Manny Machado is a future star with his bat, and if you're thinking about buying low on future superstar in a keeper league, now is the time. Machado's value will likely never be lower than it is right now.
I wrote an early profile on Manny Machado back in October, but a lot has happened since then. The biggest news is that Machado has been fully cleared for spring training, which is an enormous positive. Earlier in the off season, it wasn't clear whether Machado would have had a repeat of his 2013-14 offseason, which would have been disastrous for the beginning of his 2015 season. After his first knee surgery in 2013, Machado went through a rough winter of rehab and very limited baseball activity. He didn't begin hitting in simulated games until April 12. He played in about a week of extended spring training games and then received 13 PA in the minor leagues before being called up to play in the big leagues. The Orioles were getting poor production from 3B, and I think Machado's arrival was expedited a little bit.
Machado struggled badly in his return to the big leagues, posting a .220/.271/.284 (.555 OPS) with a brutal 56 wRC+ in 119 PA over the first month of his return. He wasn't ready to face big league pitching. We saw some degree of this with Stephen Drew last year, who was rushed back into the big leagues and never got his feet underneath him.
Once Machado started timing up big league pitching, he began showcasing his superstar potential. After his first month back, Machado posted an All Star level slash line of .307/.350/.505 (.855 OPS) line with a 139 wRC+ and 10 HR over his last 235 PA. It’s a bit of an arbitrary endpoint, because it's not clear exactly when Machado regained his timing, but it’s an example of the big difference between Machado’s rusty first month and the rest of his season. Had Machado had a normal spring, facing MLB pitchers in his spring training, I don’t think he would have struggled nearly as badly as he did in his first month.
Machado’s conclusion to the season had me pinpointing 2015 as his breakout season offensively until Machado tore the MPFL in his right knee. The concerning part about this injury is that Machado is a right handed hitter who loads his power through his right leg. He uses a small leg kick and transfers his power through that leg to generate his swing. This is a different dynamic than Machado recovering from surgery on his lead leg. Machado may struggle out of the gate in 2015 as he re adapts to using his right leg, but I expect him to resume producing at a high level once the summer rolls around.
Ultimately, I think Machado will be a superstar with his bat in fantasy baseball. Machado is still just 22 years old and has flashed signs of greatness at the plate. Camden Yards is a terrific hitters park for right handed hitters and the entire AL East is filled with hitter friendly ballparks. For Machado to play over 100 games in these parks every year is a big plus for his HR, R and RBI totals. I think Machado can realistically flirt with a .300 average, 30 HR and a .900 OPS at his peak, which might be a few years away, but the talent is there to succeed in the present.