Manny Machado

Is Manny Machado in the same echelon as Mike Trout and Bryce Harper?

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MASN’s Steve Melewski argues that Manny Machado should be considered in the same conversation as Mike Trout and Bryce Harper when it comes to the best young players in baseball. The Orioles’ 20-year-old third baseman is off to a fantastic start in 2013, carrying a .314/.356/.503 line through 166 plate appearances. By Baseball Reference WAR, he has been as valuable as Joey Votto and Troy Tulowitzki, among others, which ranks in the top-ten in baseball.

Putting him in with Trout and Harper, though? Melewski uses batting average, home runs, RBI, and doubles to make his case, which unfortunately leaves out base running and defense.

Melewski writes:

Did you know that through the first 84 big league games for each player, that Machado tops both Trout and Harper in batting average, homers, RBIs and doubles?

Well, he does, as found by Duquette, who is also heard on MLB Network Radio on Sirius-XM Radio. Here is the comparison:

Machado – .284 average, 12 homers, 47 RBIs, 20 doubles.
Harper – .258 average, nine homers, 29 RBIs, 16 doubles.
Trout – .282 average, 11 homers, 42 RBIs, 16 doubles.

Machado tops the dynamic duo in all four categories. Is there anyone out there that still doesn’t think he belongs in the conversation with Trout and Harper for best young player in baseball? He clearly stacks up with the other two.

Limiting to each player’s first 84 games is both arbitrary and unnecessarily reduces the sample size for two of the three players. Let’s go over all available data over their respective careers. (Warning: nerdiness ahead.)

The best all-encompassing offensive stat, in my humble opinion, is weighted on-base average (wOBA). It weights everything a player does by himself and is context-neutral (in other words, it doesn’t care about the inning, runner on base, outs, etc.). Trout is way ahead of the pack at .399, Harper is in second at .365, and Machado brings up the rear at .341. The MLB average is .315. The 58-point difference in runs between Trout and Machado, over Machado’s 368 career PA, is 17, which is huge — nearly two wins, or the equivalent of an average player by itself. The 24-point difference between Harper and Machado is seven runs over 368 PA.

Trout has also stolen 54 bases in 60 attempts (90 percent), Harper 19 in 27 (70 percent), and Machado six in seven (86 percent). In overall base running (which includes base-stealing), Baseball Prospectus credits Trout with 8.7 runs in 2012 and 0.1 runs in 2013 (8.8 total); Harper 5.4 and -0.9 (4.5); Machado -0.3 and -1.0 (-1.3).

Defense is tricky to gauge since even advanced metrics leave a lot to be desired in this area. There is no question that Machado grades highly in this area no matter which methodology you use — stats, scouts, your own eyes, etc. Baseball Reference credits him at 10 runs above average while Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) puts him at 12. Mike Trout is at +11 in center and +6 in left field over his career per BR, and +12 and +4 via UZR. Harper is +14 in center, +8 in right, and +6 in left via BR, and +10, -2, and 0 respectively, going by UZR. As good as Machado is defensively, he would have to be a whole lot better to make up for the lacking offense in comparison to Trout in particular.

Machado is a very good player with a bright future ahead of him. It is perfectly acceptable to appreciate that without exaggerating his prowess and neglecting two very important facets of the game. And it is still quite possible that Machado ends up having the better career when all is said and done, but right now, he doesn’t quite match up.

Brett Anderson and Mike Montgomery could share Cubs’ rotation spot in 2017

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 01:  Mike Montgomery #38 of the Chicago Cubs throws a pitch during the seventh inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game Six of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 1, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon hasn’t selected a fifth starter for his 2017 rotation yet, but told reporters that he could envision left-handers Brett Anderson and Mike Montgomery sharing the spot throughout the year. Neither pitcher was stretched out to the full 200-inning threshold last year, Maddon added, and suggested that the two could alternate innings out of the rotation and bullpen as needed (via MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat).

Anderson, 29, was acquired by the Cubs in January on a $3.5 million deal. He’s coming off a rough 2016, during which he underwent back surgery and missed all but 11 1/3 innings of his last season with the Dodgers. His last full, healthy year in the majors yielded a 3.69 ERA, 2.3 BB/9 and 5.8 SO/9 over 180 1/3 innings with Los Angeles in 2015.

Montgomery, meanwhile, is vying for a rotation spot after pitching almost exclusively from the bullpen during the second half of the Cubs’ 2016 run. The 27-year-old lefty put up a 2.82 ERA, 4.7 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 38 1/3 innings for Chicago last year, returning in the postseason to post a 3.14 ERA during the Cubs’ championship finish.

Maddon also mentioned the possibility of throwing a sixth starter into the mix, which would help prevent his other starters from getting overworked too early in the year. Either way, Anderson and Montgomery are expected to get a lot of looks early in spring training as rotation spots are finalized in the weeks leading up to Opening Day.

Michael Bourn to miss four weeks with a broken finger

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - SEPTEMBER 6:  Michael Bourn #1 of the Baltimore Orioles looks out of the dugout as he waits to get on deck to bat during the sixth inning of a game against the Tampa Bay Rays on September 6, 2016 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Orioles’ center fielder Michael Bourn is expected to be sidelined for four weeks while he rehabs a broken ring finger on his right hand, according to reports from the Baltimore Sun’s Peter Schmuck. Bourn broke the finger while playing catch with a football after a spring training workout.

The veteran outfielder re-signed with the club earlier this week on a minor league deal and was prepared to compete for a bench role this season. He’s in line to receive a $2 million salary if he makes the major league roster and can make an additional $3.5 million in incentives based on a set number of plate appearances. Now, however, his chances of cracking the roster out of spring training look considerably diminished, as his current timetable gives him an approximate return date of March 25 if all goes well.

Bourn had an impressive, if short-lived run with the Orioles following his trade to Baltimore last August, batting .283/.358/.435 with two home runs and a .793 OPS in 55 PA. While still somewhat removed from the totals that brought him an All-Star nod with the Braves in 2012, his defensive chops should give the Orioles some depth in center once he’s healthy again.