By Brad Fauber
While Mike Trout and the Bryce Harper were busy making headlines with their meteoric rise to the big leagues last season, there was another top baseball prospect that was quietly making an impact in the majors.
Manny Machado -- widely regarded as one of the top position prospects in baseball at the time -- was surprisingly called up by the Baltimore Orioles in early August of last season, and his debut was a rather memorable one for anyone who follows the club.
In his first career major league game, Machado recorded two hits, including a triple in his second career major league at-bat. The next day, Machado belted the first two home runs of his career against the Kansas City Royals, making him the youngest Oriole to have a multi-home run game.
Since that rather explosive debut, Machado has quietly become one of the greatest young hitters in the game, and yet there isn't a whole lot of hype surrounding what he has accomplished on the field outside of the Baltimore fan base.
Many baseball "experts" are still drooling over the talents of Trout and Harper -- and to be fair, both are outstanding players with extremely bright futures -- but Machado has shown that his name deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as those two budding superstars.
In fact, some recent numbers that have been circulating among the Orioles fan base since late last week show that Machado is actually ahead of both Trout and Harper in some regards.
Last Saturday, MASN's Steve Melewski posted some stats on his blog that compared Machado's performance with Trout and Harper through the first 84 games of their respective big league careers. The facts were rather surprising -- Machado led the trio in batting average (.284), home runs (12), RBIs (47) and doubles (12).
I will ask again -- why isn't anyone talking about this kid?
Machado has been absolutely on fire at the plate this season, and as of Thursday he led the Orioles with a .343 batting average, a mark also good for seventh in the MLB.
Prior to Friday's slate of games, the 20-year-old third baseman was also tied for the league lead in hits (59) with 2012 Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, and Machado's 17 doubles were second only to Mike Napoli's 18.
Machado was also second in the majors in multi-hit games (18) heading into Friday, and he had recorded at least three hits in four of the last five games as of Thursday, bumping his career average up to .300.
I remember being a little bit skeptical about Machado hitting in the No. 2 slot in the lineup when the season began, but now I can't imagine how I ever doubted manager Buck Showalter. Baltimore's skipper obviously saw something early on that justified the move, and I don't think anyone can argue with the results.
And Machado's performance at the plate hasn't been the only impressive thing about him since his promotion to the MLB. Machado plays solid defense at third base, which is even more impressive when you consider that he was drafted as a shortstop and played just two games at third during his stint at Bowie.
The transition has been nearly flawless for Machado, who possesses a strong arm and maturity on the diamond that seems advanced for a typical 20-year-old. Machado's play at the hot corner has been so good that it has impressed the likes of Brooks Robinson and Cal Ripken Jr., and both Hall of Famers told him as much during a ceremony memorializing former Orioles manager Earl Weaver earlier this season.
Machado still has a long, long way to go before he can be mentioned in the same group as Robinson and Ripken, but he certainly belongs near the top of the list of baseball's rising young stars.
It's time to start giving Machado the credit he deserves.
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org