keyboard_arrow_uptop

He had both knees destroyed in the span of 10 months, came back the following season and played every game on the schedule.

He can clear the B&O Warehouse with a single bomb, a skill which will someday cause Chris Berman to retire the word “back” from his vocabulary, forever.

He once hit 50 doubles while playing half the season as a teenager.

He has 360-degree vision at all times, and his hands are so adept that he wears a glove solely for decoration.

He has been known to play games in an empty stadium, knocking home runs and doubles for a hollow audience.

He could be the best shortstop in baseball, but he's good pals with the peanut vendor in section 56 and likes to talk shop between innings.

He is, without a doubt, the most interesting Manny in Maryland.

At an age when most young lads are just proud to pay seven bucks for a beer at a local watering hole rather than down another keg cup of Natural Ice, Manny Machado is staking his claim—with a three-year headstart against his nearest competition—as the top infielder of this generation. His burgeoning power will become the statistical paradigm for hitter evolution in the 21st century; an exploding walk rate that suddenly doubled in 2015 underscores rapid development in pitch recognition; his approach is morphing to allow hard contact to all fields, including six homers to right field in 2015 after hitting a total of four homers the other way from 2012 to 2014 combined. He crushes fastballs, destroys pitches up in the zone, and absolutely murders fastballs up in the zone. There is no beating him with velocity, as his bat is just too quick.

There are going to be a lot of runs scored at Camden Yards this season, and PECOTA's crystal ball paints a gloomy picture of Baltimore scoreboards with crooked numbers in the runs column for visiting teams. The Orioles are projected to have the worst record in the American League despite inflating payroll to unprecedented heights under owner Peter Angelos. PECOTA might be underselling the club, but there's little doubt that this is an offense-first ballclub whose pitching leaves much to be desired, and they will need to win a lot of high-scoring ballgames in order to finish the season atop the heap of the AL East.

The biggest reason for optimism is Manny Machado.

What the young upstart has done in his first few years of pro ball is nearly unprecedented. Here's the list of players in baseball history who hit more bombs at the age of 22 or younger than Machado did last season:

36 – Mike Trout, 2014 (22); Alex Rodriguez, 1996 (20)

37 – Albert Pujols, 2001 (21); Giancarlo Stanton, 2012 (22); Ted Williams, 1941 (22); Jimmie Foxx, 1930 (22)

38 – Frank Robinson, 1956 (20)

39 – Boog Powell, 1964 (22)

40 – Eddie Mathews, 1954 (22)

42 – A-Rod, 1998 (22); Bryce Harper, 2015 (22); Mel Ott, 1929 (20)

43 – Juan Gonzalez, 1992 (22)

45 – Johnny Bench, 1970 (22)

46 – Joe Dimaggio, 1937 (22)

47 – Eddie Mathews, 1953 (21)

That's a total of 14 players, including nine Hall of Famers, the three brightest young stars in the game today (who are each on a HOF track), plus Juan Gonzalez and Boog Powell, a pair of sluggers who won three MVP Awards between them. Do you know how many of these players have hit 35 or more home runs and stolen 20 or more bases in the same season at an age under 23? Two. Machado in 2015 and Alex Rodriguez in his age-22 season of 1998.

Ballplayers who have endured multiple surgeries impacting both knees are expected to have a slow return to form, but Machado bucked all expectations to steal 20 bags last season, effectively tripling his career total from 10 swipes to 30 and silencing any critics regarding the health of his knees. Players coming off such a major procedure as the right-knee reconstruction that Machado endured in 2014 are expected to take some occasional time off for rest—that is if they can even make it through a whole season without another visit to the DL—but once again Machado threw caution to the wind and ignored the expectations, playing in every Oriole game last season.

He is the poster boy for the old adage that early-career doubles morph into homers as the player fills out physically, converting his 51 dubs and 14 home runs from 2013 into the 30 doubles and 35 bombs of last season. The conversion from gap power to over-the-fence is not as common as we have been led to believe, however, and the numbers of young players to hit 50 or more doubles in a season is considerably shorter than its more powerful stepbrother. Here is the complete list of players who have hit 50 or more doubles in a season in which they played most of the campaign at age-22 or younger (age in parentheses):

54 – Alex Rodriguez, 1996 (20)

51 – Manny Machado, 2013 (20)

That's it. Machado and A-Rod are the only players in history. To find the next players on the list, one has to dig into the 48-double season of Stan Musial in 1943 (age 22) or the 48-double season of Hall of Famer Joe Kelley (age 22), way back in 1894 (the year after Pabst won their Blue Ribbon).

Either way you spin it, Machado is surrounding himself with elite company. The vast majority of his statistical contemporaries are either already in the Hall of Fame or well on their way to enshrinement, and the only player in history who can boast both the 50-double season and the power-speed combo campaign at such an early a stage in his career is Alex Rodriguez.

We've established that Machado hits, he hits for power and he runs. He is one of the best third basemen in the game, having earned the Gold Glove Award in each of his full seasons, and the former shortstop has shown an ability to slide back over to his old stomping grounds at the drop of a hat, swimming upstream on the defensive spectrum with little degradation to his skills. The projection systems largely agree, and FRAA puts Machado's 2015 campaign at 20.9 runs above that of the average third baseman, the highest total in the American League. He has all of the tools that give scouts pleasant dreams, has the talent to play a premium position at a high level, and possesses the upside to be the next great franchise cornerstone in an organization that has housed the likes of Ripken, Murray, and the two Robinsons.

PECOTA sees regression, which is natural for a player coming off of a peak season with growth in nearly every facet of his game. He could hit his 50th percentile on the nose (.285/.340/.479), putting up the second-best numbers of his career in OBP, Slugging and all of the counting stats, and it would be viewed as a disappointment. But at his age and with his development curve, Machado could make good on PECOTA's 54-percent Improve rate and continue his ascension to the Mt. Olympus of baseball, where he will likely reside for the next decade. We knew he was good, but this is a generational talent who only endears himself further to the Baltimore faithful with every opposing club that he infuriates.