Friday, June 22, 2012

Manny Machado Is 19 Years Old

Nick Markakis was 20 when he played at A Delmarva.

Matt Wieters was 22 when he played at High-A Frederick and AA Bowie.

Derek Jeter was 20 when he played at High-A Tampa and AA Albany.

The face of the Orioles franchise for the past three decades? Cal Ripken Jr. was the same age as Manny Machado when he played at AA Charlotte (Which is obviously now AA Bowie).

Adam Jones didn't take off with his bat until his Age 20 season.

Jones, Markakis, Wieters, Jeter, and Ripken all have been very good players in this league.

The past month has been a funny time. All winter people were told that Manny Machado is the second coming of A-Rod (which is simply ridiculous, A-Rod was one of a kind). Machado has noticeably seen a decline in his stats and some are getting rather worried, frustrated or disappointed.

I'm here to tell you to relax. Machado, at his age of 19 (Turning 20 in July), is already playing leagues and leagues ahead of what he should be doing. Players such as Nick Delmonico are older and playing at Delmarva (which is normal for his age). There are countless examples of this that I am not about to list. Each team has at least a prospect or more that is below the level of Machado. Machado could easily be at Frederick destroying the league. In reality, what good is that? He's at Bowie learning more than anyone could imagine. AA seems to be the perfect fit for him right now. It's important to remember that he has a target on his back as being a top 10 prospect in all of baseball. And in my eyes, he's played the part. Statistics are a funny thing for the most part. They are used as guidelines for how good a player is doing. I also use them every day and make a lot of assumptions off of them. However, in the lower minors, they are probably one of the last things to look at. I've seen Machado play plenty of times now. Here's a defensive report I wrote on him a month ago:

Machado really continues to impress me with his defensive play at SS. 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. 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.

I've seen Machado at SS enough now to truly get a grasp of what he is. I've seen him make rangy plays to the left and right. I've seen him make barehanded plays, quick throws, and handle tough hops. The kid is simply a natural, and I'm not sure I truly agree with anyone saying he will grow out of SS. OK, maybe he does, but if it happens 7-8 years down the road does it really even matter? I think he could easily stick at SS for the immediate future and beyond, and be a pretty good one at that.
Hitting is not as easy to judge. Machado is right where he should be though. If he wasn't, more would be heard from scouts and respected industry members saying so. Everyone's other top SS Jurickson Profar is putting together a good season at AA Frisco. That shouldn't take anything away from Machado. Everyone puts too much into comparisons such as Profar vs Machado. Both are already above the pace of Derek Jeter. That alone should say how good these guys are. Nobody is saying they are going to be Jeter obviously, but they have all-star talent. Machado's bat speed and mechanics are at an extreme level for his age. On Bowie's opening night he hit a line-drive HR that left the ballpark in less than four seconds. He was the best looking hitter in that game.

It's important to remember that baseball is a long and tedious road. Players often struggle mightily at times before they ever amount to anything. This goes for more players than just Machado. Everything written above could be addressed to players such as Jonathan Schoop, Gabriel Lino and more. Some want to trade Machado for a top tier player, but that just puts the Orioles right back to square one. The Orioles had a top three pick in the draft for a reason. They still have a long way to go.

In conclusion, remember that age really is an important aspect in a players' developmental progress. It's why a guy who is 24 at AA and hitting .330/.380/.510 is not always the same as a 20 year old at AA hitting .250/.320/.390. Just imagine your self four years younger. How much growth has happened since then?

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