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Is Manny Machado in the same echelon as Mike Trout and Bryce Harper?

May 11, 2013, 6:45 PM EDT

Manny Machado AP

MASN’s Steve Melewski argues that Manny Machado should be considered in the same conversation as Mike Trout and Bryce Harper when it comes to the best young players in baseball. The Orioles’ 20-year-old third baseman is off to a fantastic start in 2013, carrying a .314/.356/.503 line through 166 plate appearances. By Baseball Reference WAR, he has been as valuable as Joey Votto and Troy Tulowitzki, among others, which ranks in the top-ten in baseball.

Putting him in with Trout and Harper, though? Melewski uses batting average, home runs, RBI, and doubles to make his case, which unfortunately leaves out base running and defense.

Melewski writes:

Did you know that through the first 84 big league games for each player, that Machado tops both Trout and Harper in batting average, homers, RBIs and doubles?

Well, he does, as found by Duquette, who is also heard on MLB Network Radio on Sirius-XM Radio. Here is the comparison:

Machado – .284 average, 12 homers, 47 RBIs, 20 doubles.
Harper – .258 average, nine homers, 29 RBIs, 16 doubles.
Trout – .282 average, 11 homers, 42 RBIs, 16 doubles.

Machado tops the dynamic duo in all four categories. Is there anyone out there that still doesn’t think he belongs in the conversation with Trout and Harper for best young player in baseball? He clearly stacks up with the other two.

Limiting to each player’s first 84 games is both arbitrary and unnecessarily reduces the sample size for two of the three players. Let’s go over all available data over their respective careers. (Warning: nerdiness ahead.)

The best all-encompassing offensive stat, in my humble opinion, is weighted on-base average (wOBA). It weights everything a player does by himself and is context-neutral (in other words, it doesn’t care about the inning, runner on base, outs, etc.). Trout is way ahead of the pack at .399, Harper is in second at .365, and Machado brings up the rear at .341. The MLB average is .315. The 58-point difference in runs between Trout and Machado, over Machado’s 368 career PA, is 17, which is huge — nearly two wins, or the equivalent of an average player by itself. The 24-point difference between Harper and Machado is seven runs over 368 PA.

Trout has also stolen 54 bases in 60 attempts (90 percent), Harper 19 in 27 (70 percent), and Machado six in seven (86 percent). In overall base running (which includes base-stealing), Baseball Prospectus credits Trout with 8.7 runs in 2012 and 0.1 runs in 2013 (8.8 total); Harper 5.4 and -0.9 (4.5); Machado -0.3 and -1.0 (-1.3).

Defense is tricky to gauge since even advanced metrics leave a lot to be desired in this area. There is no question that Machado grades highly in this area no matter which methodology you use — stats, scouts, your own eyes, etc. Baseball Reference credits him at 10 runs above average while Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) puts him at 12. Mike Trout is at +11 in center and +6 in left field over his career per BR, and +12 and +4 via UZR. Harper is +14 in center, +8 in right, and +6 in left via BR, and +10, -2, and 0 respectively, going by UZR. As good as Machado is defensively, he would have to be a whole lot better to make up for the lacking offense in comparison to Trout in particular.

Machado is a very good player with a bright future ahead of him. It is perfectly acceptable to appreciate that without exaggerating his prowess and neglecting two very important facets of the game. And it is still quite possible that Machado ends up having the better career when all is said and done, but right now, he doesn’t quite match up.

  1. proudlycanadian - May 11, 2013 at 7:00 PM

    Duh? The answer to the question in the headline is no!

    • sophiethegreatdane - May 12, 2013 at 9:45 AM

      Of course he is.

      Is he *better* than Trout or Harper? No, when their entire careers are taken into account. But if you’re talking about an inherently arbitrary context to start with — “best young players in the game” — then it would be foolish to dismiss Manny, even if he’s not been the superior player.

      I don’t agree with Steve Melewski’s assertion that Manny is the better player, but Steve’s numbers don’t lie either. My problem there is the small sample size.

      However, everyone asserting below that 85 games is somehow arbitrary? Manny’s only played in 85 games at the MLB level. Comparing counting stats for players with twice the number of games doesn’t work, either. 85 games is what we have on Manny, so comparison to Trout/Harper. It’s not a perfect comparison, but it shines a light on the players and shows that Manny is someone who deserves more attention than he gets. For all they hype that has been laid at the feet of Trout and Harper — even through their first 85 games — Manny has played about as well as you can expect a young player to play within that same time frame.

