The Baltimore Orioles were dreaming big when they drafted Manny Machado with the third overall pick in the 2010 draft. He immediately became a major part of the club's future.
The Orioles decided on Wednesday that the future is now.
Are the Orioles making a risky move? Of course they are. Machado wasn't exactly dominating at the Double-A level, and they're further complicating matters by penciling him in at third base rather than shortstop, his natural position. Plus, Machado is only 20 years old, and there's no guarantee whatsoever that he'll be able to duplicate the feats of fellow youngsters Mike Trout and Bryce Harper.
But none of this changes the fact that Machado has superstar potential. All the scouts say he could be a future All-Star, and he definitely has the look of a future All-Star.
To illustrate that point, here's a quick look at five superstars Machado reminds us of.
Note: I'll be talking a lot about Machado's swing mechanics in this slideshow. You can get a good look for yourself by heading over to MiLB.com.
When he's healthy, no shortstop in baseball is as good as Troy Tulowitzki. According to FanGraphs, the only shortstop with a higher WAR than Tulowitzki since 2007 is Hanley Ramirez, and he's no longer a shortstop.
Machado and Tulowitzki don't have much in common from an offensive standpoint. Tulo's swing is more violent than Machado's, and for the moment, it's certainly much more powerful.
Their swing mechanics are also vastly different, as Tulo uses a closed stance and his swing features a lot of moving parts. Machado swings from an open stance, and his swing is a lot smoother and a lot simpler mechanically than Tulo's.
Where Machado and Tulo are similar to one another is in their body type and in the way they play defense.
Baseball-Reference.com lists Machado at 6'3" and 185 pounds and Tulowitzki at 6'3" and 215 pounds. Tulo's obviously a lot heavier, but the thing to keep in mind is that he's had a lot more time to fill out his frame. As Machado gets older, it wouldn't be at all surprising if he got up around 210 or 215 pounds.
That's a chief concern in some circles. Experts such as Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus (subscription required) have wondered aloud if Machado might eventually outgrow the shortstop position. As he gets bigger, he'll surely lose the range required to play the position.
Tulo is proof that big guys can play short as well as anyone. Fans tend to think of his cannon arm above all else when they think of his defense, but Tulo is capable of covering a surprising amount of ground for a big guy. This is reflected in his MLB-high 4.84 range factor in 2011.
As Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com was quick to point out, Machado posted a 4.56 range factor in 2011. That would have ranked fifth among MLB shortstops.
Machado's immediate future may be at third, but Tulo's career goes to show that he may be able to make it as a shortstop in the long run.
Edgar Renteria is one of the most underrated players of the 2000s. He didn't put up monster numbers during his career, but only seven shortstops have managed to post a higher WAR than him since 2000, according to FanGraphs.
Not unlike Tulo, Renteria could also move surprisingly well for a big guy when he was in his prime. He won a couple Gold Gloves in the early 2000s, and in those days, he was posted well-above-average UZRs.
But Renteria doesn't factor into this discussion because of his size or his defense. He factors into this discussion because he and Machado share some similarities from an offensive standpoint.
As you can see in this video of him lining a triple into the right-center field gap, Machado is already capable of keeping his bat through the zone and covering the outside part of the plate with the best of them.
Some scouting reports, such as the one penned by ESPN's Keith Law (subscription), rave about Machado's wrists, and it's not hard to see where they're coming from.
So did Renteria when he was in his heyday, and he too could cover the outside part of the plate with the best of them. Him lining singles and doubles to the right side of the field was a common occurrence.
There are even some similarities between the two players' swings. Renteria's swing was a little on the longer side, and so is Machado's.
But for a better swing comparison, we'll turn it over to the next guy on this list.
A few years ago, Hanley Ramirez was one of the most feared hitters in baseball. He hit over .300 every year between 2007 and 2010, winning the NL batting crown with a .342 average in 2009.
And he did it with one of the prettiest swings in the game.
Ramirez's bat has lost a lot of its old effectiveness, but his swing has remained largely unchanged. He still uses a fairly big leg kick as his timing device, and his swing itself is still long and loopy (this video of his game-winning homer in San Francisco is a perfect example).
Machado has a little Ramirez in him. You can see in a video of a recent home run that he's using a Ramirez-esque leg kick as his timing device nowadays, and the way he can explode on an inside pitch is also very Ramirez-esque.
There's more to the Ramirez/Machado comparison, though.
Machado is viewed as a bit of a tweener, and that's something Ramirez can sympathize with. Even when he was making a name for himself as one of the top shortstops in the league, there was a lot of negative buzz about Ramirez's defense, and rightfully so. He never was a great defensive shortstop, and many wondered aloud whether he would be a better fit in the outfield or at third base.
He was finally moved to third base this season, and that's probably where he'll stay for the bulk of his career from here on out.
Machado is going to start his big league career at the hot corner, and he'll end up staying right there if he shows that he's no Tulowitzki defensively.
Surprised by this one?
You shouldn't be. Scouts and fans alike have been comparing Machado to Alex Rodriguez for some time now. As Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com put it, Machado is an "Alex Rodriguez disciple with tools almost to match."
This comparison is both fair and unfair.
It's fair in the sense that Machado is arriving in the big leagues with a billing as a future .300 hitter who's going to club as many as 25 home runs on an annual basis. And, like A-Rod, Machado is big for a shortstop, and his arm is seemingly better than his range.
As Orioles-Nation.com's breakdown can show, there are also some slight similarities between the two players' swings. The way in which Machado so evenly distributes his weight is indeed a little reminiscent of A-Rod.
The comparison is unfair because, come on, it's A-Rod we're talking about. Careers such as his are few and far between, and it's also not fair to expect Machado to make the kind of immediate impact that A-Rod did early in his career with the Mariners.
One also gets the sense that people compare Machado to A-Rod because both of them have ties to the Miami area. If that area can produce one superstar shortstop, surely it can produce another. Something like that.
In that sense, the Machado/Rodriguez comparison is more of a circumstantial comparison than anything else. To that end, it's not a bad one.
For a more proper circumstantial comparison, we have to turn somebody else.
Machado is arriving in the big leagues as a big shortstop with somewhat of a questionable outlook at the shortstop position.
He's arriving in the big leagues with a reputation as a seasoned hitter with great power potential.
He's being called up to The Show at the age of 20.
He's viewed as the Orioles' shortstop of the future, and people are hoping that his arrival will be the start of brighter days in Baltimore.
Honestly, how can we not think of Cal Ripken, Jr. when we think of Manny Machado?
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