to even the most promising young talents, Machado truly has superstar ability.
With his sights set on an Eastern League promotion by early summer, Machado will likely start his 2012 season back in the Carolina League. The Orioles appear to be locked-in to a rebuilding phase/youth movement at the moment, so his timetable to the big leagues will move at a healthy pace. He’ll almost certainly be ready to take over as the club’s everyday shortstop by the end of J.J. Hardy’s contract (2014), but could force himself in to Baltimore’s plans much earlier if he continues to hit.