Manny Machado: This Year’s Anthony Rendon
I live in Washington, D.C. and from a baseball standpoint I was absolutely spoiled in 2014. I subscribe to MLB.tv so I can watch my hometown Red Sox and anything else going on in the league, but sometimes I’m just not in the mood to fire it up and I find myself watching the local games. Watching the local games wasn’t half bad this year since I was able to see the Nationals and Orioles both win their divisions, and I got to witness one of my favorite young players, Anthony Rendon, enjoy a breakout year.
There are few things in baseball more impressive to me than rocket line drives down the left field line that get caught by horizontal third basemen, or balls stopped deep in the hole and rifled to first. Third basemen do it all from flashy defense to putting the ball over the fence, and no one was better in 2014 than Rendon. I am here to tell you that even though Rendon is the guy coming off the MVP-vote type season, it’s Machado you want to target in your dynasty leagues.
Before we get into what they do on the field, the first thing to consider is price. This year Rendon finished second on the ESPN player rater at third base to Miguel Cabrera, who will not be eligible there this year. The price to acquire the 24-year-old stud is going to be among the highest in the whole game right now. Considering position eligibility and age I can definitively say that there are only three guys I would for sure draft above Rendon in a new dynasty league: Mike Trout, Paul Goldschmidt, and Giancarlo Stanton. Outside of those three there are other players you could argue for but it would take some convincing. You will and should pay an exorbitant price for Rendon in dynasty.
Machado on the other hand has fallen from favor since his spectacular sophomore campaign where, according to Fangraphs, he was worth 6.3 WAR; Rendon in 2014 was worth 6.6. In the two years since Machado has fallen victim to his knees with surgery in both 2013 and 2014 on his left and right Medial Patellar Femoral Ligaments. These health concerns could scare you away, but I used them as an opportunity to buy a special player at his lowest value.
I have given you a bunch of evidence of high WAR seasons at a young age by Machado, most of which was driven by his sublime defense, but there is ample hope for the bat scouts thought would terrorize opposing pitchers. In that same spectacular 2013 season Machado only hit 14 HR, but his 51 doubles were good for second in all of baseball. Let’s remember all the Machado facts before we start writing him off. Machado was drafted as a teenager with the third overall pick in the 2010 draft. Machado, like Bryce Harper, made his MLB debut at the age of 19 and has just recently turned 22 years old. Twenty-year-old players just don’t come into league and play that well so quickly, and when they do they usually end up in the Hall of Fame. Machado’s age-20 season in 2013 was worth the eighth-most WAR all time for a 20 year old—the list itself is very impressive.
|Name||Ave Fly Ball Distance||HR/FB %||K%||FB%||IFFB%|
My biggest question following Machado’s 2013 knee issue was whether his power would return so his fantasy star could continue to rise. In 2014, Machado’s power not only returned but increased leading to his highest average fly ball distance of his career at 283.3 feet. While Machado doesn’t have elite fly ball distance, it isn’t bad ranking both eighth among third basemen and only a few feet behind Rendon’s 287.6-foot distance. Ever more encouraging about Machado’s health is that his average distance is continuing to increase and doing so rapidly, up five feet in one year. Out of those players with better batted ball distances, only three managed to bat better than .275 and have a better K% than Machado over the last two seasons: Rendon, Nolan Arenado, and Adrian Beltre.
Steamer likes Machado to have a very similar season to Rendon next year even if his unsustainable HR/FB rate drops from 15%. Coming off the two knee surgeries, we likely won’t see much base stealing from Machado, but that was never a part of his game we counted on for fantasy purposes. Machado is exactly two years and one month younger than Rendon and trending in the right direction. He had some additional swing-and-miss to his game last year and if he can match the 16% K rate Steamer projects and maintain the power gains from 2014, he should see his HR total increase.
In closing, Machado does a whole lot of things at a high level; it just so happens that he hasn’t done them all in the same season. Machado’s 2013 K% and BA look a lot like those of Rendon from last year, and his 2014 HR pace didn’t lag far behind him either. Both Rendon and Machado have batted second in the lineup for most of their short careers, and if Machado can continue to increase his BB% we could see very similar R and RBI totals.
I believe Machado can rebound from the surgeries and put it all together which is why I ranked him third in my “2015 Fantasy Dynasty Third Base Ranks” behind only Rendon and Josh Donaldson. At his peak it isn’t hard for me to imagine Machado having 25-plus HR power, especially if he can reduce those infield fly balls and turn them into the outfield variety. Not many guys have his pedigree or 10.1 WAR through age 22, and right now he’s on sale. Buy yourself lots of Machado shares before his stock goes Apple on us.