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Manny Machado: Can The Padres Star Build On 2020?

Manny Machado has been a polarizing player throughout his professional career. Debuting at 19 years old in 2012, the former Oriole steadily developed into a star player by age 22. During that 2015 season, Machado broke out in a big way, hitting 35 home runs to go with a .286/.359/.502 slash line. Despite some ups and downs over his career, Machado has hit at least 30 home runs in every season since 2015 and would have been on pace to hit over 30 again in 2020 if the season fully played out. Since his 2015 breakout, Machado has averaged a .280/.345/.507 slash line with 190 home runs and 54 stolen bases in 3723 plate appearances.

The solid production led the Padres to give Manny Machado a 10 year/300 million dollar deal before the 2019 season. In 2020, he was on pace to have a career-best season. At just 28 years old, it is easy to see Machado continuing to perform at a high level moving forward. What can we take from the shortened 2020 season, and what should we expect from Machado in 2021? Let’s dive into his profile.

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What Manny Machado Will We See in 2021?

Past Performance

Manny Machado has been consistently good throughout his career, but 2020 was a special season. If he played 162 games at the same pace as his 60 regular-season games, he would have hit 43 home runs to go with 16 stolen bases. Additionally, he was on pace for 119 runs and 127 RBI to go with his .304/.370/.580 slash line. Would he have kept the pace over a full season? We will never know, but one thing is for sure, Manny Machado is more than capable of performing at a high level.

Power Projection

We know that Manny Machado has legit power. Between 2015 and 2019, Machado averaged 34.8 home runs per season. As previously mentioned, Machado was on pace for 43 in 2020. It may be unreasonable to think that he would have fulfilled that pace, but what do the underlying numbers say?

First, Machado hit the ball extremely hard in 2020. His max exit velocity was 115.7 miles-per-hour, which was good for 12th best in baseball. This was nearly there mph harder than his hardest-hit ball in 2019, which is an encouraging sign. While Machado’s average exit velocity of 90.2 mph does not standout, he did post a solid 94.1 mpg average exit velocity on line drives and fly balls.

Manny Machado also posted a hard-hit rate of 43.5 percent, meaning he hit the ball with an exit velocity of at least 95 mph over 40 percent of the time. His barrel rate of 11 percent was nearly double the league average. These are both encouraging numbers.

These numbers tell me that Machado should continue to hit a large number of home runs in 2021. The power is legit, and I see no reason Machado should not have another 35 home run season.

Batting Average Projection

Manny Machado has posted batting averages all over the board throughout his career. It has actually become a trend for him to post a poor batting average every other season. After a strong 2020, will the downward trend continue into 2021? I certainly hope not.

Since 2016, Machado has posted batting averages of; .294, .259, .297, .256, and .304. That averages out to a .279 batting average over 3010 plate appearances. There are reasons to believe that Manny Machado can sustain a higher batting average in 2021. Let’s check out why.

Batted Ball Data

Manny Machado Batted Ball

Manny Machado made several notable changes to his batted ball profile in 2020 that could have led to his higher power output and solid batting average. First was increased line drive rate and lower ground ball rate. Line drives naturally produce the highest batting average, so seeing Machado hit .304 with an increased line drive rate is not surprising. Machado also sustained a healthy fly ball rate at 40.8 percent.

Also, if you look at Machado’s batted ball distribution, he pulled the ball at a career-high rate in 2020. Usually, a pulled, hard-hit ball gives you the best chance at a home run. Given the batted ball distribution, it is not surprising to see Machado hit for more power and average in 2020.

Plate Discipline

Manny Machado Plate Discipline

Machado also made improvements when it comes to his plate discipline profile. He swung at fewer pitches out of the zone while also swinging at more in the zone. This is encouraging because it seems that Machado saw the ball much better in 2020 than he did in 2019.

He also made improvements in his contact profile. While they were minimal, Machado increased his contact both his out of zone and zone contact rates. Machado has consistently produced solid contact rates year in and year out, so it is not surprising to see these numbers look good again in 2020.

Counting Stats

Hitting in the heart of the order should do nothing but boost Manny Machado’s chance at providing solid run and RBI totals. From 2017 to 2019, Machado averaged 82 runs per season. In 2020, he was on pace to score 119. Is it possible this was from a beefed-up San Diego line up? If so, should we expect him to post at least 100 runs in 2021? I definitely think so.

From an RBI standpoint, Machado averaged 95 per season between 2017 and 2019. In 2020, he was on pace to post 127, which is quite impressive. Again, hitting in the heart of a solid lineup increases his chances to post a high RBI total. I feel comfortable projecting Machado to drive in at least 105 runs with the potential for more in 2021.

Manny Machado’s Statcast Data

Manny Machado Statcast

We discussed quite a bit of Manny Machado’s statcast data in the power section, but there is plenty of useful data here to discuss. First, it can be easy to look at Machado’s average exit velocity and be discouraged. It is solid but not great. Regardless, he has no problem hitting for consistent power, as we have discussed. The good news is that while he does not produce high exit velocities on average, he is more than capable of hitting the ball extremely hard.

The decreased groundball rate also led to a higher average launch angle for Machado. Even though that number increased by three percent from 2019, it was still a healthy number that led to excellent results. His sweet spot percentage was also a healthy 34.6 percent. This means 34.6 percent of his batted balls were struck between an eight and 32-degree launch angle. Pairing Machado’s solid hard-hit rate of 43.5 percent and his high sweet spot percentage helps explain his solid 2020 season.

Manny Machado’s strong 2020 slash line of .304/.370/.580 was completely backed by his expected slash. His expected batting average of .304 matched his batting average, and his xwOBA of .368 was right in line with his actual OBP. His expected slugging percentage was .539, significantly lower than his actual SLG, but still 91st percentile among all hitters.

Overall, Manny Machado’s statcast data helps support his strong 2020 season. It looks very likely he can continue on that success in 2021 and live up to the hype he produced in 2020.

2021 Outlook: Will You Have To Pay The Padres’ Tax?

Many talk about the Padres’ tax for Fantasy Baseball. Basically, that means that the majority of Padres players cost more in drafts. Manny Machado’s early ADP on Fantrax currently sits at 19.08, while he is one spot higher on the NFBC at 20.18. At his current cost, it is easy to have question marks regarding if he can return value.

Currently, I have Machado projected to hit .280 in 2021 with 35 home runs, 10 stolen bases, and over 100 runs and RBI. With those projections, I currently have him as my 14th ranked hitter for 2021. That places him right in line with his ADP and a chance to return positive value at his ADP.

The power and speed are both legit, plus factor in hitting in the heart of the Padres lineup. Machado should post a high amount of runs and RBI. If he can actually sustain a .290-.300 batting average over a full season, we are looking at a potential top five-hitter for Fantasy Baseball. Taking Manny Machado at his ADP can be a great pick, but it does have a downside. Regardless, Machado and the Padres should be a fun team to watch again in 2021.

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