After a slow start last year, a hot finish (15 home runs and 42 RBI from Aug. 1 on) gave Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado power numbers (33 home runs and 95 RBI) close to what he had in 2016 (37 home runs and 96 RBI). Still only entering his age-26 season, Machado is an elite-level player at the hot corner.
Ahead of hitting free agency next winter Machado reportedly asked to move back to shortstop, his natural position. With J.J. Hardy gone now, Orioles manager Buck Showalter has confirmed Machado will open the season at shortstop with Tim Beckham shifting over to third base.
Machado has only played 52 games at shortstop for the Orioles, with 45 of those coming in 2016 alone. Depending on how far position eligibility rules go back in specific fantasy leagues, he may be eligible at shortstop right away this season. But if position eligibility only refers back to last year, Machado will add shortstop eligibility in short order once the season starts.
After being acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays, Beckham hit .306 with 10 home runs and 26 RBI in 50 games for the Orioles last season. He’ll have eligibility at second base (17 games last season) as well as shortstop right off the bat, with third base eligibility to come early in the season.
With or without immediate shortstop eligibility, Machado is a top-10 pick in fantasy drafts (ADP of No. 8 overall, via Fantasy Pros). Another position of eligibility may boost Beckham’s fantasy stock a bit, as the current No. 26 shortstop in Fantasy Pros’ mixed league rankings, but he’s only worth drafting in AL-only or deep mixed leagues.