MLB’s 25 Most Improved Players Prospects for 2016 Momentum

#3. Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles

2015 WAR: 7.1
2014 WAR: 2.4
WAR Improvement: 4.7

Manny Machado has always been a wizard with the leather. He’s one of the best in the business at stabbing line drives in the hot corner and making quick throws to first base that beat runners by a split second. If you don’t exhibit insane levels of hustle on the basepath after hitting in Machado’s direction, you may as well take a direct route back to the dugout.

There may have been some doubt he could return to his Gold Glove form after suffering a devastating knee injury in 2014, but plays like this one should remove any concerns. Logan Forsythe is recording a hit on that play against nearly every other third baseman in the league.

Given his history, Machado punishing batters with his glove throughout the 2015 season wasn’t a surprise. But him breaking out at the plate wasn’t so easy to predict — at least not to this extent.

After hitting just 33 homers during his first three years with the Baltimore Orioles, he blasted 35 dingers in 2015. Consistently waiting for the right pitches, he showed far more plate discipline and flat-out feasted on anything left over the plate.

Machado was the only player to log 162 appearances last year, so it will be tough for him to match that 7.1 WAR. But we may well see him continue to improve in 2016 on a per-game basis, so long as pitchers don’t realize they need to stop throwing him fastballs. Given his improvements making hard contact and the fact that his BABIP was actually below his career average, you could reasonably argue that Machado could’ve been even better at the plate in 2015.