Name: Richie Martin
Height/Weight: 5’11’’, 190
How Acquired: Selected in the 1st round of the 2015 MLB Draft.
When the Oakland A’s selected Richie Martin in the first round of the 2015 draft, they emphasized that patience would be required when assessing his development. After an injury-plagued 2017 season, is Martin ready for a breakout 2018 season, or will it be another learning year?
Like the main character in the famous Albert King song, if Martin didn’t have bad luck in 2017, he wouldn’t have had no luck at all. The A’s 2015 top pick suffered from freak injuries and poor timing and found himself moving backwards by the end of the year. With the A’s loading up on middle infield prospects the past two seasons, Martin will need to fight his way back up the A’s depth chart.
The A’s selected Martin with the 20th overall pick in the 2015 draft after three up-and-down seasons at the University of Florida. As a freshman, Martin hit .300, but he batted only .266 with a 697 OPS as a sophomore. Martin had a huge summer in the Cape Cod League between his sophomore and junior seasons and followed that up with his best year as a collegiate player. He posted a .291/.399/.430 line for the Gators and pushed his way into first-round consideration.
At the time of Martin’s selection, he was the youngest four-year college player eligible for the 2015 draft. The A’s viewed Martin as more of a project than a polished product based on his age. After spending his pro debut season with short-season Vermont, Martin jumped to High-A Stockton in 2016. Unfortunately, Martin missed the first six weeks of the 2016 season with a knee injury he suffered during spring training. He got off to a slow start with the Ports and was batting around .200 at the end of July. A strong August got Martin’s average up 30 points to .230 by the end of August. He joined Midland for the last week of the season and the post-season and hit well for the RockHounds, helping them earn their third of now four straight Texas League titles.
In 2017, Martin broke camp healthy and on the roster of the RockHounds. He got off to a slow start with Midland, hitting only .217 in April. However, he found his groove in May, posting a .281/.382/.391 line. Unfortunately, the injury bug bit him again, this time when he was hit in the face with a pitch on May 30. The beaning broke Martin’s nose and cost him the first three weeks of June.
When Martin returned, his bat was stone cold. He hit only .103 in 11 games in June. That carried over into July, but he was starting to come out of his slump by the end of the month. It wasn’t enough to prevent Martin from being sent back to Stockton on August 1, when the A’s added new acquisition Jorge Mateo to the Midland roster.
As is often the case when players are sent back to a lower level mid-season, Martin struggled initially when he returned to the Ports. However, he hit safely in 12 of 13 games from August 13-August 29, with six of those games being multi-hit efforts. Bad luck hit Martin again, however, when he was sidelined for the final week of the regular season (as well as the post-season and fall league games) with a right shoulder impingement.
When all was said and done, Martin’s final line for 2017 wasn’t pretty: in 109 games, he hit .234/.311/.332 with four home runs and 13 stolen bases for Stockton and Midland. However, Martin did have promising stretches at the plate, something that the A’s hope he can build on going into 2018.
Martin, who turns 23 later this week, is already an above-average defensive middle infielder. He has a strong and accurate throwing arm from shortstop and second base, and he has the athleticism to range deep into the shortstop/third base hole. Martin showed improvement on the bases in 2017, going from 14-of-25 in stolen base attempts in 2016 to 13-of-17.
Offensively, Martin is a work-in-progress. He has a solid approach at the plate and good pitch recognition, but his swing has a lot of moving parts that can interfere with his timing. When he is in rhythm, Martin is a line-drive hitter with an opposite-field approach. When he is off rhythm, Martin tends to pound the ball into the ground on the left-side of the infield, creating easy outs for the defense.
Martin is still young and the A’s have yet to get a full, healthy season from him. Since he was drafted, however, the A’s have added several middle infield prospects that have moved ahead of him on the depth chart. Martin’s chances of starting the 2018 season with Midland and eventually moving up to Triple-A Nashville were boosted by the A’s recent trade of Yairo Munoz and Max Schrock, but Martin will have some work to do to prove he can produce at those levels consistently.
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