Nearly 40 miles north of where well-known rookie phenom Bryce Harper roams the outfield for the Washington Nationals, another phenom has captured a city’s attention. Manny Machado, a 20-year-old centerpiece of the Baltimore Orioles’ future, made his major league debut last week in stunning fashion.
Five of his first six hits were of the extra-base variety. He hit two home runs, off breaking balls, in his second game. He homered in two of the first four games. He has a hit in all but one of the seven games he has played. Sure, it’s an extremely small sample, but he is hitting .308 (8 for 26) with an on-base plus slugging percentage of 1.141.
It was a suprising callup on Aug. 9, when the Orioles summoned Machado from Class AA Bowie and inserted him into the starting lineup. Some had feared that the Orioles were pushing him along too quickly since he was drafted as the third overall pick in the 2010 draft, two spots behind Harper. (They were teammates on the 2009 Team USA 18-and-under team that won a world championship and both were in the South Atlantic League all-star game last season.)
Machado played only nine minor league games in 2010 and hit .257 with 11 home runs in 101 games last season across low Class A Delmarva and high Class A Frederick. And after 109 games at Bowie, where he was hitting .266 with 11 home runs, Machado was at Camden Yards in an Orioles uniform. (At one point last season, Machado jumped ahead of Harper in their respective developments, but Harper made it to the majors first out of his team’s need.)
The speed of Machado’s ascent, however, shouldn’t be a major issue. The Orioles felt that Machado, although a natural shortstop, could provide better defense than they already had, and his powerful bat would be a nice addition in a playoff race. Because of the strong play of shortstop J.J. Hardy and the Orioles’ committment to him, Machado has seen all of his playing time at third base.
He has played only two games at third, this season at Class AA Bowie. But he is young and the talent is there. It’s also not a suprising move because, even as of last year, a segment of the scouting community speculated that Machado should be moved to third base.
As the Orioles fight for a playoff spot, Machado will get a chance to prove himself. He hasn’t so far, but if he struggles because he wasn’t ready, then he will learn and his talent will help carry him through. For now, he has shown some of his bountiful potential and ability. And the Orioles and Nationals may have two young phenoms shining for years to come.