      I also would like to point out all the folks below who are quick to dismiss Manny’s defensive contributions — many of whom were quick to play up the importance of defense in the Trout-Cabrera wars of last season.

      Let’s also not forget that most people agree that Manny was probably brought up a little too soon — the O’s needed to settle their defense more than they needed his bat, so they chose to bump him to the majors before most thought he should. And indeed, he has handled it well.

      One of the best young players in the game? Yep. He’s right there in the conversation, even if he doesn’t rank #1. Giancarlo Stanton should be in this discussion too, as well as several others.

  2. cocheese000 - May 11, 2013 at 7:01 PM

    This bill Baer must be affiliated with baseball prospectus. Yes, the same baseball prospectus that labeled Matt wieters the “biggest bust of all time.” Maybe they have it in for the orioles. This article also forgets to mention machado plays in the al east.

    • cocheese000 - May 11, 2013 at 7:05 PM

      I forgot to mention the same baseball prospectus that projected the os to win 74 games this year. Does anyone put stock into anything these jokers say?

      • eightyraw - May 11, 2013 at 7:12 PM

        Do you not understand how projections systems work? You can criticize the methodology, but finding one projection that you disagree with (or one projection that badly misses) does not prove the system wrong.

    • eightyraw - May 11, 2013 at 7:10 PM

      Baseball Prospectus never said that about Wieters, nor did any specific writer at BPro say that. And yes, Bill Baer used to write fantasy articles for BPro. That is not a secret. No one at that site has any anti-Orioles bias. This article simply uses stats from BPro. Are you telling me that the equations have some sort of anti-O’s bias built in? That would be an absolutely ludicrous accusation. Bill Baer also utilizes Baseball-Reference statistics and UZR in the article.

      • cocheese000 - May 11, 2013 at 7:45 PM

        http://www.examiner.com/article/baseball-prospectus-calls-wieters-a-big-bust

      • eightyraw - May 11, 2013 at 7:54 PM

        Here is the source material: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=13098

        To quote: “As we were among the first to hop on the Wieters bandwagon, let us be among the first off of it. The backstop is heading into his age-25 season. Whatever his .343/.438/.576 rates seemed to portend, that’s gone, along with the notion that he’s a switch-hitter (he has hit .230/.278/.344 from the right side) or a power hitter. His glove and the dream of what might have been will keep him around for years, but stardom now seems spectacularly unlikely.”

        So to reiterate, no one at BPro even alluded to Wieters being the “biggest bust of all time,” much less said those words. You used quotation marks. But that quote does not exist.

      • paperlions - May 11, 2013 at 8:09 PM

        Well, in fairness. Wieters’ offensive production has been really disappointing compared to expectations. He completely annihilated the minors, and has been a slightly below average offensive player (for all players, not for a catcher)…which has to be disappointing to the Orioles and to Wieters…because the dominance previously displayed has never manifested in the majors.

      • cocheese000 - May 11, 2013 at 8:15 PM

        So the first 84 games is not sufficient to compare the three of them yet after only 2 years in the bigs they can call him one of the greatest busts of all time? Sounds like they really don’t know much

      • eightyraw - May 11, 2013 at 8:20 PM

        You are criticizing the whole efforts of a website based solely upon one paragraph you just now read. How is anyone supposed to take that seriously?

      • eightyraw - May 11, 2013 at 8:32 PM

        Re: BPro writers being clowns who don’t know anything

        Keith Woolner, Kevin Goldstein, Mike Fast, James Click, and Dan Fox have all been hired away by MLB teams. And I’m sure you’ve heard of some other former writers like Keith Law, Jonah Keri, and Nate Silver.

      • cocheese000 - May 11, 2013 at 8:49 PM

        Well just because you get a job somewhere doesn’t mean you know what you are doing. I mean, look who our president is.

      • eightyraw - May 11, 2013 at 9:15 PM

        You are a gem. Nice work elevating the discussion.

      • cocheese000 - May 11, 2013 at 9:55 PM

        While destroying during our little debate manny had a 3 hit game and wieters hit a hr.

  3. Mark - May 11, 2013 at 7:06 PM

    wOBA isn’t park adjusted on FG, so it’s better to use wRC+.

    2013:

    Harper – 173
    Trout – 131
    Machado – 132

    For the record fWAR has Machado the highest of the 3 this season, at 1.8 (Trout is 1.6 and Harper is 1.3). I’ve never been a fan of bWAR as the calculations aren’t nearly as effective as the FG ones.

