After a slow start to their Spring Training campaign, the Baltimore Orioles have come alive at the plate these past five days, mashing 38 runs on the way to four wins in five games. While there’s been impressive signs from many regular members of the line up, most notably Tim Beckham, Jonathan Schoop, Adam Jones, and Trey Mancini, the star of the show continues to be Manny Machado who has gone on an absolute tear since his first game back on 23 February.
Across six partial appearances, the young infielder who switched from third base to shortstop over the off-season, has been nothing short of exceptional, collecting nine hits and 18 total bases from just 14 at bats. In addition to the consistency of his hitting, his power has also been on full display, tagging three doubles and two home runs. His 10 RBI has him just four shy of the 14 he tallied in 2016, which to date has been the most productive exhibition campaign of his seven year career. That seems certain to change this year.
Historically a slow starter during spring, Machado hit just .154/.241/.308 in 2017 and seemingly carried that poor form into the start of the regular season. That soon developed into the most prolonged slump of his career, hitting just .224 and .191 in April and May respectively, and striking out 49 times in 200 at bats. The 3-time All-Star would eventually finish the 2017 season with 33 home runs and a .782 OPS, and while more than respectable in their own right, they were still the lowest figures of any full season across his major league career.
After a winter full of trade rumors and debate about where the 25-year-old would play defensively, Machado finally appears settled and hungry for redemption in 2018. His move from the hot corner to shortstop has been been confirmed and he appears reinvigorated. The early signs have been encouraging too – the move appears seamless. Offensively, Machado is red hot, barreling up most batted balls and still yet to strikeout. His pitch selection and patience at the plate has been exemplary, drawing three walks which have helped boost his OPS to a dizzying height of 1.992.
While the season proper is still some 3 1/2 weeks away, Machado’s hot stick and solid defense has Orioles fans excited for the season ahead despite some obvious shortcomings on the roster. With a somewhat dubious rotation, the Orioles have a huge challenge ahead of them if they wish to compete with New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox teams stacked full of talent. Should they stumble early, the club will almost certainly explore trading Machado away at the deadline in hope of securing something in return for the mercurial talent before he leaves when free agency hits at season’s end. Should that occur, Orioles fans may have just three months left to witness Manny’s magic – so they must enjoy it while they can.