Manny Machado is back.
The Baltimore Orioles are expected to activate the 21-year-old third baseman before the series opener against the Pittsburgh Pirates, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports. With Tuesday's game being postponed because of rain, it's expected that Machado will make his season debut on Wednesday.
Machado suffered an ugly, season-ending knee injury last September, and the Orioles were understandably cautious with his rehab this spring following offseason surgery. He might have been ready earlier in the season if not for a minor setback experienced while running the bases, but his recent three-game rehab stint with High-A Frederick suggests Machado is ready to pick up where he left off in 2013.
Machado was assigned to Frederick for the team's weekend series, after playing several games in extended spring training, and made an immediate impact by going 8-for-12 with four doubles and a triple. The 21-year-old convinced the organization he was ready to be activated following Sunday's game, when he went 4-for-4 with three runs scored, a pair of doubles and RBI, walk and stolen base.
Headed into Baltimore's contest on Sunday against the Kansas City Royals, manager Buck Showalter discussed the timetable for Machado's activation, via Jeff Seidel of MLB.com. "We'll see where we are at the end of [Sunday]," said Showalter. "I think the biggest part of that equation is what Manny thinks. We're a lot closer than we were."
Well, apparently both Machado and the Orioles believe he's ready.
In 2013, his first full season in the major leagues, Machado batted .283/.314/.432 with 51 doubles and 14 home runs in 710 plate appearances. He also scored 88 runs, stole six bases and collected 71 RBI prior to his injury.
|Manny Machado Career Statistics (2012-2013)|
Following the season, Machado was honored with the Rawlings Platinum Glove as the best defensive player in the American League after ranking first in both ultimate zone rating (31.2) and defensive runs saved (35), per FanGraphs. Machado also paced all third basemen with at least 1,000 innings at the position in both categories.
Overall, Machado's 6.2 WAR, according to FanGraphs, ranked 10th among all position players across both leagues.
Now, with Machado fully healthy and ready to rejoin the Orioles, it's seemingly only a matter of time until he adds to his already impressive major-league resume.
|Manny Machado: 2014 Projections|
The PECOTA, Oliver and Steamer projection models all take into account Machado's missed time this season, but they're still in agreement that he'll be roughly a four-win player and bat somewhere in the ballpark of .270 with 15 bombs, a bunch of doubles and 60-70 RBI. ZIPS is the only model that projected Machado's 2014 performance based on a full season, and, in my opinion, offers a realistic idea of what to expect from the 21-year-old this season should he stay healthy. Basically, each of the models project Machado to be the same caliber of player he was prior to the injury and despite his late start this season.
Meanwhile, the Orioles undoubtedly are thrilled to have Machado back in the lineup, especially in the wake of Chris Davis landing on the disabled list with an oblique strain. Through the first 24 games, the Orioles' third basemen—Jonathan Schoop and Ryan Flaherty—rank 14th in the American League with a .269 wOBA and last in OPS (.597), per FanGraphs. Defensively, the Orioles' trio of options at the hot corner collectively has cost the team 11 runs.
For all those reasons, Machado's scheduled season debut couldn't come at a better time. And so long as he stays healthy, the 21-year-old phenom seems destined to build on his outstanding 2013 campaign to emerge as one of the premier all-around players in the American League.