photo: Jonatan Machado (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)
by The Cardinal Nation staff
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Link to Machado’s player page at The Cardinal Nation, with additional biography and history information.
Selected 2017 stats
TCN Scouting Grade: 5.5, Risk: High (click here to review scales)
Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)
Message board community (21): Jonatan Machado was slotted at #31 in last years’ community vote. This year, Machado had a good bit of support during the discussion, bolstered by his strong season in the Gulf Coast League and pulling in enough votes to finish as the #21 prospect. Interestingly, VegasJim’s first vote for Machado was at #21, thereby garnering enough support to put him over the top at that spot.
SoonerinNC stated early in the voting process that one player he didn’t want to see fall through the cracks was Machado. 14NyquisT said that he hasn’t overlooked Machado at all after a terrific year playing for the GCL Cards. This echoed the same sentiments 14NyquisT had last year, believing Machado to be a high ceiling player with loads of speed. – Jeremy Byrd
Derek Shore (27): Headlining the storied July 2 international class of 2016, Machado signed a 2016 contract with a $2.35 million dollar signing bonus and was limited to only 17 games in his pro debut at the Dominican Academy.
After missing the first few weeks of the season, Machado made his long-awaited US debut in 2017 for the GCL Cardinals, flashing a combination of what first attracted the Cardinals – speed, defense, and contact ability. The Cuban slashed .323/.381/.435 with eight doubles, two homers, and 20 RBI in 35 games. He also swiped eight bags in 10 opportunities while posting an impressive 13-to-8 strikeout to walk despite his tender age.
“One of the outfielders that stood out the most from the Cardinals was Machado,” an opposing GCL manager said. “He played hard. I like his athleticism in the outfield. He covers a lot of ground. He’s got good first-step quickness. His arm is average with accuracy. On the bases, he runs well.
“Hitting-wise, he can spray the ball all over the field. Every now and then, he tries to pull the ball and if you miss location, he can make you pay, too. He has some occasional power to the pull side. He’s a little bit of a hot dog every now and then, but you see that in Latin players.
“Hopefully, when he matures he can take the game to the next level and be more professional in the field. I like his ability as a player and especially as a left-handed hitter, too. The way he handles himself at the plate.
Another rival manager chimes in with his impression of Machado.
“He has quick hands,” one GCL manager said. “He hit a home run against us. If he can play hard and play the game the right way, he’s going to be a good player. It’s tough to say, but when he comes to play, he’s going to be the best player he can be. He’s going to have to mature as a player.
“He needs to grow up a little bit.”
Scouting-wise, scouts describe Machado as having lead-off hitter traits. Not large in stature, he stands at 5-foot-9, 155 pounds without much projection in his wiry frame but certainly has room to grow, especially as an 18-year old.
The left-handed hitter’s best offensive tool is his feel for hitting. With solid hand-eye coordination and superb bat control, Machado is a very instinctual hitter at the dish with an approach geared to use the middle of the field with line drives the other way in order to fully maximize his plus-plus speed.
Despite an arm bar in his load that causes some swing-and-miss concerns, he has good plate coverage and advanced feel of the strike zone. Machado also has some occasional power to his pull-side as well.
“The thing is, he understands the game,” a GCL manager said. “He’s got a little bit of experience. At the GCL level, some pitchers develop some patterns and he was able to adjust when the pitcher tried to get him out at 0-2, 1-2 even 2-2 – he paid attention to what the pitcher tried to do to the hitters in front of him.
“At the GCL level, you don’t see that very often. If you miss location, he makes you pay. He’s a little guy, but he has power to the pull-side. If you miss location middle, middle-in or a little bit up in the zone, he can take you deep. When he gets behind in the count 0-2 and 1-2, he shortens up and puts the ball in the play.
“He was a tough to get out in those kind of situations. I know in the higher levels pitchers will figure him out better, but at the same time, he will develop more experience. I like the way he makes adjustments at the plate in situations. He also knows what to do when he’s ahead of the count or behind in the count as a hitter.
“That is the thing that caught my attention from Machado.”
Defensively, Machado plays a solid center field, reading the ball well off the bat with sharp routes to the ball and good yet decent range. The range and jumps aren’t outstanding, but his speed allows him to make plays look easy. His arm grades out as average as already seen above in the quotes.
