Manny Machado (ESPN: 0 percent owned; Yahoo!: 3 percent owned)
The first round of the 2010 draft has already produced five major leaguers: Bryce Harper, Drew Pomeranz, Matt Harvey, Yasmani Grandal, and Chris Sale, plus supplemental picks Mike Olt and Chance Ruffin. Soon, the third overall pick in that draft, the Orioles’ Manny Machado, will join them as the sixth first rounder – and third of the first five picks in that draft – to make the jump to the Show.
In addition to putting up a decent .266/.350/.431 line at Double-A Bowie, the now 20-year-old Machado showed the skills that made him one of the top prospects in baseball at this year’s Futures Game where he went 1-for-3 with a double and pair of RBI. There is no question that Machado has the tools to be a star in the majors, but this is not a prospect column, this is fantasy and with about a month before most leagues’ playoffs begin, potential alone isn’t enough to warrant using waiver priority or a large amount of waiver cash on a player. It should be noted here that any dispute over whether or not to grab Machado is limited to redraft leagues. Keeper and dynasty league players – especially those who are looking to the future more than competing this season – should be champing at the bit to grab him if he’s available…which he’s quite unlikely to be.
For redraft players, though, Machado may seem like a no-brainer waiver wire grab, but there’s more than a little about his profile that makes me uneasy. On the positive side of the ledger, Machado’s talent is obvious, even if his defense isn’t a fantasy relevant tool. He offers the power/speed combination that makes owners drool as in both of his full minor league seasons, Machado has hit double digit home runs and stolen double digit bases. Machado will come up with eligibility at shortstop in both ESPN and Yahoo leagues, but will see more time at third base than at short with J.J. Hardy already occupying the spot up the middle. This means he’ll be 3B/SS/CI/MI/UTL eligible in short order, though exactly how short will depend both on league rules and Machado’s playing time, which is not as clear as it may seem.
There’s no way that Machado is being called up from Double-A to ride pine; not only would such a move be horrible for his development, but also the Orioles aren’t about to start his service clock if they aren’t going to actually use his services. That said, the O’s have already said that Machado isn’t walking into the starting third base job from day one and I have a feeling that a platoon situation could be on the horizon. Wilson Betemit may not be the platonic ideal of third basemen, but he is more than holding his own against righties with a .305/.359/.508 line compared to a completely unusable .145/.226/.193 line against lefties. Machado may not have quite the same 400 point OPS split in his platoon splits, but he does hit lefties far better, .303/.394/.523, than he hits righties, .253/.335/.406. Owners may prefer to have Machado playing every day – and there’s an argument to be made that doing so is what’s best for him developmentally – but with Baltimore presently tied for a wild card berth, it’s difficult to say that benching Betemit against righties in favor of Machado is what’s best for the team’s present.
So what could owners plausibly expect from Machado over the next month or two? In a word, frustration. Machado has been moved up aggressively in the Orioles’ system, but it’s hard to look at his numbers and see immediate stardom, especially in an increasingly tight AL East race. Yes, he has had double digit steals and home runs, but he hasn’t approached 20 in either category yet. If he finished this season in the minors, it’s conceivable that he could break 20 steals, but anything more than 15 home runs would be a big surprise. Batting average hasn’t been a strength of his and while he may yet add it to his arsenal, it hardly seems overly grim to expect that he may struggle to hit .250 considering he’s hardly doing much better than that in Double-A. If there’s anything that makes me bullish on Machado’s short-term potential, it’s that he’s hot right now. Since the All-Star break, Machado has hit .275/.365/.505 including three home runs in his last 10 games, and while every streak ends, it only takes another few days of seeing the ball well to make Machado an even hotter commodity than he is now.
Prospects’ likely performance is always tough to pin down, especially without the benefit of a full season to see what they can do in the majors. Harper was a better prospect than Machado by a solid margin, but he’s managed just a .182/.270/.273 line with a pair of home runs and three stolen bases in the second half of the season, which isn’t helping anyone win their league. Such is the peril of small sample sizes, but that’s exactly what Machado will be judged by even if he were to play every day. But without an elite, fantasy-relevant tool showing through in his minor league numbers and with legitimate playing time concerns, I have a hard time recommending Machado as a late-season pickup that’s going to make a big positive difference for most teams.
Given where we are in the fantasy season, if Machado fits a specific need, I can understand the allure of the big name prospect. The names on the wire for shortstops look pretty uninspiring in most leagues unless Brian Dozier or Elliot Johnson really revs your engine. Machado is going to be better than Yuniesky Betancourt and probably a decent amount of the chaff on the wire, so if shortstop is a position of dire need, then sure, grab Machado. If you’re moving along with someone like Alexei Ramirez or Hardy, don’t drop the solid production just because Machado is a sexy name that’s likely to garner a lot of attention over the next few weeks.
*It’s little more than trivia, but it is somewhat notable that the third overall pick in the 2011 draft, Trevor Bauer, and the 2010 draft, Machado, have made the majors before their equivalent in the 2009 draft, Donovan Tate. Bauer does have the advantage of having been a college player instead of a high schooler, but Machado, Eric Hosmer, and now even Josh Vitters – all of whom were third overall picks out of high school between 2010 and 2007 – have reached the majors and left Tate in High-A. In fact, every third overall pick since 2003 has made the majors and all but Jeff Clement and Tate will have played in the majors this season.