We are officially at the halfway point of our “Rant Sports MLB Top 50 Players of 2014″ series, and it brings us to Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado. The Orioles drafted the young third baseman third overall in the 2010 MLB Amateur Draft, and he has already lived up to the huge expectations that come with being a top pick.
At just 21 years old, Machado began the 2013 season as the Orioles’ starting third baseman. He didn’t hit all that well in his first stint with the Orioles in 2012, but his glove alone made him worth starting at third base to begin the 2013 year. In just 202 plate appearance in 2012, Machado hit .262/.294/.445 with seven home runs and 26 RBI. In 2013, his first full season, Machado hit .283/.314/.432 with 14 home runs and 71 RBI in 710 plate appearances. His 101 wRC+ rates him as a just above average offensive player.
Offense isn’t what makes Machado so valuable — not yet at least. The bat will eventually get much better, but for now, his defense is outstanding. Machados’ 31.8 UZR/150 ranked second in MLB behind Juan Uribe at third base. With a 31.2 UZR, Machado led all of baseball. I am not a big believer in using fielding percentage as a gauge of measuring how good a player is defensively, but in this case, I think it is very telling. Machado was near the top among third baseman at making plays that were out of his zone (he has a lot of range), and he also led third baseman in fielding percentage. What does this tell us? It tells us that Machado not only makes most of the easy plays, but he also makes spectacular plays and he doesn’t screw up when trying to make the above average play. A lot of the time, a player that has great range will also have a lot of errors, because he tries to make difficult plays. Not Machado — there are no difficult plays for him.
When Machado is able to develop into a great hitter, he is going to be a top 10 player. Until then, he can stay in the middle of our top 50 list. All I know is that I would take him as my third baseman any day, and I wouldn’t mind it one bit.