The Tigers were targeting Machado as the 2008 international signing period approached, and even though he didn't require a massive bonus he was a priority for the club.
Machado made his pro debut at 17-years old in the VSL in 2009 and hit a paltry .205/.310/.278 in 63 games for the Tigers.
Despite that rough start the Tigers brought him Stateside for the 2010 season, playing him at both short-season levels along the way. In 43 games for the GCL club Machado hit .261 with four doubles and three triples while going 12-for-15 in steal attempts. In a seven game trial with Connecticut, the then 18-year old Machado posted a .292 average.
Promoted to West Michigan at age 19 in 2011, Machado struggled offensively but still showed promise. Playing 124 games as the primary shortstop Machado hit only .235 but did manage 46 walks against just 77 strikeouts while posting an excellent 25-for-30 stolen base rate.
Defensively Machado offers the potential of an elite prospect. He has outstanding range, footwork and hands at shortstop. He gobbles up ground balls with ease and can turn plenty of balls hit in his direction into outs. He is capable of making the amazing play but has the maturity to stay within himself and not force big things.
His arm strength is also a weapon in the field. He earns 60 or better grades from scouts consistently and he can make hard, accurate throws from anywhere on the infield and from any throwing angle.
Machado's plus speed plays well in the field and also on the bases. He has very good instincts for a player his age. He reads pitchers well and gets good jumps on steal attempts. He is also a savvy base runner when looking for an extra base.
Where his prospect stock begins to fall short is when looking at his offensive game. Machado is extremely thin, bordering on frail and he lacks the strength to generate bat speed or drive the ball out of the infield. He is an extreme slap hitter that can literally have the bat knocked out of his hands at times.
He has good contact ability and a solid understanding of the strike zone. While he is willing to work counts and wait out pitchers, he won't be able to do that at higher levels unless he adds strength. Pitchers have nothing to fear with him in the box and they will begin to blow it by him as he moves up.
Machado is a tenacious player with a champion's mentality. He doesn't give up on the field and he maximizes his defensive tools with extreme effort.
Without some offensive development, Machado will have a hard time hitting enough to be a big league regular, even in this era of depressed offensive expectations at premium defensive positions. If his body matures as he enters his twenties, he has a chance to develop into a bottom of the order hitter with an exceptional glove. Without that physical maturation Machado will top out as defensive specialist at the end of the bench.
Performance Level Team AB AVG 2B HR RBI SO BB OBP% SLG% A
Despite his thin frame Machado hasn't had any problems with durability. He was still playing hard and showing the same tools at the end of a long first full season in 2011. He has no history of injuries as a professional.
Machado's 2012 assignment is very much up in the air. How the Tigers handle Brandon Loy will have a huge impact on where Machado ends up. If Loy is pushed to Erie, Machado is the obvious choice to be promoted to Lakeland at 20-years old. If Loy is in Lakeland, Machado could well return to West Michigan and still be a little young for the league.
Either location will serve to aid Machado's development. In Lakeland he would again be pressed against much older competition, a challenge he has handled well in the past. In West Michigan Machado would be afforded the ability to take a step forward and earn a promotion, something a player of his drive and makeup should relish.
At best, Machado is three years from being on the big league radar and he will have to overcome some significant developmental hurdles just to meet that timeline.
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