Veteran general manager Dan Duquette, who is in his first year with the surprising Baltimore Orioles, made a bold decision when he called up top prospect Manny Machado from Double-A Bowie and skipper Buck Showalter inserted the 20-year-old infielder into the starting lineup.
Sure, Machado has drawn a lot of attention. Rated No. 9 on Baseball America’s 2012 Mid-Season Top 100 Prospects List and regarded the third best prospect in the majors by MLB.com, he has drawn comparisons to a young Alex Rodriguez, who he works out with in the off-season. Baltimore selected Machado out of Brito Miami Private School.
Still, it was a gutsy decision by Duquette since his team is in the wild card race and Machado was in his first season of Double-A, hitting .266 with 11 home runs, 59 RBI, 13 stolen bases and a .789 OPS in 402 at-bats.
J.J. Hardy has a .227 average and a .274 on-base percentage, but he has also slugged 16 home runs and is a defensively solid shortstop, so the Orioles are using Machado at third base. Mary Reynolds and Wilson Betemit had seen time there this year for the Orioles, but neither veteran is known for his competent glove and footwork.
The third overall pick in the 2010 draft has hit safely in eight of his first nine Major League games and owns a .333 average (10-for-30) with three home runs, seven RBI and a 1.155 OPS.
Though he is turning heads in the majors, Machado is still considered a prospect, and his long-term position is shortstop. Here are five of the best shortstop prospects in baseball:
The first high school player taken in the 2010 draft, Machado has spent little time at each minor league stop. He saw 237 at-bats at low Single-A Frederick (.245) and 145 at-bats at advanced Single-A Delmarva (.276), combining for 11 home runs, 50 RBI and a .257 average last year, his first full season of professional baseball that also saw him appear in the Futures Game.
Featuring plus bat speed, Machado is projected to hit for average and power when he improves his plate discipline. At Bowie, the 6-foot-3, 185-pound right-handed hitter had five triples, 26 doubles and a .352 on-base percentage to accompany his .266 average.
Over three seasons in the minors, Machado has seen action at shortstop in 203 games while playing third base twice and filling the DH role three times. He has exceptional range as a shortstop, and Duquette believes that Machado is an asset on defense at third base, too.
Perhaps inspired by Machado’s performance with the Orioles, the Rangers are contemplating calling the 19-year-old Profar to bolster their bench, according to Rangers CEO and president Nolan Ryan. One of the most sought after prospects at the trade deadline, Profar was No. 2 on Baseball America’s 2012 mid-season top 50 list and is rated the fourth best prospect in the game by MLB.com.
The switch-hitting shortstop has a .280 average with 14 home runs, 61 RBI, 15 stolen bases, seven triples and a .823 OPS at Double-A Frisco this season. Texas already has an impressive young shortstop in Elvis Andrus. With Profar’s athleticism and across the board talents, the Rangers will find a spot for him on the field and in the lineup.
One of the fastest rising prospects in the game, the 19-year-old Bogaerts will likely be on most top 10 lists before spring training. the right-handed hitting Bogaerts was signed as an international free agent out of Aruba in 2009.
Ranked as Boston’s top overall prospect by SoxProspects.com, Bogaerts was No. 31 on Baseball America’s 2012 mid-season top 50 list. Last year, at 18, Bogaerts was one of the youngest players in the South Atlantic League, and he had 16 home runs, a .260 average and a .834 OPS at Single-A Greenville.
This season, Bogaerts passed another test. As one of the youngest players in the Carolina League (advanced Single-A), he batted .302 with 15 home runs, 64 RBI and a .883 OPS in 435 plate appearances.
Now, he is the youngest player in the Eastern League at Double-A Portland and has hit safely in his first six games, posting a .385 average (10-for-26) with two home runs and a 1.115 OPS. Scouts have compared Bogaerts to his favorite player, Hanley Ramirez, except Bogaerts does not have the questionable attitude of Ramirez.
The key element of the trade that sent Zack Greinke to the Los Angeles Angels, Segura has taken the same path as Machado this season, earning a promotion from Double-A to the majors.
Ranked No. 43 on Baseball America’s 2012 mid-season top 50 list and No. 38 overall by MLB.com, Segura has a .265 average in 34 at-bats with the Brewers after batting .304 with 37 stolen bases between Double-A Arkansas (Angels) and Double-A Huntsville (Brewers).
The single-season minor league record for stolen bases is 145, established by Vince Coleman in 1983. Hamilton, who was No. 27 on Baseball America’s 2012 mid-season top 50 list, has 142, including 104 at advanced Single-A Bakersfield before earning a promotion to Double-A Pensacola, where he has swiped 38 bags.
A second round pick out of high school in 2009, Hamilton can do more than swipes bases in bunches. He was No. 27 on Baseball America’s 2012 Mid-Season Top 50 Prospects List. Last season, for Single-A Dayton in the Midwest League, Hamilton logged 103 steals while batting .278 with three home runs, 50 RBI, 19 doubles and nine triples.
This year, at Bakersfield, he accompanied the 104 steals with a .323 average and a .413 on-base percentage. Defense is an issue for Hamilton, who has committed 30 errors this season after 39 in 2011. He could eventually move to second base or the outfield.