The Orioles will select the contract of top prospect Manny Machado before Thursday night's game against the Royals, according to a team press release. Machado, the third overall pick of the 2010 draft, is hitting .266/.350/.431 at Double-A Bowie this season. The 20-year-old was regarded as the 11th-best prospect in the game according to Baseball America's preseason rankings and moved up to the #9 slot in BA's midseason rankings.
Though Machado was drafted as a shortstop and has played all but five pro games at the position (three games at DH, two games at third base), it appears as though the O's will use Machado at third. Though J.J. Hardy has struggled to a .658 OPS this season, he has a firmer grip on the shortstop position than the defensively-challenged Wilson Betemit and Mark Reynolds have at the hot corner. It's a big surprise to see Machado called up this early, though with the Orioles in a pennant race, "if we can do something that makes us two inches better to have a chance to win the last 49 games, we’re going to do it," manager Buck Showalter tells MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli (Twitter link).
The early call-up will put Machado in line to be arbitration-eligible after the 2015 season (though not Super Two-eligible) and able to hit free agency after the 2018 season at age 26, according to MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith. These calculations are based on Machado remaining in the majors, which Nicholson-Smith calls "a big if."