How Good is Manny Machado?

Last season bought about one of the most talented rookie classes baseball has seen in some time. While the class was strong, Bryce Harper and Mike Trout were the two players who stood out as the future of the game. In 2013, another name joined their ranks. Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado churned out a fantastic sophomore season, which could earn him some low-end MVP votes. It’s fairly rare for players as young as Machado to be in the majors, let alone perform at a near-MVP level. Harper and Trout may have received all the headlines last season, but Machado has forced his way into that conversation after a strong 2013.

Any discussion about Machado’s value has to center around his exceptional defense. Machado finished the season with a 33.2 UZR, the 39th highest total ever recorded. Among third baseman, Machado’s 2013 ranks as the eighth best defensive season. His defense is a major reason he ranks 11th in the majors with a 6.2 WAR. Of course, any conversation about defense always comes with a small grain of salt, as it’s tough to trust the metrics after just one season of data. In Machado’s case, there’s no doubt he’s a fantastic defender. But the likelihood that he continues to save 30+ runs per season is asking a lot. Even with some decline, it’s not hard to see him as a top defensive option at third in the future. There’s certainly plenty of value in that.

An easier area to measure is Machado’s hitting. While he’s shown signs of promise at the plate, there’s still some room for improvement as a hitter. When sorting for similar players, Machado has some promising offensive comps.

Claudell Washington 872 5.20% 14.20% 0.302 0.340 0.411 0.338 4.4
Phil Cavarretta 852 5.80% 8.30% 0.278 0.325 0.398 0.332 1.4
Chubby Dean 733 9.00% 4.60% 0.275 0.344 0.364 0.332 -0.8
Adrian Beltre 828 9.10% 17.10% 0.259 0.333 0.412 0.325 3.6
Manny Machado 912 4.20% 16.60% 0.279 0.309 0.435 0.323 7.5
Cesar Cedeno 1026 3.90% 15.50% 0.281 0.310 0.417 0.323 2.5
Edgar Renteria 1162 6.70% 15.10% 0.290 0.340 0.365 0.317 4.6
Johnny Bench 700 5.10% 16.40% 0.260 0.297 0.409 0.316 4.1

The above chart shows players who posted a similar wOBA at the same age as Machado. Claudell Washington and Chubby Dean are the least successful players on the list. Dean shifted to pitching following his age-20 season, while Washington had a long career as a useful offensive player. The middle tier consists of Phil Cavarretta, Cesar Cedeno and Edgar Renteria. Both Cavarretta and Cedeno hit at a consistently high level over their careers, while Renteria recently concluded a very underrated career. Adrian Beltre and Johnny Bench top the list. Both became phenomenal hitters during their careers. Bench is already in the Hall of Fame, while Beltre is sure to be the focus of many debates once his career is over. Beltre is a particularly fun comp, as both he and Machado play third extremely well. Oddly, at that time in his career, Beltre walked at a decent clip. He’s since become a slightly more aggressive hitter.

While some of these players developed into tremendous offensive threats, not all of them took major steps forward at age-21. Cedeno, Bench and Beltre emerged as strong offensive threats, while Dean and Renteria held steady. Washington and Cavarretta saw pretty big drops in their offensive numbers. At the same time, it’s tough to just focus on one year as an indicator for Machado. Beltre experienced some tough offensive seasons following his early success, while Washington and Cavarretta seemed to hit their offensive stride around age-24. So, while Machado may have a wide range of outcomes for next season, it’s promising that he’s surrounded by players who eventually showed offensive improvement.

Though Machado’s season ended due to a knee injury, he’s expected to be fully healthy for the start of next season. While his main strength is defense at this time, there’s evidence he’ll eventually become a stronger hitter. After a strong sophomore campaign, Machado has joined Harper and Trout to form the best young trio in the game.

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Chris is a blogger for He has also contributed to Sports on Earth, the 2013 Hard Ball Times Baseball Annual, ESPN, FanGraphs and RotoGraphs. He tries to be funny on twitter @Chris_Cwik.

15 Responses to “How Good is Manny Machado?”

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  1. binqasim says:

    How likely is it for some of those 51 doubles turning into HRs? has anyone looked at his distance data?

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    • Brandon says:

      Mediocre – 278.33 ft.

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      • binqasim says:

        thanks. I am assuming you got it from baseballheatmaps website. I am trying to access it myself but not working for some reason.

        was the distance different than 2012 data?

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    • Brian says:

      A lot of his doubles were the line drive down the third base line variety. No data, just watched a lot of Orioles this year.

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    • There was a Baseball HQ study some years back published in the Baseball Forecaster looking at whether doubles became homers. The study found that generally they don’t and what normally just happens is the following year the doubles drop, but homers barely increase. It was surprising, as the theory seems logical.

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      • tz says:

        I think the theory may have been a byproduct of extrapolating minor league doubles totals to potential HR power, especially for younger players whose strength hasn’t peaked and for those playing in some of the huge ballparks in the minors.]

        These impacts probably don’t translate to development curves at the major league level.

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      • cs3 says:

        Double dont turn into homers.
        Fly balls are what turn into homers

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  2. attgig says:

    another comment on defense – he’s a natural shortstop. he moved over to third at the highest level – essentially learning a new position in the middle of a penant race.

    While learning 3b as a ss isn’t that bad….still, the fact that as he’s learning a new position, he’s one of the best ever…. that’s freakin amazing.

    Hardy’s contract runs through next year… who knows if he’ll move back over to SS, and provide this offense in a position where this offense would be even more valuable.

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  3. Pauly says:

    where do you guys project him for next year? i have him as a 10th round keeper but i’m worried that the elite numbers are still a couple of years away. aside from R and Hits he’s mediocre right now at 3B when you replace AVG with OBP as we do in our league.

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    • James says:

      Yeah I find many people overrate his fantasy impact. Outside of a blistering first two months he was a below average 3B option. Third base really requires a strong offensive player in fantasy baseball these days, the position is just really strong. If his growth doesn’t come for several more seasons, or he doesn’t move to SS, I don’t know if he’s an elite 3B option soon.

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  4. Yo says:

    When you equalize with his xbabip, he projects as a .261/.299/.417. In other words, he isn’t worth picking up except in deep AL-only leagues.

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  5. Cool Lester Smooth says:

    I really don’t think he’s in the Harper and Trout conversation. Yeah, he’s been playing superlative defense, but 40 points of wRC+ is 40 points of wRC+.

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