I offhandedly tweeted that Manny Machado might be the most exciting ballplayer to come through Baltimore in 30 years. Which led to a quick mental review of the other candidates to see if I was crazy. The verdict?
Well first, let’s talk about Machado. Our baseball beat guy, Eduardo A. Encina, noted that he’s only the fourth Orioles player to start on Opening Day at age 20 or younger. The other players in that company –
Hansen went on to be a Rookie of the Year and a very good major league shortstop. Powell won an MVP and might have been a Hall of Famer if he had lasted a bit longer. Robinson was a Hall of Famer.
That's not a fluke, folks. Age matters enormously when judging baseball prospects. Players who establish themselves as starters when they're 19 or 20 – even if they're not stars right away — are disproportionately likely to become superstars.
So Machado's 2012 jump from Double-A to playing a significant role in a pennant race is enormously important in gauging his potential. It's icing on the cake that his performance only reinforced all the scouting reports we had heard from the time he was drafted.
We're talking about a guy whose early development is in line with that of great players throughout the game's history.
So who are the other candidates for most exciting Oriole to come along in the last 30 years or post-Cal?
Who else is there?
The club has signed a few top free agents in the time period.
Ben McDonald carried Machado-level hype with him from LSU. But even when he was very good in his 1990 half-season, he wasn't as overpowering as his reputation suggested.
So yeah, I think my instinct was correct and Machado is the most exciting Oriole to come along since Ripken went nuts on the league and won the MVP as a 23-year-old shortstop.