Jonatan Machado (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

St. Louis’ record-setting bonus was received by teenaged Cuban outfielder Jonatan Machado.

The Cardinal Nation’s top 50 prospect countdown for 2017 continues at #27 with a very high-bonused Cuban center fielder. Details for TCN members.

http://www.scout.com/player/210543-jonatan-machado?s=321

2016 rank Pos. DOB Signed Round
NA CF 01 21 99 2016 IFA

Selected 2016 stats

Tm AVG BABIP AB R H 2B HR RBI BB SO SB wOBA OBP SLG OPS
DSL 0.209 0.246 67 10 14 4 0 7 7 10 2 0.294 0.284 0.299 0.582

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

Message board community (31): Jonatan Machado finished as the 31st highest-rated prospect in the community vote much after 14NyquisT tabbed him first with his #24 selection.

During the vote, I commented that Machado received the largest bonus ever given to a Cardinals international prospect, and even more than their first-round pick in the draft, Delvin Perez. VegasjJim believes the Cardinals must have a strong system if Machado can’t even crack the top 30. 14NyquisT believes that Machado will probably grow another inch or two, and add some arm strength and pop along the way. – Jeremy Byrd

 

Derek Shore (28): Headlining the Cardinals class as part of a storied July 2nd international signing period was the speedy Cuban center fielder Machado. Scouts compared him to Kenny Lofton and locals referred to him as "Suzuki," as in Ichiro.

Machado, 17, defected from Cuba at the tender age of 16 after performing at a high-level for several years in Cuba's 15U national league. The left-handed hitter and thrower, who had been living in the Dominican Republic before the international signing period started, inked a $2.35 million bonus as he alone surpassed St. Louis’ spending cap.

The Cardinals scouted the Havana, Cuba native during both the 2014 World Cup and since he arrived in the Dominican late last year. He was signed to a 2016 professional contract and immediately reported to the DSL Cardinals, slashing .209/.284/.299 with no homers and seven RBI through his first 17 games (67 at-bats).

While his arm strength grades out as a below-average, he is said to be a "70 runner", who plays in premium position up-the-middle with a knack for barreling up the ball. His swing is a bit quirky with a front arm bar, though he stands out for his hand-eye coordination with the ability to spray the ball to all fields with below-average power but potentially solid gap-to-gap power thanks to his innate contact skills.

The 5-foot-9, 155-pounder is known as a burner with defensive instincts and contact skills to match. Machado is an aggressive left-handed hitter, with a smallish, wiry frame, but has natural athletic ability to project as a prototypical lead-off hitter.

“He has a below-average arm, but he can fly, and he can hit,” one scout told Baseball America.com. “He can handle the bat, he can bunt, he can hit to all fields, and he has surprising power for his size. For his age, he really knows what he is doing at the plate.”

The Cardinals invited Machado to instructional league this fall to continue the assimilation process. However, he will likely spend the entirety of the 2017 season back at the academy in the Dominican.

 

Brian Walton (28): Despite the apparent agreement among our three voters, I am not in agreement with myself! No, I am not losing my marbles – at least I think not. Here is my take.

Only because we have so little to go on – after all, Machado has just 17 games of experience, all in the Dominican – is he placed here in the middle of our rankings. Machado is a player who I think will either be a top-20 player by this time next year, or will provide early signals that he could become a blowout and a waste of the record $2.35 million bonus received. I think the former is the more likely outcome.

Moises Rodriguez went into depth on Machado with me this fall, as the teen was participating in instructional league camp.

The Cardinals' international director began with their scouting background on Machado.

“Jonatan was another target that we had throughout the spring, a player that we had international event history on,” Rodriguez said. “We had seen him in youth championships and we have information on how he performed in Cuba. He is a guy that we have been following for a little bit.”

Rodriguez then offered his personal scouting report, especially valuable since he has probably seen Machado play as much as anyone.

“High contract rate, left-left, speedy,” Rodriguez said. “True center fielder. Prototypical leadoff player. The kind of player who is going to beat you in different ways. He is a short kid – he is not physically imposing - but he runs, he plays very instinctual center field. He makes contact at a high rate, he bunts, he is a pain on the bases and is really distracting for the opposition.

“He is somebody who is going to bring a very different dynamic to the baseball game. Not a middle of the lineup kind of guy, but more of a top of the order, get on base, help the team win with different dimensions of his game.”

At the same time, the Cardinals international head offered a warning following all the praise.

“Again, I would just caution that he is 17,” Rodriguez said. “Market forces lead us to sign these guys at an early age. The bonus draws a lot of attention, but his instincts on both sides of the ball are really important and we just feel that with some physical maturity, in the upcoming years, which we know that he will add, that he can become a very quick mover for us.”

Even without Rodriguez’ closing remark, I question whether Machado will spend all of this coming season in the Dominican. I could see him open play in the US in extended spring training, then return to the DSL for the first month before quickly joining the Gulf Coast League Cardinals when their games begin in late June.

I don't think it will be too long before we are discussing a center field log jam in rookie ball with Machado's name alongside Nick Plummer and Dylan Carlson.

TCN Scouting Grade: 6, Risk: Extreme (click here to review scales)

For those not keeping score at home, Machado is our fifth player with an extreme risk, but the first in the countdown to receive a grade of six. Of course, others will follow soon.

Our 2017 top 50 series continues

To see the entire list of top Cardinals prospects and remaining article schedule, click here. This includes the top 50 countdown and nine in-depth, follow-up articles. Most of them are exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation. Thank you for being a member!

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