Friday, August 10, 2012

Manny Machado

There were two rapid-fire, knee-jerk reactions to Manny Machado's promotion yesterday on - where else - Twitter, that went something like this:

What the hell? He's being promoted now? Why?

He's got a 789 OPS at Double-A. That's not very good. That's not very good at all.

Oh, and by the way, WHY?!?!?!?!?!

I can't answer the first question. I suppose that the Orioles decided Machado gives them a better chance of winning right now than any of the personnel that they had on hand to man third base. Whether that's true or not is another story...and a tale for someone else to tell.

When evaluating Machado's 789 OPS, age has to be taken into account. Machado is 19 years old and putting up a 789 OPS in Double-A. That's quite good for a player playing against 22-25 year olds in the Eastern League. Machado's current performance at AA makes me believe he'll be a solid future regular at the very least. But Major League Baseball doesn't grade on the curve. Getting a promotion to the bigs as a 19-year-old sets Machado up for some early failures based on the comparable players below.

19 Year Olds in AA 2006-2012 w/RC+
2011 Mike Trout 160
2012 Jurickson Profar 128
2012 Manny Machado 122
2009 Ruben Tejada 111

20 Year Olds in AA 2006-2012 w/RC+
2012 Oscar Taveras 165
2007 Colby Rasmus 152
2012 Jonathan Singleton 138
2006 Billy Butler 133
2006 Carlos Gomez 130
2011 Anthony Gose 124
2008 Travis Snider 121
2010 Anthony Rizzo 120
2010 Brett Lawrie 117

Nearly every player on these lists (the pre-2011 class) struggled in the Majors and/or had a fairly long learning curve. Lawrie's an excellent recent example of why expectations should nearly always be tempered with young players. He has been good for the Blue Jays this year, just not so good that he has been a Roto stud.

But what about Mike Trout? Mike Trout's beating the snot out of the baseball and he's a 20-year-old kid. What, did you forget about Mike Trout? Huh? Huh?

Trout is the exception, not the rule. He also was much, much better in Double-A as a 19-year-old than Machado has been. Even for the 20 year olds listed above - all who have made the Majors except for this year's Double-A 20 year old crop - hitting the way Trout did in the minors in 2011 is more of an anomaly than not.

This list shouldn't give you the most confidence in the world about Machado in the short-term. Many of these players took longer to climb up their organization's hierarchy than they probably would have liked. Snider still hasn't arrived and he's now 24 years old.  Most of these players have been solid but hardly close to what I'd dub a superstar.

One disadvantage we have here as far as trying to determine what Machado will do is that the sample size is woefully small for comparative purposes. Before Trout and Bryce Harper, the last two hitters to make the Majors in their Age 19 season were Justin Upton (2007) and B.J. Upton (2004). Before that, you have Wilson Betemit's eight game, five plate appearance cup of coffee in 2001.

There aren't a lot of data to look at, but the Uptons give us some idea of what we might expect from Machado in the early going. We might see a little power and a little speed with Machado and a so-so batting average. Or we might see worse. As I said above, the age curve is a significant factor. Hitting .240-.250 with 3-4 HR and 3-4 steals across 150 plate appearances in the Majors would be a big deal for a 19-year-old. From a Roto standpoint, however, that would be a significant yawner, particularly in mixed leagues.

Long term I really dig Machado. I could see him turning into a perennial 30 HR/15 SB player at his peak. But it's probably going to take a long time for Machado to get to that point, and it wouldn't surprise me at all to see him wind him back in the minors - like B.J. Upton, Rizzo, and Snider did - at some point in 2013. Keeper league owners are thinking they should jump all over Machado - and that's fine - but the road to stardom is a long path, not a short one for nearly every young player not named Mike Trout.

1 comment:

Jintman said...

I don't have much of a problem with the call up but playing him at 3B seems odd. He's only played 2 games their in his career