Manny Machado had a pretty disappointing first season with the Padres, but will be enjoy a bounce back this year?
After lingering available alongside Bryce Harper, Manny Machado signed a 10-year deal with the San Diego Padres prior to the 2019 season. It was easy to see a drop-off with a move to a more pitcher-friendly home park, and naturally Machado’s OPS fell more than 100 point (.796, from .905 in 2018).
However, Machado hit 32 home runs last year as he topped 30 homers for the fifth straight season. His 85 RBI and 81 runs scored weren’t too bad as well. But the eye sores, a .256 batting average, 24 double plays grounded into, striking out more and a continued evaporation of stolen bases (five in eight attempts) drove the narrative of a dismal first season in San Diego.
So What Was Manny Machado’s Problem In 2019?
Let’s start with the obvious, home-road splits. Over 317 plate appearances at home last year, Machado posted a .219/.297/.406 slash-line (.703 OPS) with 15 home runs, six doubles, and 40 RBI. Over 344 plate appearances away from Petco Park, he had .289/.369/.513 slash-line (.882 OPS) with 17 home runs, 15 doubles and 42 RBI. The home run and RBI numbers aren’t too different, but the spacious outfield turned extra base hits into outs.
Machado is a .275 career hitter against right-handers, so his drop to .239 in 2019 is a concern or a number ripe for positive correction depending on your perspective. He continued to tattoo- left-handers (.322 with a 1.089 OPS), so I’m going with some correction against right-handers coming in 2020 based on better fortune (.266 BABIP last year, .295 BABIP against right-handers for his career).
Machado’s 41.8 percent ground ball last year (according to FanGraphs) might look look like a concern. But he hit the ball on the ground 40 percent of the time in 2018, and 42.1 percent of the time in 2017. But his fly ball rate (41.1 percent) remained north of 40 percent, with a hard hit rate (43.7 percent, per FanGraphs) that actually went up last year. Statcast showed a decline in hard hit rate as last year wound down, which shows the subjectivity involved with determining how harsh a contact someone makes.
What Will Machado Do In 2020?
Machado has played at least 156 games in each of six of his seven full major league seasons. So he can easily be booked to play most, if not all, of the 60 games that are coming this year.
A rebound in batting average is looming, into the .270-.275 range, to go with predictable power (10-15 home runs over a prorated season) and solid RBI and runs scored. Good four-category production shouldn’t be discounted, and Machado should put something in the stolen base column over 60 games.
From a fantasy perspective, dual position eligibility (37 games at shortstop last year) bolsters Machado’s value. Even if he has a minor injury, the ability to DH opens up the idea he will play all 60 games for the Padres this year.
Fantasy Pros’ ADP Consensus has Machado as the eighth third baseman off the board, at pick No. 57 overall. Among those above him there are only a few at the position–Nolan Arenado, Anthony Rendon, maybe Alex Bregman and Rafael Devers–I’d clearly prefer, and they are all at pick 25 or higher on Fantasy Pros’ ADP.
Assuming a 12-team league, Machado can be drafted no less than 2-3 rounds later than the clearly elite fantasy third baseman. Give me that value all day long, while I use earlier picks elsewhere.