In recent years, the battle for the best player in Major League Baseball has been between two players: Mike Trout and Bryce Harper. There hasn’t been a player that has come close to challenging the two MVP’s since they were thrust into conversation as the next prodigies and faces of baseball in 2012.
The two-headed monster of baseball is impressive, but there’s about to be another player who’ll be drooled over just as much as Harper and Trout.
That player is Manny Machado.
Through 16 games in 2016, Machado has led his Baltimore Orioles to an 11-5 record atop the crowded American League East. Machado owns a .397 batting average, placing him at first in the American League. He’s also tied for second in the majors in home runs, with six. He owns the third-best on base percentage (.446), and the best on base plus slugging percentage (1.225) in the American League.
Obviously, it’d be nearly impossible for Machado to sustain his numbers. He’ll probably see his average and other percentages drop a little by the time May comes. But still, starting the season this hot can only mean he’s a little farther ahead of others when his slump comes.
Bryce Harper and Mike Trout are still looking for their fifth tool. Harper can hit for average and power, throw and field exceptionally, but is yet to find his stride on the base paths. That could change this season. Mike Trout has four tools as well, but is searching for a top level batting average, while possessing the other four tools.
Manny Machado has the ability to possess all five tools at season’s end. With 35 home runs last season, and six already this season, Machado has elite power. On the base paths, Machado’s skills are nothing to scoff at. He swiped 20 bases a season ago, proving he’s good enough to rattle any pitcher when he gets on. A reigning 2015 Gold Glove winner, Machado is one of the best defensive third basemen in the MLB with his glove and arm.
The only thing the O’s third baseman needs to do this season is maintain his high average, and he will be known as one of the most elite players in the majors.
Both Trout and Harper are durable, and so is Machado. The third baseman played in just 82 games in 2014 due to a nasty knee injury, but shook it off and played all 162 games last season; he was the only player to play in every single game last season.
And it’s also not like Machado will be getting beat by shifts anytime soon. So far this season, Machado has sprayed balls all over the field. On balls put in play to the outfield, Machado has hit 11 of his balls to left field, seven to center, and nine to right. There’s no advantage in an outfield shift on Machado, as he’ll spray it anywhere.
In the infield, it’s a different story. All but one of the balls Machado batted that were hit into the infield were on the left side. But that shouldn’t be a problem, as 35 of 56 balls put in play by Machado were fly balls so far this season.
Whether your opinion on Machado is that he’s a confident player or total toolbag is up to you, but it’s certain that Machado is capable of possessing all traits needed to become a five-tool player.
Pending he hits and defends the way he has in the past two seasons, Manny Machado will be known as one of the top three players in Major League Baseball by the end of 2016.