Acquired: Amateur Free Agent, 2008
Ranking History: #75 (2008), #36 (2009), #26 (2010), #29 (2011)
A priority signing for the Tigers at the start of the 2008 international signing period, Machado debuted with the VSL Tigers in 2009 and posted a .205 batting average with as many walks as strikeouts and 27 stolen bases.
The Tigers quickly brought him stateside for the 2010 season and he showed marked improvement by hitting .261 with 17 walks in 43 games as an 18-year old. He continued to show off his speed with 12 stolen bases that summer and more importantly, he flashed some serious leather along the way.
With Low-A West Michigan in 2011, Machado hit just .235 but still posted a strong walk rate by earning 46 free passes in just 491 plate appearances. During his age-19 season with the Whitecaps, Machado collected only three extra-base hits but did swipe 25 bases while being caught only five times.
Promoted yet again for the 2012 season, Machado landed in the High-A Florida State League. His bat came up empty again last year with a .195 average in 119 games. Despite that, he again demonstrated strong walk totals (51) and cut his strikeout rate by three-percent. As has become routine with Machado, he managed to show strong defense and steal 23 bases in 28 attempts despite his offensive struggles.
Despite growing three or four inches and adding 40 pounds since signing with the Tigers as a 16-year old, Machado's body remains extremely slight. He has added some strength and doesn't look physically overwhelmed on the field any more. Machado reportedly stayed in Lakeland throughout the winter to complete an extensive strengthening program.
Machado has plenty of all-around ability on the baseball field but he stands out most with his defense. An instinctual defender, he has a quick first step that is almost always in the right direction at the moment of contact. He has plus range to both sides, exceptional hands and very good footwork. Scouts love his defense and believe he is already a plus defender with potential to reach a little higher.
Also on defense, Machado's arm stands out on the field. He has a legit plus-plus arm that will earn the occasionally 80-grade from scouts, including myself. During instructs, one scout in attendance could be heard saying "Weeeeeee!" as he wound up to throw from shortstop. Though he can fire the ball at the last second to get runners, he doesn't waste time just for the sake of showing off his arm.
Machado is an average runner with outstanding instincts on the bases. He gets great jumps on both right-handed and left-handed pitchers and even without blinding speed, he has the potential to steal 20-25 bases a year with a high success rate.
While his batting averages remain low, Machado has made progress at the plate during his professional career. His hands work well throughout his swing and he shows an ability to stay inside the ball and work it from line to line. He began impacting the ball a little more in 2012. Previously his power would have rated below a 20-grade if that were possible. Now, he has enough thump to find the gaps on occasion and have true 20-grade power.
He has a keen eye at the plate, demonstrating good pitch recognition skills and a good knowledge of the strike zone. He is willing to work counts and even though pitchers can challenge him without fear of being hurt, he maintains his ability to draw quite a few walks.
Machado is never going to be an offensive dynamo. With his glove, arm and base stealing acumen, the hope is that he can develop enough strength to drive the ball through the infield and hit .250-.260. With that type of production, Machado could become a decent everyday option at shortstop in today's game. Without that offensive development, Machado profiles as more of a defense-first utility player.
Performance Level Team AB AVG 2B HR RBI SO BB OBP% SLG% A+
Machado has been healthy throughout his professional career, suffering no major injuries and not having any issues with durability despite his thin frame.
The decision to stay in Lakeland and focus on improving his strength could prove to be a pivotal moment in Machado's career. His inability to consistently drive the ball and keep pitchers honest is the only thing holding him back as a prospect. Machado will move to Double-A in 2013 and he will be challenged by more experienced pitchers. His progress won't be defined by the numbers, but rather by how much hard contact he makes against advanced arms.
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