Padres’ third baseman Manny Machado was removed from Sunday’s game after suffering an injury. In attempting to beat out a play at first, Machado landed awkwardly on the bag and immediately collapsed in pain, eventually requiring help to depart the field of play. Despite appearing to be quite a gruesome occurrence on video replays, the Padres announced that X-rays came back negative, announcing the injury as a left ankle sprain.
The fact that Machado seems to have avoided a fracture is surely good news, but it doesn’t mean the Padres and Machado are completely out of the woods. As noted by Annie Heilbrunn of the San Diego Union-Tribune, ankle sprains can still sideline players for weeks.
Though the club has yet to make a more detailed announcement about the severity of the sprain or Machado’s expected absence, it will likely be a serious blow to the club no matter what, as Machado has been having perhaps the best season of his career and has arguably been the best player in baseball to this point of the season. Given that Machado has already been one of the better players in the sport over the past decade, the fact that he’s taken his game to new heights this year surely highlights what a great season he’s having. His .329/.401/.548 line amounts to a 164 wRC+, one of the top ten such numbers in the majors. Combined with his usual excellent defensive work, he’s accrued 4.2 wins above replacement on the year already, according to FanGraphs, putting him tops among all players in the sport.
Due to those MVP-level contributions, the Padres are having an excellent season thus far, coming into Sunday with a 41-26 record, just half a game back of the Dodgers in the NL West. However, the infield depth will be tested without Machado, as the club has also been papering over the absence of Fernando Tatis Jr., who is still making his way back from an offseason injury. Most of the shortstop work has gone to Ha-Seong Kim, with Jake Cronenworth at second base. Sergio Alcantara has been acting as the bench/utility infielder, though he’s hitting just .171/.195/.256 on the year and hasn’t fared much better in his career. Jurickson Profar has loads of infield experience but has only played left field this year and is having the best offensive showing of his career. He could be moved into the infield mix, but the club might also be loath to disrupt his groove. C.J. Abrams struggled in his first taste of MLB action but has been playing well in Triple-A El Paso since being optioned.
Regardless of who takes over for Machado, it will be certainly be a downgrade. That’s not a shot at any of the other players, but more a testament to just how good Machado has been this year. Even Machado himself was unlikely to sustain that pace, as his .366 BABIP on the year far outpaced his career mark of .300. All teams deal with the challenge of injuries over the course of a season, of course, but for the Padres, there’s no doubting this will be one tough to bear.