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Viva El Birdos Cardinals Top Prospects: #25 Jonathan Machado

One of the Cardinals’ biggest Cuban signings from last summer

MLB: Miami Marlins at Atlanta Braves
An Ichiro comp!
Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Editor’s Note: the red baron has once again written up a very large number of prospects, done a great job on them, and combined them in just a few posts. You can read those posts, including a dozen reports on players who just missed the list by going here. This post contains a write-up of just a single prospect in a perhaps easier to digest form.-CE

#25: Jonathan Machado, OF

5’9”, 155 lbs; L/L; 21 January 1999

Relvant Stats: 9.5% BB, 13.5% K, .090 ISO, 77 wRC+ (Dominican League)

So, what’s so great about this guy?

One of the Cardinals’ biggest single investments this year on the international market was Machado, a Cuban center fielder who gets a lot of Ichiro comps and put up big offensive numbers in his native country at just sixteen years old. Intrigued yet?

Well, there’s plenty of reason to be, even if there’s also plenty of reason for skepticism. Machado has been getting the magic wand scouting lingo tag put on his bat since he started playing professionally in Cuba, signifying the pinnacle of bat control, and he adds to that speed that rates between a 65 and 70, depending on who you’re talking to. In other words, putting an Ichiro comp on a kid is stupid; Ichiro Suzuki is not only an all-time great player, but also an all-time unique player. But if any kid deserves a little of that, it’s probably Machado.

The speed makes him a natural center fielder, capable of tracking down balls in both gaps with relative ease. His arm is, unfortunately, lacking in strength, but he gets good grades for accuracy. (Think of Jon Jay.) It’s too early to try and grade just how good Machado will be in the field, but the speed and range are both absolutely elite.

At the plate, Machado really does look like Ichiro, as he tends to get a bit of that running start so common in left-handed Asian hitters (though not so extreme as Suzuki), all while spraying line drives and ground balls to all fields. He has tremendous bat control, and could potentially put up .300+ batting averages annually. It’s rare to see a kid so naturally gifted in terms of being able to maneuver the ball around the field, and watching Machado hit is a fairly extraordinary sight.

The downside, and danger, for Machado is the fact he’s just plain small. The five foot nine part is probably about correct, and not the end of the world. Unfortunately, the 155 pounds part is also probably correct, and potentially a much bigger problem. For all the remarkable qualities Machado shows as a magician with the bat in his hands, he lacks any sort of real functional strength right now, and shows virtually zero power. He can slash and run with the best of them, but where he is physically right now, Machado just doesn’t have the strength to hold up to high level competition. Of course, there’s time for that to develop, given he hasn’t yet turned eighteen years old, but it’s a real concern as to whether he’ll ever be strong enough.

The premium position, speed, and elite bat control should take Machado a long way. But he’s going to need to add a ton of size and strength to his frame if he wants to make it all the way.

Player Comp: Obviously, Ichiro Suzuki is the easy one, only without the arm and playing center instead of right. I mentioned Jon Jay before, in terms of the throwing, but Jay also makes for a decent overall comp as well. Machado has speed that Jay couldn’t match, but there’s a whole lot that’s similar between the two players all the same.