Manny Machado, the Baltimore Orioles 20 year old third basemen, has thrust himself into the conversation as one of the best young players in baseball but he might be doing something more, setting himself up to the AL MVP.
Machado started the year off slowly. After the Orioles 18th game of the season, a 7-4 loss to the Dodgers, Manny was hitting only .250. Since that time, however, he’s been one of the most dangerous hitters in the game. Coming off his second consecutive 3 hit game, Machado’s average is up to .323. He has 6 multi hit games in his teams’ 10 May contests, including 3 of his 5 home runs. Manny has 5 games of 3 or more hits already this season. HIs OBP is currently .363 and his OPS is a very good .876.
Scouts and reporters have also been raving about Machado’s defense this season as well. Though he’s a natural shortstop and projects there in the future, he’s played third for his entire major league career so far and has done so exceptionally. His dWAR this year is .8, meaning that he’s won his team almost an entire game just with this glove. It’s hard to quantify defense, however, so you might just have to take my word for it on how good he really is.
What really sets Machado apart, however, is his value to his team. Machado is a burgeoning superstar and is anchoring the Orioles lineup from the top. He’s been getting on base ahead of sluggers Chris Davis, Adam Jones, and Nick Markakis.
The Orioles are 22-15, 1 game behind the shockingly good Yankees and tied with the Red Sox for second in the AL East. They are doing their best to prove that last season’s success wasn’t a fluke. This year, Baltimore’s run differential of +25 is fifth in the AL, in large part thanks to Machado.
There might not be a player who means more to his team right now than this third basemen. Machado’s 2.2 WAR is good for second in the AL and 4th in the MLB but the guys ahead of him, Ian Kinsler, Gerardo Parra, and Carlos Gomez, seem way less likely to keep up their hot starts.
Last season, Mike Trout too the league by storm and waltzed to the AL Rookie of the Year award. Machado isn’t eligible for that thanks to his playing time last year but if the 20 year old keeps playing the way he is, and there’s no reason to think he can’t, he might just be this year’s Mike Trout, the young player every team wished they had.