A look at Manny Machado’s season and possible future defensive destination

On Aug. 31, we saw something on the diamond for the first time and something that we could see often in the future.

We saw Manny Machado start at shortstop for the Orioles. It was his first major league start at short and his first professional start at the position since Aug. 8, 2012 with Double-A Bowie. While J.J. Hardy is signed through 2017 with an option for 2018, a day is coming when Hardy will no longer be the Orioles’ shortstop. The best man to take over for a Gold Glover is probably the guy playing next to Hardy right now.

Machado is a natural shortstop and made more than 200 starts at short on the O’s farm until he came to the major leagues in August 2012 and began playing at third base. He won Gold and Platinum Gloves for his play at third in 2013.

There is a sentiment out there that if the Orioles have one of the best fielders - maybe the best - at third base in the majors now, don’t mess with that.

Manny Machado throw white.pngBut short is the key position on the infield and that position would allow Machado to use even more of his considerable defensive gifts, including his elite glove and arm. Machado showed improved speed on the bases in 2015 and that could mean his range at short, if he ever does play regularly there, would potentially be better than ever.

Machado’s improved bat would provide the Orioles with a premium bat at a premium defensive position. There are more players playing third base capable of hitting 30 homers and driving in 100 runs than there are at short. The O’s might more easily fill a future hole at third base than one at shortstop. Jonathan Schoop could even possibly move to third base.

Machado has not outgrown shortstop. At 6-foot-3 and 185 lbs., he is still not as big as Cal Ripken Jr. when he played short or even Houston phenom Carlos Correa.

I just think Machado provides more value at short in the future, and his big arm and improved foot speed will play very, very well in the future at that position. I predict he’ll win Gold Gloves at shortstop, as well.

As for Machado’s offense, that was pretty special in 2015. He hit .286 with 30 doubles, a triple, 35 homers, 102 runs and 86 RBIs. Machado also had a .359 on-base percentage, a .502 slugging percentage and an .861 OPS. Plus, he added 20 steals. He ranked fourth in the American League in runs, 10th in homers and OPS, tied for 14th in RBIs, tied for 17th in on-base percentage and 20th in batting average.

It seemed a combination of more strength and better plate discipline led to Machado’s big year on offense. As some predicted, some of the doubles he was hitting did turn into homers. Plus, he developed a better eye at the plate that allowed him to get into more hitter’s counts and chase fewer pitches. In his only previous full major league season, he walked 29 times in 2013. This past season, he walked 70 times. I can foresee a day when he walks 100 times or more.

Simply stated, Machado put together a spectacular year in 2015 and there may be plenty more where that came from. At some point in the next 12 to16 months, you would expect the Orioles to try to sign him to a new long-term contract. Orioles fans hope he will be on their team for many, many years. And at some point, he could be the club’s shortstop.

Bundy banter: I was a call-in guest yesterday on “The Mid-Atlantic Sports Report” on MASN to talk about Dylan Bundy’s return to the mound in the Arizona Fall League. Click here to watch that segment.

blog comments powered by Disqus