Yes, Manny Machado -- whom Baltimore made the third overall pick in the First-Year Player Draft on Monday -- has heard the comparisons to famed Miami slugger Alex Rodriguez. And he says it's an honor to be mentioned with the converted Yankees third baseman and one of baseball's most feared hitters. But when asked who Machado likens himself to, or what Major League player he aspires to be, the 17-year-old made it clear that imitations won't be necessary.
"I'm Manny Machado," he said in Monday's conference call announcing his Draft selection. "You can't be like anyone else. You have to be yourself."
Fortunately for the Orioles, that's plenty. Considered one of three stand-alone talents in this year's Draft, Machado is a 6-foot-2, 180-pound shortstop out of Brito Private H.S. in Miami, Fla., who has drawn raves for his smooth footwork, quick hands and solid arm strength.
"At the shortstop position, we think there's bat and power," Orioles director of scouting Joe Jordan said.
"We feel like he's going to be able to contribute to the game every night in some way, and that's really what it boils down to. All the ingredients are there."
A right-handed hitter, Machado batted .639 (55-for-86) with 12 home runs and 56 RBIs in his senior season for Brito. A four-year varsity player, he added 43 runs scored, 27 doubles and 17 stolen bases and last summer helped lead USA Baseball's 18 & Under team to a gold medal in Venezuela in the Pan American Junior Championship.
"He makes the game look so easy," Machado's coach, Lazaro 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."
Jordan, who had been targeting Machado all spring on a short list of potential Orioles draftees, used words like "delightful" and "enjoyable" in describing watching the young shortstop play.
"We felt, knowing what was going to happen in front of us, that [Machado] was going to be our guy," Jordan said of the Orioles' Draft strategy entering Monday night.
2010 top picks
|1||WAS||Bryce Harper, OF|
|2||PIT||Jameson Taillon, RHP|
|3||BAL||Manny Machado, SS|
|4||KC||Christian Colon, SS|
|5||CLE||Drew Pomeranz, LHP|
|6||ARI||Barret Loux, RHP|
|7||NYM||Matt Harvey, RHP|
|8||HOU||Delino DeShields, 2B|
|9||SD||Karsten Whitson, RHP|
|10||OAK||Michael Choice, OF|
|11||TOR||Deck McGuire, RHP|
|12||CIN||Yasmani Grandal, C|
|13||CWS||Chris Sale, LHP|
|14||MIL||Dylan Covey, RHP|
|15||TEX||Jake Skole, OF|
|16||CHC||Haden Simpson, RHP|
|17||TB||Josh Sale, OF|
|18||LAA||Kaleb Cowart, 3B|
|19||HOU||Mike Foltynewicz, RHP|
|20||BOS||Kolbrin Vitek, 2B|
|21||MIN||Alex Wimmers, RHP|
|22||TEX||Kellin Deglan, C|
|23||FLA||Christian Yelich, OF|
|24||SF||Gary Brown, OF|
|25||STL||Zack Cox, 3B|
|26||COL||Kyle Parker, OF|
|27||PHI||Jesse Biddle, LHP|
|28||LAD||Zach Lee, RHP|
|29||LAA||Cam Bedrosian, RHP|
|30||LAA||Chevy Clarke, OF|
|31||TB||Justin O'Conner, C|
|32||NYY||Cito Culver, SS|
|35||ATL*||Matthew Lipka, SS|
|43||SEA*||Taijuan Walker, RHP|
|44||DET*||Nick Castellanos, 3B|
"The key for me here is we have a young man who loves to play baseball -- I can see it, I've been told it. ... He loves the game. He loves to be on the field."
And Jordan is confident getting Machado on the field will be a smooth process. Although the young shortstop has committed to Florida International University, that's hardly the O's only hurdle. 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 the signing deadline, which falls on Aug. 16.
"He's going to be a Baltimore Oriole," Jordan said. "I have no doubt about that."
Machado, who credits his family with helping to instill in him the core values of baseball and life, watched Monday's televised 2010 Draft coverage with 25 relatives.
"It was a great feeling once I heard my name," Machado said. "My heart dropped, all the nervousness went away."
Machado has been playing baseball since he was six years old and said he had been dreaming of Monday's event for more than a year. In the immediate future, Machado is excited to put on some weight and get back out on the diamond, with the Gulf Coast League being the likely first assignment if the Orioles do sign him.
Macado's critics question whether he will remain a middle infielder, with his power potential hinging on how he grows into his lean frame. A future move to third is possible, although Machado is helped by the game's shift toward bigger shortstops like Rodriguez, Cal Ripken Jr. and Derek Jeter, whose body type he most closely resembles.
"Yes, I would [hate to move]," Machado said in a previous interview with MLB.com. "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."
High school shortstops have been a hot commodity in the Draft over the past few years, with Machado's top status coming on the heels of 2008 first overall pick Tim Beckham and '07 No. 2 pick Mike Moustakas. Machado's selection marks the first time that the Orioles have drafted a shortstop in the first round since selecting Rich Dauer in 1974. Machado is just the third first-round high school shortstop in Orioles history, joining Bobby Grich (1967) and Junior Kennedy (1968).
In some respects, the pick of Machado bucks a trend, as his selection comes on the heels of prep arm Matt Hobgood, who the Orioles made last year's No. 5 overall pick. Baltimore's recent Draft selections have also included highly polished pitchers Brian Matusz and Jake Arrieta. The Orioles selected current catcher (and Boras client) Matt Wieters with their top pick -- fifth overall -- in the '07 Draft.
Machado's selection was preceded by prep right-hander Jameson Taillon (Pirates) and No. 1 overall pick Bryce Harper (Nationals). The trio was widely considered to be the cream of this year's crop with most Draft pundits and national outlets putting the rest of the Draft class on a level below that of Harper, Taillon and Machado.
Given that the Orioles were assured one of those three, Monday was a relatively easy day for Jordan.
"I knew I was going to get a good player," he said. "I knew when I went to bed [Sunday] night. [I'm] very excited for this kid [Machado] and his family."
Baltimore does not pick again until Tuesday, when it will select 85th overall in the third round. The O's lost their second-round pick after signing Type A free-agent reliever Michael Gonzalez in the offseason.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.