After what looked like a ligament shredding misstep while running out a single, the word out of Baltimore is that Manny Machado has avoided a major knee injury and should be ready for the start of spring training 2014. The medical prognosis for Machado is a torn medial patella ligament, an injury that is expected to sideline the future stud for up to two months, but not affect his availability for the 2014 season.
The 21-year old slick fielding third baseman impressed the Fantasy Baseball community in his first full season, hitting 14 homers, driving in 71 runs, scoring 88 times and ranking second in all of baseball with 51 doubles. Hitting second in a loaded O’s lineup, Machado provided his Fantasy owners with tremendous value given his average draft position (217overall on Yahoo! and 188 on ESPN).
A move down in the lineup could be in store for Machado, as his .326/.347/.504 batting line with runners in scoring position would be more useful in the middle of the lineup (potentially behind Chris Davis). The depth of the Baltimore Orioles order would allow this move to increase Machado’s Fantasy value because the projected rise in his RBI total would dwarf any decline in runs scored. It is also reasonable to project a handful of those doubles to turn into home runs, especially given the hitter friendly dimensions of Camden Yards (fourth high HR rate in the majors). I also expect an increase in his stolen base total (successful on only six of 13 attempts this season) as he becomes more comfortable with pitchers at the MLB level.
The Orioles explosive 2013 campaign (fifth in total runs and third in slugging percentage) is no mirage, this team can hit with the best of them. Projecting an 80 run, 100 RBI, 25 homer, 15 steal sophomore season with a .300 batting average is reasonable, making him a top-five option at the hot corner as early as next season. This injury obviously isn’t the ideal way to end his rookie season, but the medical reports suggest that we will see the exact same Machado (physically) that we saw this year, giving Fantasy owners every reason to target him after the elite third baseman are selected.