Center field maybe left field,” one GCL manager said about him sticking up-the-middle. “He runs well and covers a lot of ground. His arm plays in center field, but when he gets stronger he can play also in left. As of right now, he can play all three. In the big-leagues, I see him more as a center fielder – maybe fourth outfielder.
“If he develops, gets more experience and improves as a hitter, he could be a regular guy in the big-leagues.”
On the bases, Machado is a tremendous baserunner with the instincts that will allow him to take the extra bag when needed. The risk is and will be his makeup going forward. According to reports, he has shown “negative body language” and tends to not play full effort every play.
With more improvements in his natural strength and ability to make authoritative contact, Machado provides enough doubles and pop to play every day with a chance to be an offensive catalyst atop a major-league lineup. He will have to prove he can compete physically with higher level competition before then, though.
“I want to say like a fourth outfielder maybe with the ability to play against right-handed pitchers,” a GCL manager said. “He can run a little bit and steal bases if you don’t pay attention to him. For me, if he develops more experience in the game and hopefully with the maturity, he will develop into a solid, everyday player in the big leagues.
“As of right now, I see him as a fourth outfielder in the big leagues.”
If he is deemed ready for the challenge, do not be surprised to see Machado open next year at low-A Peoria.
Brian Walton (25): I need to start with a seemingly minor point that appears to bother some people – the spelling of Machado’s first name. Prior to coming over from Cuba, “Jonatan” was what we saw in print from sites following international ball, including Baseball America.
In the Cardinals July 2016 press release announcing his signing, it was also “Jonatan”. So it is in the team’s 2017 Media Guide and on every roster in 2017, from spring camp to the Gulf Coast League roster provided in late June by the Cardinals player development staff.
Yet, Baseball-Reference.com picked up “Jonathan” at some point. So did Milb.com, but they actually feel strongly both ways – with “Jonathan” in the title and “Jonatan” listed under “full name”. Go figure.
I received several communications during 2017 telling me the spelling we are using here at The Cardinal Nation is incorrect. So, I finally checked directly with the Cardinals head of international operations last month. He advised me to keep using “Jonatan”. So, I am and we are.
With that out of the way, by definition in this process, we have to place numeric rankings on players. But rather than treating them in an absolute manner, I like to look at groupings. With a relatively common position like outfield, I find it even more enlightening to consider groupings by position.
At the lower end, prospect outfielders we have unveiled in this countdown in the last two weeks include Scott Hurst and Chase Pinder. At the higher end, the next group of outfielders ahead in a couple of weeks are going to include Oscar Mercado, Randy Arozarena and Adolis Garcia. In the middle currently are Dylan Carlson and Machado, both of whom are very capable of vaulting into the next higher group with greater consistency and success ahead. To me, this kind of perspective makes more sense than obsessing over precise numbers.
Interestingly, Machado could displace Carlson in the outfield at Peoria’s Dozer Park in 2018. The former is just three months younger than the latter, but both have plenty of time, set to play this coming season at just 19 years of age.
We have seen other teenagers asked to make the jump directly from the GCL to the Midwest League, including some who were not ready and had to be backed off. Magneuris Sierra comes to mind as one of the more recent outfield examples.
I would like to see Machado get that chance to play in Peoria to open the season, as did Carlson the year before, but it may depend on more than who looks best in spring camp in March. This begs the question whether the Cards would potentially hold back one or both of the college draftees from 2017 – Pinder and Hurst – to ensure there is adequate playing time in what looks to be a crowded Chiefs outfield. We can only hope those with the most potential are given priority to move ahead as quickly as they demonstrate readiness.
Machado receives a Scouting Grade of “5.5 High”. The numeric assessment reflects a potential future ceiling between an average and standout starter, with “High” suggesting significant work remains ahead for him to achieve it.
My take in shooting higher is that Machado has all the tools needed to succeed, with the opens being filling out physically and maturing mentally – needs that can be achieved. Remember that he is currently just 18 years old and is coming from a different environment in Cuba. The approach to the game taken by several of his prominent countrymen once raised similar concerns, but with time, Yasiel Puig and Yoenis Cespedes have grown into being solid citizens and contributors at the highest level.
With this grade, I am assuming Machado will remain in center field. As a corner, I question whether he will offer enough power to be starting material. In that case, he would fall to “4.5 High,” but I am not suggesting that would be in the offing any time soon.
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