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Know your James Mungro Memorial Award (Detroit Tigers edition) nominee: Dixon Machado, the rule bender

Despite appearances, I can assure you Machado is older than 14. (Photo courtesy of Bryan Green)

Despite appearances, I can assure you Machado is older than 14. (Photo courtesy of Bryan Green)

I have mixed feelings regarding Dixon Machado. Technically he’s not a big-time prospect which makes him technically eligible, but he’s actually on people’s radars, which you can’t say for the other nominees. He’s on the outside rung, but he’s on the radar.

Machado just narrowly avoids violating the provision in Rule No. 3 stating that he can’t be ranked among the Top 20 prospects in the organziation. Machado is rated somewhere between 24-30 by every prospect list I’ve seen. He’s also steadily rising. He’s was rated by Baseball America as having the best infield arm and being the best defensive infielder in the Tigers system the past two years.

In reality, Machado’s never been truly an unknown. The Tigers knew enough about him in his early years that they signed him out of Venezuela when he was just 16 years old. In some ways, he’s expected to be here. This is the next stage in his development. He’s even on the 40-man roster, and when assistant general manager Al Avila, says Machado and fellow shortstop prospect Eugenio  Suarez are “A couple years away” it sounds like Machado shouldn’t be in this competition at all.

On the other hand, his name is Dixon Machado.

He’s also kind of the Forgotten Prospect, if that makes sense. Suarez is basically the hipper version of Machado. Suarez is the same age, plays the same position and is ranked higher than Machado. When Baseball America projected the 2016 Tigers lineup, it was Suarez they penciled into at shortstop.

Machado is seen as a one tool player, a good fielder and nothing else. His future has already been determined for him by experts and prognosticators and scouts. To some extent these people have no indication to question any of their predictions. Machado’s batting average in his four years of minor league time: .205, .265, . .235, .195. The highest level Machado has ever played is High A.

But something is happening this Spring.

Machado is 3-for-5 with two doubles and four RBIs. He’s changing his path with by blasting doubles off the wall. He’s making every one think a little bit about Suarez as the shortstop of the future. It’s downright James Mungro like.

Who am I to drop Machado simply because some people know about one aspect of his game? No one said the James Mungro Memorial Award sponsored by (we’ll get a sponsor later) is about veteran ballplayers finally finding their glory. James Mungro himself was a hungry young running back when he made my brother, dad and me sit up slightly from the coach and say, ‘Huh. He’s kind of good.’ Dixon Machado’s first three games have Baseball America and Al Avila and Tigers fans who have no idea who he is and Phil Cokes Brain saying, ‘ Huh. He’s kind of good.’

If these three games are just the beginning of some kind of ‘EFF YOU’ to the experts who have labeled as the homeless man’s Ramon Santiago, I want to be a part of that. I want to hitch my James Mungro Memorial Award sponsored by (stop asking about the sponsor guys) to that.

But Machado’s got to show that he’s really worth it. He’s got to show that he’s good enough to bend the rules for. He’s got to ‘James Mungro’ for more than three games.

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