Machado in no rush to get called up
O's shortstop prospect says he has long ways to go before Majors
BALTIMORE -- "Hey, Manny," a teammate shouted as shortstop Manny Machado walked into Class A Frederick's clubhouse on Tuesday afternoon. "I guess you're not the richest Oriole anymore."
The night prior, Baltimore had signed first-round Draft pick Dylan Bundy to a reported $6.225 million Major League contract, trumping the $5.25 million signing bonus Machado had inked as the Orioles' top pick in 2010.
Now, a year after the 19-year-old shortstop joined the Orioles organization, Machado knows he's not ready for "The Show" and doesn't want to get the call prematurely.
"I'm not ready yet," said Machado, the youngest player in the Class A Carolina League. "There's still a lot of things I got to learn in this game, and it's just I'd rather wait it out a little more and learn more things. The main thing about getting to the big leagues is not getting there; that's the easy part. The hard part is staying there. I don't want to be one of those guys that goes up there for two weeks and struggles, and then get called back down, and then go back up, back and forth."
Before footage of Bundy's Draft Day selection played on the Oriole Park scoreboard during games, Machado was the highest-ranked prospect in the O's organization. The best high school position player in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, expectations ran high for the 6-foot-2, 180-pound shortstop out of Brito Private H.S. (Miami, Fla.). According to the MLB.com rankings, Machado is ranked as the 10th-best prospect in baseball and is the Orioles' No. 1 prospect. He is the only other player in the O's organization on the 2011 list, besides pitcher Zach Britton.
"It just means you're a good player when people are talking about you," said Machado of the expectations and attention from Orioles fans. "I don't take pressure from it or anything. I just deal with it."
After just 38 games with Class A Delmarva this season, having hit .276 with six home runs and 24 RBIs, Machado was moved up to Frederick, where he has a .250 average, eight doubles, two triples, four homers, 19 RBIs and a .963 fielding percentage. In 45 games for Frederick, which owns the best record in the Carolina League, Machado has turned 26 doubles plays and committed seven errors.
"For his age, he's kind of mature, because he's making adjustments during the game," Frederick manager Orlando Gomez said. "He's got a good idea of how they're pitching him. In the field, he's learning the hitters. He's learning how our pitchers throw in certain situations and he's making the transfer from one league to another one at his age, and to me, he has been outstanding."
Although Machado has not experienced further injury problems since a dislocated knee cap and hip flexor sidelined him in Delmarva and Frederick, respectively, the teenage shortstop has not been able to evade the growing pains of making the transition from high school to professional ball. On Tuesday, first-base umpire Rich Gonzalez ejected Machado for throwing his helmet in the sixth inning of a game against Wilmington.
Nationals top prospect Bryce Harper, who was picked two spots ahead of Machado last year, has been the center of national attention for a similar experience in the Minors. In addition to garnering highlights for hitting towering homers, Harper was scrutinized for blowing a kiss to an opposing pitcher as he rounded the bases following a home run.
"Of course I'm happy I'm not [receiving that kind of attention]," said Machado of Harper, who he played with in the 2011 Futures Game. "That's just not who I am. Those things that he does, that's just the adrenaline pumping from the game. It's a close game and there's just a lot of factors for why you do things. We're both still young. It's just things that us young guys, we're so used to doing -- just playing around and just having fun, things like that. Sometimes we just do things that sometimes we realize we shouldn't be doing. ... But he's a great guy and I know he didn't mean anything, but he's just a great guy overall. We're both similar."
Although Washington fans are eagerly anticipating Harper's impending call up to the Majors, Baltimore is in no rush to replace current shortstop J.J. Hardy, who inked a three-year extension earlier this year. The first-year Oriole was named the American League's Player of the Week on Monday, the first Baltimore shortstop to do so since Miguel Tejada in 2006.
Machado said he can only benefit from the O's having security at shortstop.
"[Hardy] is a great player and he's doing a phenomenal job up there in Baltimore," Machado said. "It's just great to sign a guy like that, especially for me. I'm a young guy and I still have a lot to learn. Just to go into next year's Spring Training -- just to think about what's going to happen next year when hopefully I get a big league invite and just go there and just learn from a guy like that is going to definitely help me and improve my game."
Gomez, who praised Machado for his bat speed and defensive fundamentals, may not be managing him for much longer if Machado continues to improve.
"He's got the potential to play in the Major Leagues," Gomez said. "The way he approaches the game, he might be in the big leagues before a lot of people similar to him. He will get stronger and he won't be overmatched when he moves up."
Machado will have to wait for his opportunity to step onto the field at Oriole Park. But until then, the young shortstop is content on learning all he can while in the Minors.
"It's another step closer to the big leagues," Machado said. "I just try to deal with all the adversity you got to deal with. I'm one of the youngest guys here -- well, I think I'm the youngest player in the league. Just to have that on my shoulders, it's kind of tough sometimes. I just try to go out there and have fun and keep moving up the steps."
Avi Zaleon is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.