A lot has been made this week about the Orioles surprise call-up of 20-year-old phenom shortstop Manny Machado. The move was made after a torrid couple weeks from Machado at AA-Bowie, but overall, his numbers there this season suggested that he wasn’t quite ready to make the jump to the Major Leagues. Even with that hot streak, Machado had a decent—but by no means spectacular—.266/.352/.438 slash line with 11 home runs in 459 plate appearances in AA and the track record of 20-year-olds having success at the Major League level is shoddy at best. It seemed an odd move for a team that miraculously is still in contention.
Then again, given the lack of actual talent on the Orioles roster, it seemed like a low-risk move of self-awareness for Dan Duquette’s front office. The chances that Machado would outperform—both offensively and defensively—the shit-bag combination of Robert Andino and Wilson Betemit at third base for Baltimore seemed at least plausible.
Two games in and Duquette and his team look brilliant. Yeah, yeah—small sample size and all that, but Machado hasn’t looked at all out of place so far against Major League pitching. After a 2-for-4 performance with a triple in his debut, Machado followed it up with another 2-for-4 performance last night against the Royals and this time both hits were home runs.
Here’s the video of the second one; a 1-2 curveball that Luke Hochevar left belt-high. I’m no scout, but that bat speed makes me swoon—he’s going to be fun to watch for a long time.
The Orioles, meanwhile, continue to inexplicably win ballgames. Despite the fourth-worst run differential in the American League, Baltimore finds themselves in a playoff spot—tied with Detroit for the top wild card position, half a game ahead of both Tampa Bay and Oakland and a full game up on the Angels. If Machado can continue to hit, the Orioles might just have a shot. Baseball Prospectus’ playoff odds still has Baltimore at just a 9.9% chance of making the post-season—compared to 79.2% for Detroit, 69.4% for the Angels and 39.6% for Tampa. Despite their improbable play thus far, the Orioles still lack the overall talent to compete with those teams.
Compare the Orioles to any of those other rosters. The likes of Miguel Gonzalez and Chris Tillman simply don’t stack up to Jered Weaver, Zack Greinke and Dan Haren; or David Price, James Shields and Matt Moore; or even Tommy Milone, Brandon McCarthy and Bartolo Colon. Even offensively, the Orioles are routinely running out the likes of Omar Quintanilla and Lew Ford—they simply aren’t very good and chances are it’s going to show between now and the end of the season.
Still, the play of Machado has to be incredibly encouraging for Orioles’ fans. It’s been a long time since they’ve had a player with this much hype and talent on their roster. The 2010 third overall pick out of a Miami high school appears to be the real deal—at least until the OriLOLes find a way to screw it up.
And the rest:
Machado became the youngest Oriole ever to have a multi-homer game, edging out Boog Powell who did it in 1962 at 20 years, 250 days—Machado is 20 years, 35 days old [Eduardo A. Encina, Twitter].
Get yer batteries ready, Phillies fans [Tech Woot, scroll down a bit].
A quick look at some potential vesting option for the 2013 season [Mike Axisa, MLB Trade Rumo[u]rs].
It looks like David Ortiz won’t be returning this Sunday [Tim Britton, Providence Journal].
Will Middlebrooks broke his wrist and the Red Sox will call up recently acquired Danny Valencia in his stead [Pete Abraham, Twitter]. You know, it’s really too bad the Red Sox didn’t have a veteran third baseman to step in and provide solid production. If they did, I’m sure they’d never give it away for almost nothing.
Wait, Travis Hafner is injured and will miss the rest of this season? Quelle surprise! [Dennis Manoloff, Cleveland Plain Dealer].
Omar Vizquel wants to manage a Major League Baseball team next season [Jon Paul Morosi, FOX Sports]. He’s certainly gaining experience this year as a bench coach in Toronto.
PRAWNSCRAPS! [Productive Outs].
It seems as though the Nationals are serious about this whole ‘eliminating Strasmas’ thing—although they’ve upped the innings limit to 180 [Dave Cameron, FanGraphs].
Pitchers pitching while retching [Ben Lindbergh, Baseball Prospectus].