    If you go by their career #’s:

    Trout – 148 wRC+
    Harper – 131 wRC+
    Machado – 113

    I wouldn’t put Machado in the same tier as Harper/Trout either, but he’s definitely a talented player. I’d like to se him walk more as that’s really the only flaw in his game. It’s also worth mentioning that he’s a natural SS playing 3B, and you’d think he would have accumulated more value if he was playing there.

  4. braddavery - May 11, 2013 at 7:12 PM

    Comparing what Machado has done in his first 84 games to what Harper and Trout have done in their entire careers is nonsense. Of course comparing all three players’ first 84 games is the only logical way to compare the three players.

    • Bill Baer - May 11, 2013 at 7:17 PM

      First 84 games:

      Manny Machado – .284 average, 12 homers, 47 RBIs, 20 doubles.

      Chipper Jones – .260 average, 13 homers, 48 RBIs, 17 doubles

      Is Machado the next Chipper Jones?!

      • historiophiliac - May 11, 2013 at 7:29 PM

        Now that’s low. Boooo!!!!

        /throws Marlins tickets

      • jwbiii - May 11, 2013 at 9:24 PM

        Machado is ahead of Jones. He’s a couple of years younger breaking into MLB than Jones was. Chipper also tore an ACL and lost a year in ’94.

      • Kevin Gillman - May 11, 2013 at 10:14 PM

        Bill, wasn’t Chipper huer in some of those 84 games? If that’s the case, you can’t compare that either.

    • historiophiliac - May 11, 2013 at 7:20 PM

      It does seem reasonable to compare them all with the same number of games. Machado has significantly less playing time in the majors than the other two.

      • paperlions - May 11, 2013 at 8:10 PM

        It might seem reasonable, but it really isn’t. If you wanted to limit sample size, then it should be standardized by age, not games played….because the age is very important when making a comparison of such young players.

      • historiophiliac - May 11, 2013 at 8:16 PM

        Harper and Machado are both 20 but Harper has much more playing time. And, Trout is just 21 — I don’t know that 1 year disadvantages him, especially since he again has more seasoning thanks to that extra year of playing.

      • paperlions - May 11, 2013 at 8:24 PM

        These guys are still developing. Comparing what a guy did at 20 to what a guy did at 19 is a horrible comparison to make….as you can tell, that 1 year has made a huge difference to Harper’s production….just as it has for Machado, who has been far better this year than he was last year.

      • historiophiliac - May 11, 2013 at 8:34 PM

        Have a nice evening, paper.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - May 11, 2013 at 10:54 PM

        It does seem reasonable to compare them all with the same number of games. Machado has significantly less playing time in the majors than the other two.

        The problem with this line of thinking is there is too much noise in the statistics. The more games you play, the better the player is able to show his true talent level. Dustin Pedroia hit .282/.355/.412 in his first 84 games, with 18 2b and 5 HR. He was almost sent down, and many in the Boston media/fans wanted him sent down. Then he became the best 2b in the league for a few years, and won a MVP award.

        Obviously don’t compare counting stats for Trout/Harper vs Machado due to the games played. But you can compare rate stats.

  5. gbrglax - May 11, 2013 at 7:43 PM

    Machado is in the same echelon as Trout and Harper after 84 games. In fact, a stat comparison surprisingly shows Manny Machado ahead of Harper and Trout, at the same stage in their careers. Steve Melewski was clear that the three are some of the talented youngsters in the game today, and I agree. Career projections and comparisons are for another day, year, decade.

    • jwbiii - May 11, 2013 at 9:36 PM

      After 84 games for Machado, I’d say it’s early to compare them. I’d be happy to revisit this topic nex off season.

    • anxovies - May 12, 2013 at 1:04 PM

      Good point. From my reading of the link, I think that the conclusion of Melewski’s article was that Machado should be considered in the same class of new players as Trout and Harper, not that he was better than either. Baer seems set on debunking a claim never made in the article. I have watched all 3 on mlb.tv at various times during their short careers and they all meet the eye test as well as the statistical benchmarks. Machado maybe a little more because he plays a more demanding position day-to-day. This kind of argument shows the futility of using metrics to settle arguments that have been debated by kids since Mickey, Willie and the Duke. The strengths and weaknesses of each player should be evaluated by considering the value to their teams according to what the team needs to have a winning season. I think that’s where metrics has proven to be valuable to team officials. That said, I think the managers and coaches of any 3 teams could draw straws to select from these young players and walk away very, very happy no matter who they drew.

  6. historiophiliac - May 11, 2013 at 7:45 PM

    And….MOJITO!!!!!!

    • jwbiii - May 11, 2013 at 9:47 PM

      Huh? He’s not from OK. . .

