15 November 2011

2012 Top 25 Prospects: #2 Manny Machado

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Player: Manny Machado
Position: shortstop
Ht/Wt: 6-3/185
B/T: R/R
Age at 11/2011: 19y4m
2011 level(s): A Delmarva; Advanced-A Frederick
2011 statistics: Baseball-reference; Minor League Central

Grades - Now (Future):
Hit: 40 (55/60)
Power: 40 (55)
Arm: 60 (65)
Defense: 45/50 (50/55)
Speed: 50 (45/50)
Feel: 50 (60/65)
Overall Future Potential: 57-62
Prospect Grade: A-

*Click here for primer on Grades

Drafted third overall in the 2010 Draft, out of Brito Private High School (Miami, Fla.). Among the youngest players in the Class A South Atlantic League and the youngest in the Advanced-A Carolina League. Selected to the 2011 MLB Futures Game, US Team, participating during 2011 All-Star Weekend. 2011 progress was slowed some due to about a month's worth of missed time due to a patella subluxation of his left knee, and there is potential for lingering issues.

Physical Description:
Long, angular, broad frame. Certain to add lots of size over the years, particularly in legs and chest/shoulders. Athletic actions and agility -- impressive given current disposition on growth curve. Fringe-average speed and likely to slow as he continues to thicken. Knee will need to be monitored and consistently strengthened.

Starting from an open stance, Machado utilizes good hip rotation and quick hands to generate bat speed and produce loud contact when he squares. An advanced understanding of the strikezone, as well as well above-average hand/eye coordination allow the young shortstop to barrel plenty of balls and help his hit tool to project to a potential plus weapon as he continues to refine his game. With the addition of significant bulk on the horizon, Machado also has the potential to grow into plus power, though right now his swing is a little more tailored to shooting the gaps and spraying line-drives pole-to-pole. He will also benefit from better identifying pitches he can drive and working to get those pitches from at bat to at bat. Machado has the mental aptitude and physical ability to blossom into a .300/.380/.480 bat, which would easily play as above-average at shortstop or at third.

Machado's hands are soft, his arm is an easy "left side" arm, and his body control is highly impressive given his borderline gangly frame. He shows little difficulty charging the ball and will make his throws from all the angles. Around the bag he is smooth and confident. The main obstacle to his sticking at shortstop, long term, is his size. Already a broad build whose range can be stretched in-game, Machado risks losing his playable zone coverage as his lower-half gets thicker and stronger and he gets more bulk and less flexibility in his shoulders and chest. Should he shift to third, he should be an above-average defender there. If he sticks at short, he should be adequate to the edges and above-average in the meat of his zone and with his pivots.

Machado has all the raw natural talent in the world, and an impressive understanding of the game and how to approach it. Among the youngest prospects in full season ball last season, Machado showed some susceptibility to expanding the zone at the plate and hitting a few too many "pitcher's pitches". As he continues to log innings at the pro ranks, he should quickly tighten-up his at bats and is likely to produce even more consistent hard contact, as well as more in-game power.

His ceiling is that of a perennial all-star candidate at shortstop -- something fans in Baltimore formerly claimed as a birthright but have been deprived of since #8 rode off into the sunset. It is a lot to put on a young man, to refer to him and Ripken in the same sentence, but if any Orioles position prospect over the past decade carries that level of talent, it's Manny Machado.

While Machado is more likely to top out as an above-average producer at the hot corner, he is young enough, projectable enough, and talented enough to dream on the best case scenario. His knee will be a wildcard, but the hope is that proper strength and flexibility training will render the concern moot. He could start 2012 back in Frederick or make the jump to Double-A Bowie, and figures to be ready for a shot in Baltimore by mid- to late-2013.

Ceiling: Perennial all-star shortstop on first division team
Floor: Average third baseman on first division team
Projected: Above-average shortstop on first division team; mid- to late-20s shift to third base

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