Should Machado be drafted ahead of Riley, Devers?
Connor Rogers explains why Manny Machado is one of the safest picks in fantasy this season, but managers should be wary of a potential drop in power numbers.
CONNOR ROGERS: Manny Machado was one of a handful of players with a case for NL MVP honors last year, finishing second in the league with a .159 OPS+ while continuing to play quality defense at third base. He, Aaron Judge, and Paul Goldschmidt were the only players in either league to finish with 30 homers, 100 runs scored, and 100 RBIs.
However, hidden beneath what was arguably Machado's most productive season to date were some disturbing trends. His 20.7% strikeout rate was a new career high, climbing from just 15.5% the previous two years. His exit velocity numbers were also all worse than in 2021, though they were still pretty close to his career averages. Still, Statcast wasn't particularly impressed. They gave him an expected slugging percentage of .447 compared to his actual mark of .531. His expected slugging percentage had typically been over .500 and lined up well with his actual slugging percentages in previous seasons.
It's highly unlikely that any sort of collapse is imminent for Machado, who has some added incentive to produce this year with his plans to opt out of his contract with the Padres at season's end. Given his durability and his presence as the number three hitter in what should be a stellar top four in the Padres' lineup, he's about as safe of a pick as they come. Still, there's a good chance he'll be far less helpful on batting average this time around, and he doesn't offer as much home run upside as some other third basemen. He ought to be going behind Austin Riley and Rafael Devers in drafts rather than ahead of them.