With Opening Day less than a month away, we’ll take a look at a member of the 2018 Orioles every day as they try to bounce back from a disappointing last-place finish a year ago.
SS Manny Machado
Opening Day age: 25
Contract status: Under club control through the 2018 season
2017 stats: .259/.310/.471, 33 HR, 95 RBI, 81 R, 9 SB, 690 PA, 3.5 WAR (Baseball Reference)
Why to be impressed: Much was made about his down season, but Machado still posted a solid .781 OPS despite a career-low .265 batting average on balls in play and an average exit velocity that surpassed his previous two years, reflecting his tough luck. He eclipsed 66 extra-base hits for the third consecutive season, proving he had no issues driving the ball while struggling to be as consistent over 162 games.
Why to be concerned: Machado has an underwhelming .309 OBP and 6.7 percent walk rate since the 2016 All-Star break after posting career bests in those categories (.359 and 9.8) in 2015, making one wonder if the plate discipline shown that season was more aberration than the norm. He also had a brutal .587 OPS last September, which prompted the concerns about his rough first half to return.
2018 outlook: How he handles questions about his future and new position will be interesting, but the three-time All-Star infielder should rebound from 2017 and is still one of the game’s best players awaiting a massive nine-figure deal. Playing shortstop at an above-average level will only enhance his value, but Orioles fans may only enjoy that novelty for a few months before the July 31 trade deadline.
Not-so-scientific projections for 2018: .281/.335/.498, 34 HR, 91 RBI, 94 R, 5 SB, 686 PA, 5.7 WAR