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Machado welcomes A-Rod comparisons

Machado welcomes A-Rod comparisons

If you're a big, athletic shortstop in the Miami area, it's awfully hard to avoid the comparison. Manny Machado hears it constantly.

The Miami Brito High School standout, whom many expect to be taken within the first three picks of the First-Year Player Draft on June 7, rarely gets through an interview or a conversation with an outsider without hearing it. No matter where he goes, the name Alex Rodriguez follows him. A different teenager might not do well with such lofty expectations, but Machado tends to roll with them.

Draft Central

"I think he deals with that well," Machado's coach, Lazaro Fundora, said. "Every time he's asked that, for him it's a privilege. That was his idol growing up. He looks at it as if he's got to get there first.

"In this business, there are always comparisons. A-Rod's a guy who's a future Hall of Famer. Manny's a 17-year-old kid. He's happy to be compared to him, but he doesn't pay much attention to it."

The scouting industry has certainly been paying a lot of attention to Machado. Though he's been highly thought of for some time, he really moved to the head of the class this spring, as he went from intriguing prep prospect to one of the top potential draftees. He's cemented himself in a trio of players who nearly all agree have separated themselves on top of most draft boards.

The first, of course, is Bryce Harper, largely considered to be the top player in the class and expected to go No. 1 overall. Then there's high school pitcher Jameson Taillon and Machado, who are in many ways linked. It's still unknown who will go where, but most agree they will go in succession at picks two and three. If the Pirates take Taillon with the second pick, the Orioles will take Machado, and vice versa.

"[Machado] makes the game look so easy," Fundora said. "He's a big kid, strong, all five tools. As far as athletically, he's got it all. He's a hard worker. The way he carries himself, it's like an extra pair of eyes, an extra coach, out there. He's very mature. That would definitely help explain what makes him special."

Those values come from having a strong family, though it was one without a father in the house. Machado grew up with three women -- his mother, grandmother and older sister -- and they deserve much of the credit for raising him to have such strong character.

As far as baseball goes, Machado received plenty of guidance from his uncle, Geovany Brito. With Brito living across the street, Machado never lacked a father figure while he was learning his way on and off the field.

"He's basically my dad," Machado said. "That's basically my second home. I used to get home and go to the park. It was always me, him and my cousin."

Years ago a player of Machado's size wouldn't be given the chance to play shortstop. At 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, he'd have been moved to third in the blink of an eye. But then came Cal Ripken Jr., followed by Derek Jeter -- who, in many ways, Machado resembles more in terms of body type -- and, yes, Rodriguez. Machado has excellent actions and more than enough arm for the premium position. Some feel that he will eventually outgrow it, but thanks to those bigger predecessors, he should at the very least be given the chance to stick.

"I think he will be able to stay there, because he's quick enough, he's got outstanding range and he's got a strong arm," Fundora said. "I see it there. I know his body will fill out, but as far as how much he works, I think he should be able to stay there."

If Machado hears that from whichever team drafts and signs him, it will be music to his ears.

"Yes, I would [hate to move]," Machado said. "You have to adjust to many things because of the coach or the system you're in. I'm just a player. I'm out there to have fun. If they want me to move positions, I'll just have to adjust."

It's a bit surprising that he hasn't had to adjust to a new team at any point during high school. It's extremely common -- especially in Florida's high school baseball scene -- for top players to switch schools to play in a better program, or go to a bigger school that has more of a reputation for its program. But it's another testament to Machado's makeup that he never once showed any signs of wanting to leave the confines of the smaller, private Miami Brito progam.

"Especially down here at Dade County, you see kids who are quality players who, in four years, they play at four high schools," said Fundora, who's been Miami Brito's full-time coach since 1999. "They want to play in better or bigger programs. He's so mature, he has the qualities of a man.

"He's been here since ninth grade, and he's made this home. He's been loyal to all the guys who have helped him, which is very important. I think that was his thought process and, for me, it's his biggest quality as a person. I'm sure he had numerous opportunities. Schools would love to have him there."

And there are Major League teams that would like to add him. How easy that will be remains to be seen. Machado has made a commitment to Florida International University (FIU), which is not the biggest potential obstacle to getting him into the pro game quickly. Machado is advised by the Boras Corporation, and though Boras players typically do sign, it can often be a long and contentious affair that drags on right until August's signing deadline.

To date there hasn't been any talk about that dissuading any of the top teams from considering him. Both the Pirates and Orioles have had recent experience in signing a Boras-advised player in the first round, though Pedro Alvarez and Matt Wieters were both coming out of college.

None of this is a concern to Machado right now, nor should it be. He's been able to enjoy his senior year and not let the mounting pressure of being a potential top pick bother him in any fashion.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime thing, maybe twice if I go to FIU," Machado said. "It's been a great situation with all the attention scouts have given me. I thank them each time I see them."

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["first-year_player_draft" ] }
{"content":["first-year_player_draft" ] }