Q&A: Manny Machado, Well-Adjusted Rookie

For Manny Machado, it’s all about adjustments. The Baltimore Orioles infielder has a lot of them to make. Just 20 years old, he is acclimating to the big leagues — in the middle of a pennant race, no less — after being promoted from Double-A in early August. He is doing so at the hot corner, a position he played just twice in 208 minor-league games.

The third-overall pick in the 2010 draft, Machado was rated the ninth-best prospect in the game by Baseball America in their mid-season Top 50. Since joining the Orioles, he has hit .266/.278.424, with 4 home runs, in 163 plate appearances. He talked about his adjustments prior to Saturday’s game at Fenway Park.


Machado on moving from shortstop to third base: “Third base is real tough, but it’s been okay so far. It’s definitely different. [The transition] is more of a feel thing, and I don’t completely feel it yet. It‘s coming. The more I play the position, the better I get at it. That’s what we have coaches for. I’m always looking inside for DeMarlo [Hale]. He’s always positioning me in the right place. That makes it easier on me.

“What you see at third base is totally different from shortstop. It’s a different swing path and you can’t really see the pitches. I try to creep in there and see [Matt] Wieters’ signs sometimes. I try to see what pitch is coming so I can anticipate.”

On his hitting approach: “I’m not trying to do anything different. I’m trying to keep my same approach, my same swing, and my same adjustments. I adjust to the pitchers and think up the middle. You can’t think either side. You can’t think the other way, because you might get jammed. You can’t think pull, because then you’ll hit it off the end. You have to find your own comfort zone.

“What I’m looking for depends on the situation and the counts. You have to play smart, especially when it comes to counts. Sometimes you have to change it up a little bit. This game is all about making adjustments. I’m trying to keep up with the game and figure everything out.

“My approach used to be more see-the-ball-hit-the-ball. In the minors, I’d just look for pitches in the zone. It’s different up here. You have video on the pitchers you’re going to face, and you can see your swing every day. In between [at bats] you can come in and watch yourself hit. You can see what he threw you in your last at bat and have an idea of what he’s going to throw you in your next at bat. That’s an advantage of being in the big leagues.

“Looking at [data and video] is part of the game. The game is changing. There are adjustments you have to make every day. You always have to look at data to know what the pitchers are going to throw you. It’s a mind game and a game you’ve got to play.”

On stats: ‘To be honest, I’ve never really looked at stats. At least, I’ve tried not to. Obviously, everyone is going to look at them. But I try not to put too much mind into it, because when you do that — like, I’m hitting .210 or I’m hitting .350 — that’s when everything goes downhill. Either you get too anxious to hit, trying to get your average up, or you just fall back from the .350. I try to go out there every day and get a couple of hits. I try to be aggressive.

“They tell you if you’re swinging the bat well, like when [Mark] Reynolds had seven home runs in 10 games. Stats usually tell you how a player is hitting. Unless you’re hitting in a lot of bad luck. You don’t need stats to tell you that. You already know.”

On being a rookie: “You have to treat this game the right way. You have to treat it with respect and go about your business. That’s how I see it. I’m a rookie. I go out there and work on my game. It’s all about getting better and respecting the game.”

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David Laurila grew up in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from February 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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Excellent stuff!