Blue Jays prospect Estiven Machado occupies a rare space in baseball as a switch hitter, and Toronto hopes to keep it that way.
The 18-year-old is one of just two switch hitters among the Blue Jays top 30 prospects, and one of only four overall capable of hitting left-handed, which makes his development important for the organization.
Coach Hunter Mense believes the shortstop may be better from the left side of the plate at this time.
“[Machado is] already probably better from the left side,” said Mense, the minor league hitting instructor. “It’s more of a contact-oriented swing where he’s got some hittability from the left side.
“From the right side, there’s probably a bit more juice, but he doesn’t have as much hitting ability in terms of making contact from the right side like he does from the left.”
Mense is excited about certain traits that Machado possesses that may translate into a more complete toolkit at bat as he matures.
“He’ll get stronger,” Mense said, about the 5-foot-10, 170-pound teenager. “I think we’ll start to see balls fly with him a little because he’s got some presence and strength already that shows with how the ball comes off his bat.
“He moves really well and really athletically from both sides as well, which leads me to believe that he’s going to be able to continue to switch-hit the way he does.”
Of the 135 qualifiers for the batting title in the 2019 MLB season, only 15 per-cent were classified as switch hitters, compared to 30 per-cent left-handed and 55 per-cent right-handed batters.
The biggest challenge for Machado maintaining his effectiveness on both sides of the plate will simply be getting more at-bats on his right side specifically, which the Blue Jays are well equipped to help him with.
“I think the thing that gives us an advantage is that we have a lot of left-handed throwing coaches and we can do a lot of challenging [batting practice],” said Mense, about the organization’s staff at the minor league level.
“When we throw left-handed it gives him an opportunity to hit right-handed more, which he’s not getting [as much of an opportunity to do] in games.”