Will Padres’ star Manny Machado find another gear in 2022?

Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Padres third baseman Manny Machado is one of the most consistent players in the game. That being said, could he elevate his game even more at the plate this season?

When the Padres acquired Manny Machado ahead of the 2019 season, expectations were rightfully sky-high. After all, he was handed the richest contract to that point in Padres franchise history, at 10-years and $300 million. In fact, for a brief period, it was the largest free-agent contract ever handed out in American sports history until Bryce Harper broke it just a few weeks later.

At any rate, three seasons in, Machado continues to be a star for the Padres in America’s Finest City. After a roller coaster transition year in 2019, he looked every bit the All-Star third baseman A.J. Preller and company signed over the last two seasons. Between 2020 and 2021, Machado earned another All-Star bid, his first Silver Slugger Award, and two seasons that ended in garnering at least seven MVP votes, including finishing third in 2020.

His steady production at the plate, paired with other-worldly defensive skill at third base, paint the picture of one of the most talented players ever to have donned a Padres uniform. At times, he brings to remembrance another All-Star third baseman in Padres pinstripes- Ken Caminiti.

Even with solid, reliable production over the last two years, is it possible, or even fair, to say Machado could reach new heights in 2022?

First and foremost, for that to happen, he needs to be healthy. That should go without saying. Health willing, some numbers suggest Machado could find an even higher, more productive gear this season.

Let’s not forget that Machado isn’t even 30 years old yet.

Credit: USA Today Sports

Some peripheral numbers in 2021 suggest Machado is seeing the ball and hitting the ball better than at any other point in his career. First, what would “another gear” look like for Machado’s statistics?

It’s tricky since a lot of his best numbers came in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, where he batted .304 with a .960 OPS. It may be unfair to expect better or even equal figures in that regard in 2022. However, his previous highs in San Diego of 32 home runs (2019), 106 RBI (2021), and his 5.0 WAR (2021) are all reasonable goals to exceed this season. He has turned in three seasons better than 5.0 WAR in his career before, including two seasons north of 7.0 WAR. He could certainly do it again.

With how hard he was hitting the ball on a consistent basis last year, even while battling injuries for much of the year, it makes you wonder what kind of numbers he is capable of this year.

First off, Machado set a career-high barrel rate in 2021, at 13.3 percent. That was over two percent higher than his previous best mark the year prior. That kind of jump is not insignificant. That is the same barrel rate as a certain outfielder named Juan Soto.

Machado’s percentiles via Baseball Savant were off-the-charts good, being in the 96th percentile for average exit velocity and 100th percentile for max exit velocity. All of these were also career-highs for the five-time All-Star. Meaning, over his 10-year career, with three different teams, he has never been hitting the ball harder on a consistent basis than he is right now in San Diego.

Padres Manny Machado
Credit: Baseball Savant

His hard-hit rate climbed north of 50 percent last year, at 52.0. His previous high was 48.2 percent in 2018.

Everywhere you look, Machado’s numbers suggest he is reaching new heights in bringing the barrel of his bat to the baseball consistently.

Based on these metrics, it’s reasonable to expect yet another productive year from Machado, perhaps even the best of his career, at least since arriving in San Diego. With Fernando Tatis Jr. out until at least June, the Padres will need elite production from Machado to build momentum ahead of what everyone hopes is a playoff run in 2022.

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Nick Lee
Native of Escondido, CA. Lived in San Diego area for 20 years. Padres fan since childhood (mid-90s). I have been writing since 2014. I currently live near Seattle, WA and am married to a Seattle sports girl. I wore #19 on my high school baseball team for Tony Gwynn. I am a stats and sports history nerd. I attended BYU on the Idaho campus. I also love Star Wars.
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Tony C
Tony C
1 month ago

Honestly, I’ve never been a huge fan of Machado. I think he does have another gear. That he does have another level of focus to put better numbers up for us. I think he plays at about 80% most games. He wants to be a leader but doesn’t outwardly show that on the field or in the dugout. I think he can be a good big brother to Tatis and others. I think Melvin will be the leader. Let’s see if Melvin can spark manny into better performance and leadership.

Tony C
Tony C
1 month ago
Reply to  Tony C

Let me add that I don’t think Manny wanted Tingler. I don’t think he respected him and that showed in his effort and leadership. I think he respects Melvin and that might be reflected in a rise in his effort level.

Pads fan since '69
Pads fan since '69
1 month ago

Nick…great article…well researched, and presented…my thoughts are that yes, Manny can find another gear, and reach another level… For 30 million, I’d love to see a 290 average, 35-40 home runs, and around 120 rbi’s…all reachable numbers for a superstar…most importantly, the guys around him in the line up need to raise their game, and the Pads get into the playoffs…I don’t think that’s expecting too much,but hey, I’m just a fan….

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