Manny Machado just turned 20 on July 6th. After a slow start to the season in AA Bowie, he has began to show many signs of progression and it truly makes one feel good. Not many players his age are doing it on the level he is.
Everyone is excited about the bat. They see the potential “all-star” talent that it offers. Baseball America ranked Machado 9th on their Mid-season top 50 prospect list, largely due to his bat.
While his bat is well documented, the defensive aspect of his game is often swept under the rug. The defensive opinions waver in such a distinct manner that it is often frustrating. So how good exactly is Machado defensively?
I’ve had the privilege of seeing Machado play five times this season. I saw him play a few times last year as well. I’m not going to beat around the bush here: He’s been really impressive with the glove. I’ll go back to opening day, where he probably had the most impressive game to date since I’ve seen him play.
In the first inning, he made a spectacular play. It was a ground ball hit back up the middle and Zach Clark attempted to make the play but the ball bounced off his glove. Machado shifted gears on the deflection, picked it up with his bare hand, and fired a perfect throw to nab the fast Gary Brown at first. A very impressive play.
Later on, he made a tough play ranging to his left and made an equally strong throw to first. He also had a routine ground ball take a wicked hop at the last second and he still managed to stick with it and make the play look easy.
In the next game I saw Machado play, he displayed his double-play prowess. While I have to give Jonathan Schoop a little credit for making the spectacular play at 2nd to get it rolling, Machado came across the bag with quickness and a very impressive transfer on the throw. For how big Machado stands, he is much smoother than one would expect.
It’s important to realize that he is probably larger than majority of SS. I dare not compare him to them, but the mold is something similar to a Ripken or Tulowitzki. Again, hold the horses on that comparison, but he stands similar to them in terms of body type.
In another game I attended, he made a leaping grab on a line-drive to the SS hole. He displayed good instincts and it was just one of those plays you simply say “wow” on.
Jordan and I attended the Baysox game on July 5th, and Machado made a rangy play up the middle and provided a quick transfer off the quick hop to nail the runner at first. Just another one of those plays that show how good Machado can truly be.
To put it simple, there is a trend I’m trying to describe here. He’s simply provided a “wow” every time I’ve seen him play.
While Machado probably does not have the top range of a pure SS, he is absolutely good enough in my eyes to stick there for a while. I’m not going to attempt and put a date on when he moves off the position, because right now I don’t think it is anytime soon.
I’ve seen Machado make the rangy plays to his left and right, the quick hops and barehanded throws. He simply is a natural out there. His transfer skills are about on par with what a 20 year old at AA should have. His footwork probably is not fully developed, but that’s not an entirely easy thing to master.
There are a lot out there that think Machado moves off SS eventually. Right now, I wouldn’t worry about that. Manny Machado is going to be playing SS for the Orioles at some point in his career. When that is? I’m not sure. What that means for JJ Hardy? The Orioles will figure that out when the time comes. There is no need to rush to any conclusions on that front.
In general, I see a player whom has progressed defensively. He’s still going to make some errors and misjudgments, but the overall picture is looking good. In the end, remember this is a 20 year old playing years above his head.
He’s not only the real deal with the bat, but a legit player at SS. He may never be Jose Iglesias with the glove, but there is impressive talent evident that should make him a star.