  7. randygnyc - May 11, 2013 at 7:51 PM

    No. No he’s not.

  8. atltoarizona - May 11, 2013 at 8:07 PM

    Just because he doesn’t get the press coverage doesn’t mean he isn’t in the same tier as the two golden boys(no disrespect to Trout or Harper)

  9. rockthered1286 - May 11, 2013 at 8:36 PM

    First of all- major yardbird bias here- but bare with me on this one. When you ask any Joe Schmoe who watches sportscenter as their only means of player analysis, they will say Harper and Trout as the 2 best young players in the game. Why? Because they’ve been hyped since day one. Harper is outspoken and brash. Has been since his college days. It was a given that he’d be a poster child. Trout has a ton of flash- his speed and phenomenal defense at the wall has been a huge part of his exposure. But Manny? He jumped into the league last July, but more importantly, AFTER the other 2. The 3’s company rule applies here. People just don’t hear much about Manny, but numbers don’t lie. My main issue with this article is that we’re talking steals as a reason he’s not as good, but in my opinion it has a ton to do with the managerial style. Buck doesn’t run much of anybody. Has nothing to so with the player here. Additionally, lets take a SS and put him at 3B then compare him to 2 other guys who play their natural position. Again the managers decision that shouldn’t hurt the credibility of Manny.

    Not saying Trout and Harper aren’t good or that Manny is far better at all, but given Melewski’s stats, how can Baer simply say “we’ll he’s worse in X and Y so that makes him not as good?” Can’t see the logic.

    And where is Stanton is this discussion?

    • psuorioles - May 11, 2013 at 11:14 PM

      It’s hard to include Stanton when he can’t stay off the DL.

  10. bigbenisgay - May 11, 2013 at 9:08 PM

    Lets not forget the fact machado doesn’t have albert, hamilton, trumbo or or whatever there payroll puts around him plus plays in arguably the toughest division

  11. kollin7 - May 11, 2013 at 9:17 PM

    Manny Machado clearly looks like he will be a star for many years to come, but let’s not forget how special Trout and Harper are. Trout and Harper are once in a generation players. Machado looks like he will set the bar defensively at 3rd base, and hit .300+ yearly, but Trout and Harper are very special.

    • jwbiii - May 11, 2013 at 9:40 PM

      By naming two players who are nearly the same age as “once in a generation players” you annihilate your argument.

      • kollin7 - May 11, 2013 at 9:49 PM

        You’re right. Twice in a generation players.

  12. watermelon1 - May 11, 2013 at 9:29 PM

    With all the hype over the last decade of this supposed “talent” the orioles were stockpiling with many years of high draft picks and farm clubs…

    It’s nice to see ONE finally actually come true. MACHADO is that guy. Outstanding on defense, and only getting better every game at the plate.

  13. psuorioles - May 11, 2013 at 11:13 PM

    Watch Manny play on a daily basis and you’ll agree he should be included. The kid is smooth at the hot corner and comes up with big hits almost every game.

  14. pisano - May 12, 2013 at 1:12 AM

    Personally I could care less about either one of them, being a Yankee fan, that being said, if I could take one of them to give to the Yankees, it would be Trout, just my opinion, as my friend says.

    • genericcommenter - May 12, 2013 at 1:27 AM

      I’d take any of them. Machado would be nice at SS, though.

    • anxovies - May 12, 2013 at 1:11 PM

      As another Yankee I’d take any of them but Machado would probably fit with the present need for infielders. An outfielder might make a flashy play every 2 or 3 games and save a run once or so every week but its the infield that gets it done every day.

  15. genericcommenter - May 12, 2013 at 1:26 AM

    I think we should set the arbitrary number to the first 35 games and compare them all to Gregg Jefferies.

    Or only look at their stats from May of their age 19 season and compare to Ken Griffey, Jr.

    Who had the highest OPS in the 7th inning versus a finesse pitcher with 2 on, 2 outs in May away games through age 20 season?

    I think Machado wins based on his 1.000 SB% through the first 18 PAs hitting with a 1-1 count.

  16. abaird2012 - May 12, 2013 at 10:41 AM

    “Echelon”?

  17. mpetey123 - May 13, 2013 at 8:38 AM

    If Trout is one, and Harper 1A, if one made Machado 2 then they would be in the same tier as players. It is clear all three are very special players and bring alot to the game and their respective teams. Being from Maryland it is cool knowing two of them play in a region where I can see and follow them. The great thing about all three is that they play with such great passion, are great teamates, and are loved by their organizations. Bottom line is this isn’t it great to live in a time where the future is this bright for the MLB?

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