Fantasy Throwdown: Nolan Arenado vs. Manny Machado: Which Young 3B Is The Better Bet?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

Both Nolan Arenado and Manny Machado are squarely on fantasy radars, whether it be redraft leagues or dynasty formats. Both have the potential to be top options for many years to come, but who is actually the better target? Let’s try to figure it out:

2014 Statistics

Name
AB
Average
HR
RBI
Runs
SB
Nolan Arenado432.2871861582
Manny Machado327.2781232382

Manny Machado
Knee injuries have cut his last two seasons short, otherwise you have to wonder if this would even be a debate. There was nothing unrealistic in Machado’s average last season (20.5% line drive rate, .317 BABIP, 19.2% strikeout rate) and he showed some growth in the power department.

Is a 15.0% HR/FB believable? His average distance on non-groundballs of 267.986 was up from 262.402 in 2013 and he’s still just 22-years old. Would it really be a surprise that he’s showing a bit more power?

Prior to the 2012 season Baseball America said:

“Machado has all the tools to be an all-star shortstop. He’s an above-average hitter with a knack for making solid contact, and he has the bat speed and strength to generate average power.”

As it is we would profile him as a 16-20 type HR hitter right now, and it appears that it could be even greater… Maybe, at least. We do have a little bit of a home/road splits of contend with:

  • Home – .299 with 9 HR
  • Road – .259 with 3 HR

It’s going to be something to watch, especially with the consistent knee injuries that could ultimately help zap him of some of his power, but it’s not enough to be considered a major detriment.

Nolan Arenado
Is he your prototypical “Coors Field product”? It certainly appeared so last season:

  • Home – .303 with 16 HR
  • Road – .269 with 2 HR

Of course his 276.868 average distance on non-Groundballs already indicates a bit more upside in the power department. He’s also shown a better ability to make contact (13.3% career strikeout rate) and hit the ball just as hard (22.3% career line drive rate).

There were concerns about Arenado coming up through the minors, as described by Rich Wilson of Prospect 361:

“In reviewing Arenado’s swing, it’s a compact swing with good bat-speed but it’s void of leverage and back spin. He’s able to make elite contact (89%) but the swing is a line drive swing and not a home run swing. Plus, he struggles against right-handed hurlers batting only .258 vs. .379 against lefties. Even more concerning is that in 400 at-bats against right-handed pitchers, he hit five home runs. In other words, he’s making contact, but it’s weak contact. If you add it all up, there is concern about both the hit tool and future power.”

The power seems to be working itself out with experience and he hit a solid .278 against RHP last season (.295 BABIP). In fact you could argue that the average should’ve been significantly higher overall, considering his .294 BABIP and ability to make contact.

Conclusion
Arenado isn’t much older than Machado (he’s 23-years old), doesn’t have a history of knee injuries and appears to be answering the questions we had about him. Exactly what is there not to like? While there’s the threat of him struggling on the road, Machado has shown a similar split so it shouldn’t impact our decision. If I had my choice, either for 2015 or in dynasty formats, I’m going Arenado.

Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Heat Maps, Baseball America, Prospect 361

Make sure to check out all of our early 2015 rankings:

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