Selection of Richie Martin Highlights Rule 5 Draft for Orioles
The major league phase of Thursday’s Rule 5 draft began with the Baltimore Orioles selecting infielder Richie Martin from the Oakland A’s. Martin’s selection gives him the opportunity to make the Opening Day roster, while providing the Orioles with an intriguing addition to their thin middle-infield depth.
A first-round selection by the A’s out of the University of Florida in 2015, Martin—who turns 24 on December 22—has never played above Double-A, where he has logged 209 games over the past three seasons. The highlight of that stretch was undoubtedly last season, when he batted .300/.368/.439 with six home runs in 118 games for the Midland RockHounds.
(You can discuss this on the BSL board here.)
Despite that success, the A’s—in a surprising decision—did not protect Martin on their 40-man roster, opening the door for the Orioles to select him with the Rule 5 Draft’s first overall pick. Part of the question surrounding Martin appears to be that his numbers last season were not enough to quiet concerns about his offense, and that his 2018 totals were viewed more as an anomaly than the beginning of a new normal. With 2018 included, his career numbers at the plate include a .257/.340/.366 triple-slash line with 15 home runs across 1563 plate appearances.
Martin’s calling card has always been viewed as his defense. Primarily a shortstop, Martin has also logged time professionally at second base, with his arm in particular earning praise. Where he plays long term remains to be seen, but the Orioles could look to give him time at both positions in 2019.
The most immediate question that arises from the Orioles’ selection of Martin is this: Does he have a strong chance of making the team out of spring training and remaining in the majors all year? Per Rule 5 stipulations, the Orioles must either keep Martin on the 25-man roster all season or offer him to back to the A’s, so it will be of importance for him to make the club immediately out of spring training.
As of now, Martin’s odds of making and sticking on the 25-man roster in 2019 are strong. The Orioles’ middle-infield depth is particularly weak at this stage, and Martin arguably represents the player with the most upside among the club’s younger options at second base or shortstop. Martin’s presence would also give the Orioles more flexibility with Jonathan Villar, who can play second base when Martin is at shortstop or vice versa. Furthermore, in the event that the Orioles decide to trade Villar, having Martin on the major league roster could help address any immediate gaps created by the deal.
Keep in mind, too, that with the Orioles in the early stages of a large rebuilding project, the club can afford to be patient with players as they develop in the majors. That creates a strong opportunity for Martin, as the Orioles might be willing to overlook any concerns over his play in order to give him as much time as possible to develop.
In essence, the selection of Martin gives the Orioles another option in an area where their depth is weak. Even in the worst-case scenario, he could still factor into the club’s plans for 2019—and perhaps beyond—by bringing capable defense to the two middle infield positions.
Though his selection was the highlight for the Orioles during Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft, Martin was not the only player acquired by the team as part of the major league phase. The Orioles also landed Drew Jackson from the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for international signing bonus slot money, after the Phillies chose Jackson from the Los Angeles Dodgers with the 13th-overall pick in the major league phase.
Jackson was drafted in the fifth round by the Seattle Mariners in 2015 and later included in a 2017 trade with the Dodgers. He spent last season at Double-A Tulsa and has batted .269/.360/.399 over 384 career games while stealing 106 bases. On defense, Jackson has primarily been a middle infielder, but has professional experience at third base and in the outfield.
Like Martin, Jackson adds to the Orioles middle-infield options. He is also under Rule 5 stipulations that require him to be offered back to his original organization unless the club chooses to keep him on its 25-man roster all season.