Thursday, February 28, 2013

2013 projections for Manny Machado are too conservative

The leap is way too large to consider that the Baltimore Orioles went 33-18 once Manny Machado made the leap to the Major Leagues at the age of twenty last season. One player doesn't a .647 winning percentage down that stretch make. But it makes for a nice theory. After all, the third base position went from the worst fielding position in the majors to a savings of four and a half to seven runs (depending on the site) over the last 51 games.

I don't really know what the Fans Scouting Report is on Facebook player pages. But I do know that  I love what I see there. I normally see ratings in the 60s for most players in at least a few of the categories rated there. But not for Manny Machado. His scores showed a 73 for instincts, a 72 for first step, a 62 for speed (okay, he's not fast), a 73 for hands, a 78 for the quickness of his release, an 86 for arm strength and a 72 for accuracy. Sure, Adrian Beltre beats him in all those categories (except the speed thing). But we're talking a really good third baseman here.

And yet the projections all give him anywhere for his defense from 2.3 to 7 runs above average for his fielding in 2013. Will he really flatten out that much over the course of a full season? I really don't think so. I think what you are going to see is ten runs above average making the combination of he and Hardy one of the best left sides of an infield in baseball.

The projections for his offense are even more conservative. For example, Machado finished with a .183 ISO for his 51 games in 2012. And this was for a kid that went from Double-A to the majors at a young age. The highest ISO projection has him at .173. Most have him in the .150s to .160s. I don't see it. His home run to fly ball percentage was 11.7 percent and that is a pretty healthy rate. Combine that with an unusually low line drive percentage south of 14% in 2012 and it would seem that his line drive percentage will go up leading to more doubles and triples and if his home run production stays the same, that should organically mean an ISO of at least what he did last season. I believe it will be higher.

Machado did not exactly set the world on fire with his offense in his 51 games. His triple slash line was .262/.294/.445. Yeah, that's not setting cannons off or anything. But he was twenty years old! His OPS was .739. The projections for his 2013 set his range from .698 to a high of .752. I can't see it. For one thing, his walk percentage of only 4.2% in those 51 games is deceiving compared to his plate discipline numbers. For a young kid, he only swung at 29% of pitches out of the strike zone. And his walk percentage was always at least double that in all of his minor league stops.

I understand that projection systems are by nature conservative and based on numbers plugged into the computer and what the expectation of outcomes spit out based on all factors. And I am not saying that they are all wrong because my eyes tell me that the guy just looks like a great ballplayer.  I just think Manny Machado is going to continue to grow as a major league player. He has a great manager for bringing his talent along. My prediction (I'm not smart enough to project) is that he will improve on his 2012 start to his career and will be a five WAR player in 2013. Those who project for a living go from 1.2 WARP (BP) to a high of 3.7. I think he will top that easily. 

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