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The situation: Winners of five in a row and suddenly tied for the lead in the wild-card race, the Baltimore Orioles made an aggressive and surprising move Wednesday night, calling up their top position prospect in Machado, who just turned 20 last month. Machado was hitting .266/.352/.438 in 109 games at Double-A Bowie and was 16-for-33 with 32 total bases in his past nine games.
 
Background: The third overall pick in the 2010 draft, Machado has not put up dominant numbers in the minors, but he's been pushed aggressively through the system and was consistently young for his level. Though Machado struggled after a promotion to High-A Frederick last year, the Orioles shot him up to the upper levels, where with good but not great numbers, his scouting reports remain strong.
 
What he can do: Machado is one of the top position players in the game, but it's fair to question if he's ready for the big leagues. He's a big, athletic infielder at 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds and is a true five-tool player with at least average tools across the board. He has a good feel for the strike zone and a quick bat with enough strength for 20-plus home runs down the road, although he's still growing into his power, which is primarily to the pull side at this time. He crushes fastballs but still has some issues with breaking balls. Drafted as a shortstop, Machado has very good defensive fundamentals and a cannon for an arm, but scouts question whether he has enough quickness to remain at shortstop. While he's played only two games at third base in his pro career, he's been worked out at the position constantly, leading to his promotion. He's an average runner with good instincts who should steal 10-15 bases annually.
 
Immediate big league future: Sources close to the situation indicate that Machado will become the primary third baseman for the Orioles, but it's unfair to expect a Mike Trout or Bryce Harper type of performance from him. He's exceedingly young and inexperienced, and might look overmatched at times. The Orioles think he'll be an upgrade both offensively and defensively over Mark Reynolds, and he does have a chance to exceed expectations, as scouts have seen him as a low-energy player at times who could ramp up his game at the top level. He's a high-risk/high-upside player for 2012, but for leagues where he'll get shortstop positional eligibility because of his minor league time, he could be worth the risk.
 
Long term: J.J. Hardy is signed through 2014, but Machado is still seen as the shortstop of the future in Baltimore. For now he's a third baseman, and at either position, he's an excellent long-term play.
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Chomsky
8/09
Reynolds isn't even the starting third-baseman, Betemit is - though the same point holds.
eliyahu
8/09
Bryce Harper has basically been a league average player. I understand that that's exceptional for a 19 year old, but he's an average MLB'er right now. If that's unrealistic for Machado -- and I accept KG's premise that it is -- why would the Orioles call him up?
zasxcdfv
8/09
Because they're getting below league average production right now. If a -2 for 40 games becomes a 0, then the team improves.
eliyahu
8/09
Point is that a "0" is far fetched.
Drungo
8/09
But so is leading the AL wildcard race while being outscored by 50-some runs. Maybe Machado isn't much of an improvement, but it can't hurt to see if he blows past expectations.
piraino
8/09
+1. The Orioles are playing with house money right now. Who knows what you're going to get from Machado at this stage in his development? Maybe nothing. Take a risk and try to get lucky. Sabr-metrically, I don't hate it. As a fan, I love it.
Mario66
8/09
Not sure that the dig at Betemit is entirely warranted. The last three years (including 2012) of somewhat regular duty, he has posted OPS against RHP of 873, 865 and 865. He just can't hit from the right side. Looking at his bat only, he deserves to be the long side of a platoon, not on the bench.
donwinningham
8/09
he's also a godawful defender, which eats up a lot the value his bat provides.
marshaja
8/09
I don't think he'll straight replace Betemit. Betemit will DH or play 1B pushing Reynolds or crappy Orioles LF out. Betemit is a bad defender, so even replacement level is a step up all things considered with a big upside.
rockrobster
8/09
One plan that makes sense is to platoon Betemit and Reynolds at 1B. Even if Machado doesn't hit, presumably his defense will be a plus over what Betemit has been offering at 3B.
CSPitt17130
8/09
Betemit has a 132 wRC+ against RHP and Reynolds has a 138 wRC+ against LHP. A Betemit/Reynolds platoon at 1B would be a good idea.
kasgard
8/09
Betemit has hijacked this chat so i'll stay with the theme. I've seen reports that he's going to the bench but a 304/357/508 vs RHP and a smart manager tell me that he'll be the long half of a platoon somewhere. 4.5 games out of 1st and in the wild card sweepstakes, they're gonna play the Rook full time for the remainder of the year? I'll believe it when I see it.
Schere
8/10
He looks good in the field and had two hits. Buck will play him until/unless he embarrasses himself.
TGisriel
8/10
It is noteworthy that before Machado was called up, and since Andino has come off the DL, Showalter has been platooning Betemit and Andino at 3B, and routinely replacing Betemit with Andino late in games for defensive purposes when the O's lead. Quintanilla, since his acquisition, has been the everyday 2B, despite a history of troubles hitting left handed pitching (although he has hit it well in a small sample with the O's). Last night, against a left handed pitcher, Andino started at 2b. The comments above about Betemit's bat (good against right handed pitching, bad against left handed pitching) are true. Also true are the comments about how bad Betemit's fielding is. It think the speculation above about a 1B platoon between Betemit and Reynolds are likely. As a lifetime O's fan, I am enjoying the season so far. Showalter has said that if there is a move the O's could make that would make the O's "two inches better" the O's will make it. Bringing Machado up now is a move based on that concept. I am watching with great interest to see if it works.
TGisriel
8/10
Perhaps I should have been clearer. My point is that you can't look at the Machado at 3B move in isolation. You have to also look at the likely 2B and 1B platoons as well. Bringing up Machado and playing him at 3B has the potential of strengthening 3 positions, 3B, 2B and 1B.