The Major League Baseball Hall of Fame debate is always a fun one to have for top-tier players whether you play fantasy baseball or are just a diehard baseball fan. I was talking about the 2022 MLB season with some other fantasy baseball analysts the other day when the name Manny Machado came up. The question was whether or not the San Diego Padres third baseman is on his way to Cooperstown. To my shock, at least half of the group quickly dismissed the idea despite Machado being atop many fantasy baseball rankings and MLB projections both for this season and his career. This debate came at a perfect time because it is “Third Base Day” in the Fantasy Baseball Player Spotlight Series. Every week I break down a different MLB third baseman for fantasy baseball lineups. Maybe it's an MLB top prospect, a “flavor of the month” on the fantasy baseball waiver wire, or someone who could be “sell-high” trade bait. Today I am going to dig into the career of Manny Machado and once and for all settle the HOF-worthy debate. So, let’s get to it. 



Manny Machado Fantasy Baseball Player Spotlight



First, let's get some housekeeping out of the way as we look back at how Machado's career began. He was a heralded shortstop out of a Miami prep school and had to go through his high school career hearing comparisons to famed Miami slugger Alex Rodriguez. He was the third player taken overall in the 2010 MLB Draft by the Baltimore Orioles, behind Bryce Harper and Jameson Taillon. That draft was also highlighted by first round picks such as Matt Harvey, Drew Pomeranz, Yasmani Grandal, Chris Sale, and Christian Yelich

Machado made the jump from Double-A Bowie BaySox to the big leagues in August of 2012. He may have not hit a home run in his first major league game, but he sure made up for it in his second as he hit two blasts – making him the youngest Oriole and 12th youngest in MLB history to have a multi-home run game. The legend of Manny Machado began that day in 2012 and culminated last night when he joined MLB royalty – the 1,500 Hit/250 Home Run Club. The list of players to reach the milestone before turning 30 is like a roster of some of the greatest players to play the game. Now, here sits Machado right in the middle with another few weeks before turning 30:

Twelve of the 14 Hall of Fame-eligible players are already enshrined – all except Alex Rodriguez and Andrew Jones – and two others will likely earn plaques when eligible (Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera). So how about Machado's Hall of Fame argument?

Exhibit No. 1:

Comparing Machado with former Orioles great and Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. before their 30th birthdays.

Machado and Ripken Jr. have very similar numbers before age 30. Machado has a few more doubles (291 to 285) and home runs (260 to 217), plus has a slight edge in batting average (.282 to .272) and OPS (.831 to .806).

Exhibit No. 2:

Machado is halfway to 3,000 hits – a ticket straight to Cooperstown. Machado has been talking of his desire to play for another 10 years. If he does, then 3,000 hits are within his reach and with the way the game has changed, he may be the last player to hit that milestone. Machado has not missed more than 10 games in a season in eight years and since missing the final month-and-a -half of the 2014 season, he has been an iron man with only Paul Goldschmidt (1,069) playing more games than his 1,068 since 2015.

One thing about Machado is that as he gets older, he seems to hit even better. He is more selective at the plate, and it shows in the results. The San Diego third baseman currently has a batting average of .354 against breaking balls (last year he was .274) and he is hitting off-speed pitches at a .400 clip (last year he was .264). By being more selective, you can see a difference in his slugging percentage where he is .200 points higher than last year at a current .760 against off-speed stuff and a career-high of overall .590 slugging. 

Should they get a plaque ready? 

Machado is only 29 years old and is one of the best players of his generation. He is reaching his peak and still has three to four years of prime baseball left, in addition to six years remaining on his deal with the Padres after 2022. He is one of the last players that has enough time to be a member of the coveted 3,000-hit club. For as solid a career as Machado has had, he is still at the top of his game and seems to only be getting better. If he can hold these numbers for another year or two, he could have them polishing his HOF plaque. 

Now check out this WAR:

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Now for the final exhibit.

Exhibit No. 3: 

Comparing Machado to other Hall of Fame third basemen at Age-30 season.

 Home Runs      RBIs          Hits      Doubles
Manny Machado       262        793        1502          291
Adrián Béltre      224        807        1401          307
Chipper Jones      217        726        1202          232
George Brett      144        754        1567          315
Wade Boggs        53        398        1185          211
Paul Molitor        79        390        1132          296

Machado is a four-time All-Star, two-time Gold Glover, and one-time Platinum Glove winner. He does far more than just helping out his team at the plate. Machado is one of the best defensive third basemen in the game year after year and his durability could be a major boost to his Cooperstown odds. He has five 30-home run seasons and a pandemic-shortened 2020 kept him from his sixth. Manny Machado is underrated and needs more respect, plain and simple. He can anchor a fantasy baseball team and someday will be giving a speech from the podium in central New York state. 



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